From a makeshift backyard pond to a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility with a green roof, “The Pond Guy” and his company, Aquascape, have taken water gardening to a whole new level.
September 23, 2008
You may not recognize the name Greg Wittstock, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard of “The Pond Guy.” Wittstock’s alias is befitting – he has been dabbling in water gardening since the age of 12. When he and his family moved from their New Jersey lakefront home to the cornfields of Illinois, it was up to Greg to create a new home for his pet turtles. Trial and error led him to the creation of a pond that relied on filters built from garbage cans and a cattle trough, and after several redesigns, Greg’s pond became the talk of the town.
Go With The Flow
Born out of Wittstock’s deep-rooted passion for ponds, Aquascape Designs officially began in 1992. During that year, the company did $48,000 in pond sales. In 2003, Aquascape purchased Water Creations and changed all the branding to the NurseryPro name. The acquisition allowed do-it-yourselfers to develop their own ecosystem ponds, which created a whole new customer base for the company. To further cater to that niche, the Water Garden Excellence Program was created in 2005. The program teams contractors with retailers to educate each other, as well as consumers, about water gardening. Marketing materials and seminars help contractors and retailers promote water gardening and educate their current and potential customers.
Last year, Aquascape bought PondSweep Manufacturing, previously owned by Wittstock’s father, Gary. The purchase has allowed Aquascape to expand its water gardening market presence even further.
This year, the company has undergone a mini branding makeover, adopting a new logo and officially dropping “Designs” from its name. Aquascape has now grown to become the largest supplier of water gardening products in North America, with more than $55 million in pond sales in 2005.
The Sky’s The Limit
From the onset, Wittstock had a vision of what he wanted for his company’s headquarters – a workplace utopia. The vision became a reality in 2005, when the company moved to Aqualand, a 256,000-square-foot building that houses offices and a warehouse facility. The building has the largest sloping green roof in the country, covered with native plants and complete with a full irrigation system.
In addition to its unique exterior characteristics, Aqualand houses a 5,000-square-foot fitness center and spa, a theater lounge, a children’s play area, an indoor soccer pitch and even a bamboo forest in the reception area.
“It’s fun,” says Wittstock, who kept the environment in mind when creating the concept. Almost the entire building is sustainable. The building’s frame is made from recycled steel, the paint is low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), all the woods come from bamboo and other quick-growing, renewable species, and the plumbing fixtures are low-flow to minimize consumption.
“I wanted to have a building that represented who we are,” Wittstock says. “Our building is spot on with our company culture and who we are in the marketplace.”
Ponds Are Precious
Aquascape strives to point out the importance of ponds not just as decorative pieces, but as ecosystems that act as a nexus for fish, frogs, plants, birds and other organisms. That’s not to say you can’t have a little fun with it, though. Included in Aquascape’s core values are imagination and enthusiasm, and the company sets no limits when it comes to envisioning possibilities for clients and the industry as a whole.
“First and foremost, (our goal) is to help our customers succeed at building, selling and retailing water features,” Wittstock says. “Our motto is to change the way the world builds and retails water gardens.”
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Ann-Marie Vazzano is managing editor of American Fruit Grower magazine, a Meister publication.