Growing up in the business
Centerville landscaping business a family affair for three decades.
Three Heil generations in front of a company truck: Justin, left, holding son Holden, and Jeff. The family owns the company, which has been in business for more than 30 years. CONTRIBUTED


Born and raised in Kettering, Jeffrey Heil started his own business in 1981 when he opened OHeil Irrigation Co. It started with one truck, some rented equipment and just three employees.

“We moved slowly into different outdoor services,” Jeff said.

“By 2007, we had outgrown our building in Kettering.”

Jeff’s son Justin decided to join his dad in the business after graduating from Ohio State University and work for at least a year before deciding whether to stay.

“I grew up in the business,” Justin said. “My major in college was operations management and I figured I’d end up doing more operations in factories and bigger manufacturing.”

But after that first year of working side by side with his dad, Justin said he realized how much he enjoyed working outside and building things. Together they pulled the company out of debt.

“We complement each other,”

Justin said. “We have even taken those personality tests and we are almost a perfect fit.”

Justin said he and his dad realized that sticking strictly to irrigation work wasn’t enough to keep the company viable. So, they looked at adding a landscaping division and moving to a new, larger building in Centerville, where they are currently located.

At the same time, Justin was talking with the owner of Buckeye Lawn and Landscaping, who was thinking about selling his business.

“The owner called my dad and said he was selling and if we wanted to buy his irrigation customers,” Justin said. “My dad said he wanted to buy the whole thing.”

In 2008, the two men negotiated a deal and Buckeye Lawn and Landscaping/OHeil Irrigation Co. was born. They kept the Buckeye name because that side of the business is very different from irrigation.

“We bought more equipment and hired more employees,” Justin said. “And we started growing.”

In fact, between 2008 and 2010, the company grew 15 to 20 percent annually, even with the economic downturn at the time.

“We had a large customer base at the time,” Jeff said. “And even though people weren’t building new houses they were still fixing up their current homes, and we benefited from that.”

Today the company has about 110 employees when fully staffed during the busy season and offers services ranging from hardscape and custom landscaping to lawn maintenance to irrigation and drainage solutions. They work with individual homeowners and commercial proper ties.

“We are both visionaries,” Justin said. “We are always thinking outside of the box.”

The company’s latest venture is Jeff Heil Properties, a housing development company originally designed to keep employees busy during the winter months.

“We do as much as we can for our employees and we have a family-oriented atmosphere,” Justin said. “We are really focused on safety and a drug-free workplace.”

The company has done work for the federal government, designed sports fields and more. Their work was featured on HGTV’s “Rowhouse Showdown. ”

“We started building and rebuilding athletic fields in 2009,” Justin said. “We have done collegiate-level fields and school sports fields.”

Jeff said he enjoys traveling and because of this, the company has expanded its reach across the country.

Their broad portfolio now includes about 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial, with about 15 percent of that federal government work and 10 percent coming from out of town.

Popular among homeowners today are paver patios and outdoor kitchens and that popularity has caused that part of the business to grow exponentially.

“We went from one paver crew nine years ago to three now,” Jeff said. “And we have 76 trucks in the fleet and more than 1,000 pieces of equipment – from weed eaters to bulldozers and everything in bet ween.”

As it was at the outset, the business today is still a family affair. Justin’s two young children, Hadley, 9 and Holden, 7, are both growing up, as he did, around the business.

In fact, little Holden has already learned proper mulching techniques from his dad and grandfather.

And the company doesn’t only have professional landscapers on staff, but other professionals like licensed plumbers and certified architects.

“We have people who specialize in every area,” Justin said. “We have guys that trim and prune and seed and do everything – all under one roof.”

Justin said that their customers can be very creative and sometimes bring them complex requests.

“We do unique stuff,” Justin said.

“We are nowhere near a cookie-cutter landscaper. We are not afraid of a challenge and that is one of the greatest qualities of our company.

We always find a way to get things done.”

For more information, log on to