Exterior view of the grounds of Calgo Gardens.
New Jersey-based landscaping company and nursery Calgo Gardens is a family-owned business with a strong community presence, providing offerings like hands-on gardening sessions. — Calgo Gardens

Calgo Gardens has been named the Eastern regional finalist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's America’s Top Small Business Awards.

Tucked away in Howell, New Jersey, lies the stunning grounds of Calgo Gardens, a landscaping company and boutique nursery shop. Its tagline, “Harmony by Design,” shines through in every aspect of the business, from its commercial and residential outdoor design services to its on-site workshops and arts events. Amid its exponential growth during the pandemic, the family-owned Calgo Gardens maintains a small business feel, prioritizing a personal touch and dedication to the community.

3 things that made Calgo Gardens a finalist for America's Top Small Business:

It’s a family-owned business with longstanding roots in New Jersey

The foundation for Calgo Gardens was established in 1948 by Charlotte Hirsch, renowned throughout New Jersey for her landscape designs and ornamental plant materials. Later, a fellow nature lover named Mark Estomin began working for Charlotte, learning about landscaping and contributing to the business along the way. When Charlotte retired in 1978, Mark was offered the opportunity to acquire Calgo Gardens, which flourished under his stewardship as a landscaping business. The business then expanded to include an on-site gift shop, led by Mark’s wife, Penny, along with a seven-acre parcel of land in Ocean County.

Today, Calgo Gardens boasts a flourishing landscaping and hardscaping sector, currently under the ownership of Mark and Penny’s sons and nephew, with a team of experienced and passionate horticulturalists and designers. It also offers an artisan retail and boutique nursery experience, with educational and community events that enrich the lives of the Monmouth County community through nature, art, and positive energy.

Amid pivots and expansions, Calgo Gardens has prioritized maintaining the intimate atmosphere and personalized touch of a small business. This creates a welcoming environment for visitors, as well as a sense of community for its loyal customers.

It continuously pivots to meet customer needs, with support from dedicated staff

The onset of the pandemic led to a sudden, unexpected shift in consumer behavior: More people chose to stay at home and invest in home improvements, particularly exterior ones. To meet this demand, Calgo Gardens expanded its landscaping and hardscaping sector, with its staff creating beautiful outdoor havens for homeowners. Mark credits this pivot — along with the talents and creativity of his sons and nephew, who led the initiative — to an especially prosperous fiscal year in 2022.

In fact, Calgo attributes much of its ongoing success to its 21 dedicated employees, with many having been with the business since the 1999 expansion into Ocean County. The company values collaboration with its staff for fresh ideas and perspectives, exploring new avenues for workshops and offerings in today’s business climate. This inclusive environment empowers the team to make decisions that not only meet customers’ needs but exceed their expectations.

Amid pivots and expansions, Calgo Gardens has prioritized maintaining the intimate atmosphere and personalized touch of a small business. This creates a welcoming environment for visitors, as well as a sense of community for its loyal customers.

It's committed to serving both nature and the Monmouth County community

Back in 2010, Calgo Gardens relocated from its longtime home in Ocean County to a new location in Monmouth County. The Calgo team immediately immersed themselves into the Monmouth community, engaging with local organizations while continuing their ongoing training. One key community project was the creation of a certified monarch butterfly waystation, where visitors can learn about the monarch’s life cycle and eventually release the butterflies into their natural habitat. Over the years, Calgo’s offerings have only grown, including informational sessions, hands-on gardening activities, and even on-site yoga classes.

The relocation also allowed Calgo Gardens to build a new farmhouse to further serve the Monmouth community. Drawing inspiration from the horticulture-slash-café nurseries of southern California, Calgo launched its very own farmhouse café in 2017. Today, the Tulip Tree Café serves farm-to-table cuisine, allowing patrons to enjoy their refreshments while immersed in the beauty of the nursery.

Calgo Gardens maintains its commitment to community involvement and creating shared experiences for Monmouth County residents. This commitment is on full display at Calgo’s biannual “Art in the Garden” event, which attracts customers and locals alike. The farmers-market-inspired art show, now held each spring and fall, celebrates the creativity and craftsmanship of local artisans and small businesses. Attendees only need to pay a nominal entry fee, with all proceeds going toward local food pantries.

Through its various offerings and programming, Calgo Gardens has cemented itself as a resource for local nature lovers, artisans, small business owners, and the Monmouth County community as a whole.

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