EAST AMHERST, New York – The mulch business has helped propel C.J. Krantz Organics forward for about the past 10 years, and its Cheetah mulch coloring system from Mulch Mfg. has played no small part in the company’s success. The company is approaching the point of adding a second grinder to increase production.
Krantz Organics, located just east of Buffalo, New York, sells about 40,000 cubic yards of colored mulch annually and about 25-30,000 yards of soil products and compost. The busiest months for mulch sales usually are April-June. “By July Fourth, people usually are done with mulching,” said Nate Drollette, production manager.
Krantz Organics sells the majority of its products wholesale. Customers include landscape contractors, building contractors, and local governments. Some customers, like nurseries and some landscapers, turn around and sell them at retail. Customers are within about a 100-mile radius.
The company has two sites. In the town of Clarence the company owns 80 acres of farm land for topsoil. The working area is about 13 acres. Operations include a screening plant and product holding areas. The site is mainly used to produce topsoil and various blended soil products. It has an office, a shop, and a 4,000 yard storage building.
The company acquired a second site in East Amherst, five miles to the east, in 2012. It was owned by the town of East Amherst and was used to collect green waste and grind the material into mulch. It comprises 26 acres, including 13 paved acres. Krantz Organics continues to use it as a tipping yard for green waste, wood material, and soil and gravel. All mulch production is done at this site, which also has an office, a maintenance shop, and a storage barn. The location also serves as the company’s headquarters.
During the warm weather months, when the business can conduct operations, it employs about 10 people at each location. The company pretty much closes down from December through April with only four people on the payroll. Some employees take the time off. For others who want to work, Nate helps them find work plowing snow.
Krantz Organics is a family business owned and operated by Tim Krantz and his wife, Kim. The business was launched by Tim’s paternal grandfather, Chester Krantz, and a great-uncle, William Krantsz, in 1939. They started out delivering topsoil in the summer and firewood in the winter. When Chester retired in 1990, Tim’s father, Tom, took over the business. Tom was stricken with brain cancer and died at age 52 in 1999.
Tim and Kim took over the business when his father passed away. He was well prepared since he grew up in the business and worked in it since a teenager. A devout Christian, Tim has grown the business by adding more topsoil products, blending topsoil with peat moss, compost, and organic material, and mulch.
Tim is very ‘hands-on,’ according to Nate. If an equipment operator is out, Tim will be in the field, running a machine like anyone else. Otherwise, he is bidding jobs to sell products or looking for new sources of topsoil.
Tim began mulch production operations in 2010. At first he hired a contractor with a grinder to bring the machine to his property to grind material, and he bought a small coloring system to add color to mulch. Later he invested in a grinder with a coloring system.
Just two years later, with the growth of the market for mulch, he bought the town of East Amherst facility, including its Diamond Z 8000 tub grinder. Mulch is now a high priority of the business. “It’s become the top end of the business,” said Nate. Numerous contractors and municipalities bring their green waste, wood debris and tree trimmings to the site to unload, providing plenty of raw material. The wood yard also generates revenue as the company charges tipping fees for unloading wood.
Tim invested in a Cheetah mulch coloring system from Mulch Mfg. in 2016. The previous equipment did the double or second grind and colored mulch at the rate of 75-100 yards per hour, and Tim wanted to increase production, so he began looking at options. He experimented with doing a double grind with the tub grinder and decided he wanted a coloring system, not another grinder with coloring capability. Eventually he went to Pennsylvania to see a Cheetah in action.
Tim and Nate were attracted to the Cheetah for one reason because it uses trommel screen mechanics in the coloring process versus a system of paddles to turn and mix the mulch. “Since we have a lot of trommel screeners, we like the idea of trommels. We’re familiar with the mechanics of it,” noted Nate.
The Cheetah feeds the mulch using a trommel system, sprays the colorant and water, and mixes it all the way down the trommel, noted Nate. “It’s basically the same kind of process for screening soil and compost. It was easy to grasp how it worked.”
Another factor they looked at was consistency in the coloring process. “We wanted to make sure we could make the best product so we could stay at the top of the game,” said Nate.
