Planting a seed


Until he acquired a Cat® 289D3 Compact Track Loader three years ago, Ian Zuhoski had always operated another brand of equipment.
But the Long Island landscape contractor and nursery owner quickly realized the difference, as he experienced higher uptime and greater precision from his 289D3 with adistinctive black paint finish. “I’ve owned a lot of other machine brands—both wheeled and track—and it’s just the overall way that the Catunits are built,” says the owner of
Coastal Nurseries, a 118-acre nursery in Cutchogue, N.Y. on the North Fork ofLong Island.

“Our guys love using the Harley rake attachment on the Cat 289,” Zuhoski says. “The visibility from the cab is great, and it enables them to really finetune when doing lawn installs.” At that point, the seed was planted, and led him to acquire three more Cat machines: a 262D3 Skid Steer Loader, a 308 Mini Excavator, and a 907M Compact Wheel Loader.

“I always knew that Caterpillar made premium products, and it wasn’t until I started using one that I realized the difference they could make,” he adds. “Time is money, and we realized that we can do more work in less time with Cat machines than what we were experiencing with our previous brand.”

Expanded operations

Zuhoski acquired a neighboring nursery more than two years ago while operating his own landscaping business, Coastal Plantings, which he started in 2011. Along with a tree service business and a new landscape materials yard, Zuhoski employs more than 50 associates altogether on Long Island’s East End.

“When the nursery next to us went up for sale, we viewed it as a strategic acquisition, as it gave us ample opportunity to expand our operations and develop synergy between our general
landscape construction company and the nursery,” Zuhoski says.

Coastal Plantings provides landscape design, construction and maintenance services. As a wholesale nursery, Coastal Nurseries offers more than 100 varieties of trees and shrubs, which range from deciduous trees, fruit trees, flowering trees, conifers, specimens, shrubs and flowering plants which are sold throughout the Northeast.

“Having the nursery provided the ability to take the business to the next level, because as we meet homeowners, they can come here and select the trees that we plant on their properties,” Zuhoski says. “So, it creates that personal level of service by spending time with the clients. And the equipment is like the icing on the cake. It enables us to complete jobs in an efficient, timely


Versatile machines 

Coastal Plantings crews have a variety of tasks, including planting trees and bushes, building hardscapes and installing fences. Having versatile machines reduces the number of people required to perform a wide range of tasks.

“Having the right equipment enables us to rely less on manpower with the labor shortage. If you can make things easier on the labor side with fewer people, that’s what these Cat machines enable us to do,” Zuhoski says. “And with the efficiency that these machines provide, the guys are less fatigued at the end of the day.”

The 308 Mini Excavator has the power to easily remove stumps, and the finesse to drill holes for planting trees with an auger attachment. “That’s a nice feature rather than going down the row on a skid steer,” Zuhoski says. “We can go down the row with the excavator, reach over the top and drill holes for planting, whether it’s trees or setting poles. We can do that work very easily with the excavator. It’s a neat little machine with surprising power and reach for its small size.”

The Cat Skid Steer and Compact Wheel Loaders are used for material handling. The two machines are also used for snow removal during the winter months. “I never thought I would see a heated seat in a skid steer,” he says. “When you’re sitting in a machine for six to 10 hours, you need to have comfortable people so that they want to come back the following day. Cat machines provide us with the leg room and the visibility, as well as other in-cab features that keep a smile on our employees’ faces.”

As part of sustainable agriculture at the nursery, the 907M compact wheel loader is used to load the broadcast spreader with organic material for composting the growing fields.

No turning back

“Cat machines are very user-friendly, and the way they’re designed enables us to do most of the maintenance ourselves,” Zuhoski adds. “Other brands have built machines in ways that essentially cause them to fail. And at that point, it’s you versus the machine.” For good measure, Zuhoski utilizes S.O.S Services Fluid Sampling to stay on top of any potential issues that may arise. The routine check-up for oil, coolant and fuel delivers valuable insights to prevent unexpected failures and unplanned downtime.

Zuhoski values the relationship he has with his Cat dealer, H.O. Penn in Holtsville.

“I always like to paint the picture of ‘these are my goals,’” he says. “Whether it’s Brian Carroll or Harrison Miller, they’re always super-fast as far as getting back to me with a quote on a machine or helping with any need I might have,” he says. “I tend to be specialized as far as machine colors, and they are always good about accommodating anything I might request.”

He also appreciates knowing that the dealership has a vast parts inventory, and help is just a phone call away. “With the other brand, it was a matter of not having basic parts on the shelf like a pin or a bushing,” Zuhoski says. “It wasn’t a good experience. From this point forward, when we need something, it’s Cat. We won’t be going back.”

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