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October 2007

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Amerimulch

Amerimulch got its start when Greg Rondy decided that he was paying too much to get rid of waste wood from his small pallet shop in Ohio. Rondy patented the first piece of equipment used to turn waste wood into colored mulch.

Rondy’s operation was small, but his mulch began to get some notice in the larger markets, according to Michael Chase of Amerimulch. In about 1993, Kurtz Bros. bought Rondy’s mulch-coloring operation.

While Rondy was using his equipment to make and sell colored mulch, Kurtz Bros. expanded the business to include the sale of the equipment and colorants for making the mulch. They also continued selling colored mulch.

Kurtz Bros. soon realized that having a business that produced mulch and also sold the equipment and colorants was a conflict. They were trying to sell equipment to the same people who they were competing with for mulch business. The smart thing to do was to divide the business.

In 1998, George Chase, who had a background in plastics colorants, took control of the equipment and colorant business, now called Amerimulch, while Kurtz Bros. kept on mulching.

Today, Amerimulch has 29 employees, according to Michael Chase, who is the company’s corporate counsel. He came to Amerimulch after working in the county juvenile court system. Chase was looking for a change of pace, and expected that Amerimulch would be a short-term job. That was eight years ago.

Amerimulch doesn’t build the machinery, according to Chase. “We design it and have it manufactured to our specifications,” he explained. Amerimulch “equipment technicians” work with the customers to create the systems they need. “We’re working to be their one-stop resource,” he said.

Chase explained that there are two different mulching scenarios, with different equipment and coloring needs. Green wood from land-clearing operations has a tendency to “brown out” faster because it has more moisture. It also darkens as it ages.

To combat those issues, colorants for green wood needs to be lighter and brighter than that used on recycled wood from pallet shops or construction and demolition sites.

“We’ve been improving the formulas for years.” Chase said of the colorants the company produces. Amerimulch has eight or nine “primary” colors in its line, “and a couple of subtle adjustments,” he said. The colorings are all designed to be safe for people, pets and the environment.

Besides requiring different colorants based on the source of the wood, the grinding equipment required is also different. While Ameritech doesn’t manufacture any grinding equipment – their focus is on coloring the resulting mulch – their technicians can help customers customize what they have.

In fact, not all customers need to buy stand-alone coloring systems. Amerimulch technicians can sometimes adapt customers’ existing screeners, grinders or trommels to work as a coloring system, saving significant expense.

According to Chase, Amerimulch’s customers come from several different industries. Some are land-clearing companies that have a lot of scrap wood to dispose of. Pallet shops also have a lot of wood to dispose of, but that wood is older and drier. Also, some landscape stores want to make their own mulch to supply their customers.

Chase said that while coloring mulch may not solve the world’s biggest problems, it still has its benefits. “You get to make the world a prettier place,” he said.