A CLC History Lesson

CLC_Logo_Final 2016Have you ever wondered about the history of CLC Tree Services? If you have read the About CLC Tree Services page, you already know that it is a family owned and operated tree services company. CLC has been in operation for over 25 years and is still going strong. While stump grinding was the first service that founder Curt McCallum offered way back when, the company has grown measurably since then. As have the number of people involved, as well as its services. There is plenty more to the story than that though.

So today, enjoy this sampling of CLC’s history…

Back in 1988, Curt worked at Innovator Manufacturing. He had a young family and, like many others can relate to, struggled to make dollars stretch to make life comfortable. The solution was to get a second job to increase his family’s budget, but the question was what to do. The answer arrived one day when Curt came across someone grinding a stump at the side of the road. He stopped to watch, and asked the non-committal man a few questions. When the stranger realized that Curt was genuinely interested, he begrudgingly opened up about the machine. Wouldn’t you know it, but Curt convinced him to give him a few lessons and within the month was back to collect the beginning of his knowledge about tree care. Curt had his very own stump grinder shortly thereafter and headed to the Ministry to open up shop.

Curt, Luke & Calvin; the original team behind CLC

Curt, Luke & Calvin; the original inspiration and team of CLC

It is one thing to set up a business, but one of Curt’s first challenges was to give that business a name. As he stared at the form in front of him, inspiration struck. He was there for his family. Why not take the first letter from all their names to give name to the company—Curt, Luke, and Calvin—for CLC. Their names weren’t the only contribution the boys would make to the business though.

When Curt first hung out his shingle, the boys were 4-6 years old. Since the business held their names, he thought that perhaps the boys might have other interest in it as well. So when Curt headed to a job, they tagged along with him. He initially gave them simple tasks, like fetching shovels or sweeping up debris.

Part of the draw of going to “work” with Dad was that Calvin and Luke got paid at the end of the day. When they arrived home, the cheque book was pulled out and a cheque was drawn up in each of their names—with a catch. Half of their earnings went directly to savings. The other half was divided between saving up for a desired item and mad money to blow immediately at the local 7/11. And it hooked them. They worked with their Dad long into their teen years (although by the time they reached their teens, typical squabbles had them going one at a time).

In 1994, Curt left Innovator Manufacturing and was hired on at Freightliner (later renamed Sterling) in St Thomas. He was still grinding stumps, but the shift work at the plant allowed him to schedule in tree work after his full-time job. He would leave the plant with a co-worker at 3 pm, sleep all the way home to London, arrive home to change, make phone calls, and then hit the road by 4 pm to work until 8 pm. It was a tough go, but Curt had a goal in sight. Once he could get 15 years in at Sterling, he could take early retirement. That was when CLC Tree Services would become his full-time job.

Calvin and a friend practice their climbing skills

Young Calvin and a friend practice their climbing skills in the backyard

As time passed, the boys grew. So too did their responsibilities. They moved beyond fetching shovels to handling chainsaws and climbing trees. It was a natural progression that came with an expansion to the services offered by CLC. Customers asked Curt to take care of trees that needed to be cut down, and as he was no stranger to the task—it was a job he often did in his youth on a maple syrup farm—he obliged. He was self-taught, but people noticed he was good at what he did. Business grew.

Time proved to be another good teacher. When Luke and Calvin finished high school, they both drifted away from the business, but not for long. Odd factory jobs weren’t enough to hold Calvin’s interest. After a few years he decided to return to the business. Not before returning to school to get his Arboriculture certification at Sir Sandford Fleming College though. Those two years of schooling, plus subsequent workshops, have proven to be an amazing addition to the business. Not only has Calvin since introduced new and safer practices in CLC’s tree care, but his business savvy has benefited the company immeasurably. Calvin has suggested new avenues to take the business in, from social media to Christmas Decor. Without his insistent suggestions, other huge business opportunities may have been lost.

Curt and Anna Marie McCallum

Founder Curt McCallum and his wife Anna Marie

Today CLC Tree Services boasts 11 employees, which again includes Luke, since his return this past winter. Now Curt’s wife Anna Marie organizes the Christmas Decor business, which was added five years ago. Far beyond stump grinding, CLC also offers tree removal, pruning, fertilizing, cabling and bracing, emergency tree care and storm response, insect and disease diagnosis and treatment, plus we also plant trees! CLC has responded to many natural disasters; from the tornado that devastated Goderichto the recent Ice Storm that extensively damaged Toronto’s urban canopy. If you have a query, we take it seriously and will grow and adjust our business as necessary. The gentleman who asked whether we could cut down 400 trees in the Lambton Shores area can vouch for that.

So, how can we help you?

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