“The production seemed very fast,” said Nate. “And the coloring process was consistent.
Once it’s up and running, you don’t have to change any settings.” Their Cheetah system colors at the rate of 180-300 yards per hour, he said.
The company also switched to the brand of liquid colorant produced by Mulch Mfg.: Nature’s Reflections.
The Cheetah makes better, more efficient use of colorants, uses less water, and produces a lighter finished product, according to Jeff Merlin, sales manager for Nature’s Reflections — all while requiring less energy to run than other mulch coloring systems. The rotating trommel system is less prone to jamming or damage. It can produce 50-350 yards per hour. With its rapid, high-volume production, longevity and low operating costs, it will provide a high return on investment.
Nature’s Reflections colorants are available in nine colors with 85 shades of each color. The company employs a full-time chemist to match colors of competitors. Only the most advanced raw materials are used. Pigment suppliers are held to extreme tolerance limits for color properties, particle size, purity and uniformity to provide maximum tint strength, and rigorous durability. An additive developed by the company boosts pigment for robust colors. Nature’s Reflections colorants — available in shades ranging from jet black to harvest gold — use only the most concentrated and easily dispersed ingredients while the high quality binders increase color longevity and ensure maximum customer satisfaction.
The Mulch Mfg. quality control department performs a battery of tests on every batch of products to ensure consistency and maximum quality. Colorants are tested for color strength, viscosity, pH, grin, solid percentage, weight per gallon, and color approval.
Nature’s Reflections colorants are safe for use near plants and animals. They are non-hazardous and are exempt from hazardous waste registration. There are no restrictions regarding disposal of empty containers.
(For more information about the Cheetah mulch coloring system or Nature’s Reflections colorants, visit www.natures-reflections.net, contact Jeff Merlin at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (724) 221-0471.)
“It’s really the best colorant we’ve found,” said Nate, although there are a lot of colorant products that are similar. “It’s super consistent and easy to get. We don’t have to wait.” Mulch Mfg. has manufacturing operations in Jacksonville, Florida, and a distribution facility in Ohio. “For us it comes down to the customer service and the consistency of the coloring process. It’s been super good since we started in 2016.”
Krantz Organics makes only two types of colored mulch — black and brown. Black is the best-selling color by a 3:1 ratio. “We’ve tried a couple of other colors in the past, but we’ve stayed with these two,” said Nate. It also produces a natural, uncolored mulch. All mulch products are made from hardwood, and all go through a double-grind process.
A Volvo EC210 excavator is used to feed the tub grinder. In addition to the excavator, the company has a Cat 329E excavator, five wheel loaders, three bulldozers, three McCloskey trommels, a SCARAB windrow turner for turning compost, and seven dump trucks for deliveries.
When mulch production starts up each year, “We grind every day,” said Nate, sometimes six days per week.
Topsoil production and sales vary throughout the year. “They always will,” said Nate, adding, “We’ll always be a topsoil company.”
The company plans to replace the motor in the Diamond Z tub grinder this year; the motor has 9,200 hours on it. It has undergone significant refurbishing and maintenance in the past 18 months.
Mulch sales continue to increase every year, said Nate. Since the company also uses the grinder for processing compost, it is considering adding a second machine, and Tim and Nate already have begun researching manufacturers.
Although wood grinding operations can continue through the winter, coloring mulch is seasonal. The company starts up coloring operations as soon as the weather is warm enough and there is no more danger of freezing — typically in late March. “Western New York doesn’t always cooperate with the mulch business,” said Nate. “The springs can be rainy.” Coloring operations halt in early September.
Most other mulch producers in the region do not perform all the processing operations in-house, according to Nate. “We’re getting raw wood material and turning it into a refined product. Our double-grind product is as good as some companies that do a triple-grind.”
The company has a website and also is active in other marketing strategies. It emails a flier to customers and potential customers every year and also does some radio advertising in the summer. It also has commercials that air on a local television show called Hammer Time that is geared to the construction industry, contractors, and do-it-yourself homeowners. The company’s trucks are painted a bright yellow with signage to stand out as they travel throughout the region.