What started out as help for a neighborhood on a lake after a storm damaged trees and homes in 2020 is now a business that specializes in tree removal and trimming.
Brothers James and David Hochstetler, and their brother-in-law Ervin Schmucker, are the owners of Michiana Tree Service. Based in LaGrange, the three individuals have different skills and work together to complete tree removal jobs.
James is the business manager. He does the scheduling of jobs and other tasks like coordinating with tree service marketing services for the business. David provides job estimates. Ervin is a skilled climber. When a job is booked all three are on hand, plus a full-time crew member and a few part-timers.
The Hochstetlers and Schmucker started their business last year. Prior to taking on this new business, James did some logging and construction, David was a farmer and a certified tree cutter, and Ervin worked in construction and in the wood shop at an RV factory.
They came into the business with some experience in felling trees, but James Hochstetler says there has been a learning curve for what they now do.
“We had to build up our experience,” he says.
That means making sure that obstacles are identified, such as power lines, septic lines and sprinkler system lines. When they respond to a call for service, the goal is to leave the customer’s lawn in the same, if not better, condition compared to how it was when the crew arrived.
Taking care of each job site is an important task for Michiana Tree Service. Hochstetler says the goal is to make sure that removing the tree does not damage the lawn or the property. Cleaning up after service is as important as doing the job correctly.
The company also offers tree trimming, stump grinding and site clearing.
Michiana Tree Service answers calls for removing trees that have already fallen or present a potential danger. Some homeowners want a tree removed that has died or may endanger a building. Sometimes a tree needs to be removed to clear the way for building additions, or to expand lawns or gardens.
Stump grinding is also offered. This technique grinds the stump down below the surface of the ground. Fill is added to the hole and seed is sowed. As the stump rots in the ground, there may be some additional maintenance and fill needed, but there will not be a visible stump above the ground.
All work includes cleanup of the site unless specified otherwise by the owners.
“We want to leave a job site so that it looks the same as when we came, or better, without the tree there,” Hochstetler says.
For any job that Michiana Tree Service undertakes, Hochstetler says it is important to talk to the customer to be clear about their expectations.
“I want to know what their vision is for when the job is done,” he says.
Sometimes customers want to keep a piece of the tree, and that request can be accommodated. Another brother-in-law, Orlie Bontrager, is experienced in cutting live-edge slabs.
Michiana Tree Service works mostly in an area to the east of LaGrange. Eighty percent of their work comes from requests from owners of lakefront properties.
The job begins when a customer calls and requests service. A proposal is presented that describes the scope of work, options for the job and the price. The job is then scheduled, and the crew is dispatched to the site. Driver Steve Mase is an important part of the crew, Hochstetler says. His role is to move the lift and other equipment, and transport the crew to the job site.
Although there is work to be done throughout the year, each season has its own needs. Winter is challenging because of the weather. Cleanup is often more difficult because of snow. Spring becomes busier as property owners get ready for the growing seasons. Fall is often the time of the year when property owners begin to see trees that need to be cut. Dead branches and rot are more visible when the leaves are gone and property owners want trees removed before the winter.