By Starla Sampaco
Northwest Asian Weekly
This fall, University of Washington students will be able to take classes at the historic Denny Hall, which has been under renovation since last summer.
Uyeta Landscape & Maintenance will be in charge of the project’s landscaping needs later this spring. Eddie Uyeta, the company’s president and CEO, is a UW alumnus who graduated in 1988 with a degree in landscape architecture.
Uyeta even remembers taking an anthropology class at Denny Hall.
“It’s interesting that it all comes full circle,” Uyeta said.
Uyeta’s company was founded by his father in 1967. By the time the younger Uyeta was 9 years old, he was working with his father during the summers and on weekends. Since his father grew up in Japan and spoke very little English, Uyeta often served as his interpreter.
“I had a childhood, but it wasn’t like most,” Uyeta said. “Other kids were playing baseball and doing kid things.”
Without realizing it, he was already learning about the business side of landscaping. When he was in high school, Uyeta took it upon himself to put an ad in a newspaper for his father’s nursery and began selling rhododendrons on the weekends. By the time he graduated from Kentridge High School in Kent, he learned how to build customer relationships, which is a skill he continues to use to this day.
Uyeta’s brothers, Wayne and Dana, joined the family company in 1988 and 1992, respectively. By 2006, they both decided to pursue other career interests, and Eddie became the sole shareholder.
“I was married to the job before I married my wife,” Uyeta said.
Uyeta and his wife, Ann, now have three kids —William, Kennan, and Aviana. The two oldest kids are beginning to help out with the family business, just as Uyeta did with his father.
“They have to understand what work ethic means and understand the value of the dollar,” Uyeta said.
Among colleagues and employees, Uyeta is known for his humility, work ethic, and commitment to customer service. Uyeta’s business is centered on relationships.
He said training and mentoring others is what makes a successful company.
One of Uyeta’s mentees is Jake Zielke, a senior at Kentridge High School.
Zielke was in the eighth grade when he first asked Uyeta for a job. When he turned 16, Zielke began doing various side jobs for Uyeta, like washing trucks and pulling weeds. As they discussed Zielke’s plans for the future, Uyeta realized Zielke’s passion for being a diesel mechanic.
Uyeta said that even though he wanted Zielke to continue working for him, he referred Zielke to the mechanic who repairs his company’s vehicles.
Zielke now has a summer job at Paul’s Truck Repair in Kent. He works as a technician on diesel trucks.
“He really taught me how to work hard,” Zielke said. “He is the one reason why I have the job I have, and why I have the passion for it.”
The Uyeta way
According to Pinneke Tjandana, chief administrative officer at Uyeta Landscape & Maintenance, Uyeta frequently works on weekends. She said that throughout her seven years of working with Uyeta, he is typically the first person to arrive at the office, located in Renton.
“Sometimes we say, ‘Take a day off, Eddie. Take it easy,’” Tjandana said.
During the peak season, April through October, Uyeta’s company serves more than 500 clients in King County.
These days, Uyeta and his team are busy preparing for the Denny Hall renovation. Uyeta said this project, which has a budget of $300,000, is their biggest to date. Once they begin their work on the UW campus, the project will take eight to 10 weeks to complete.
“This is the kind of job that can make or break your company,” said Christian Boad, construction division manager at Uyeta Landscape & Maintenance.
But Boad said landscaping is so much more than mowing lawns and planting flowers. Their work requires situational awareness and careful attention to detail. After the company won the bid for the Denny Hall renovation, Boad had to consider many factors, including safety regulations and bureaucratic processes.
Despite the challenges of this project, Boad said he would not want to work at any other company because of the work environment Uyeta created.
“Most of us wake up and feel we have to work,” Boad said. “I wake up and I get to go to work.”
Starla Sampaco can be reached at email@example.com.