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Oct 14, 2019 12:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

85 Years Later, Loyalties Keep Family-Owned Landscape Company Running Strong

Mark and Suzanne Antilety, and two of their children, Alex and Lauren. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Oct 15, 2019 4:31 PM

Mark Antilety flipped through old record-keeping books of his family’s landscaping business while his crew trimmed trees behind him at a residence on Halsey Neck Lane, a client for 56 years.

He pointed to a surname in a book from the 1960s. “They’re still our clients today,” he said.

Jacob Antilety Landscaping, a business that has been in the family for four generations, credits much of its success to its loyal customer base — a testament to, and reflection of, the family’s devotion to the company.

Jacob Antilety, Mark’s grandfather, launched the business in 1934 in his Southampton Village home on Pulaski Street, where it has been headquartered ever since. It was passed down a few decades later to his sons, Bill and Jack, and finally to Bill’s son, Mark.

There are currently three generations of Antiletys working for the business: Bill, now 84, Mark, and one of his sons, Alex, who plans to take over the company whenever his dad is ready to retire. They work with a staff of about 20 employees and operate a company that has serviced the South Fork for 85 years.

“To have done this with my dad and to be doing this with my son now is pretty special,” said Mark Antilety, who has been working there full-time since 1982.

His wife, Suzanne, is the company’s bookkeeper — a role she took on from his grandmother, Alice Antilety, whose record-keeping books he still holds dear.

Mark Antilety began working for the business when he was 12 years old, about the same age that his father and son both started. He later attended Farmingdale State College to earn a degree in horticulture, not initially realizing that he would return to the business after graduating.

“When I went to college, I had no plans of being a landscaper,” the current owner said. “But I quickly realized that I did like the work, and I had the opportunity to stay in a family business. And I had a great relationship with my dad.”

His son’s story was similar. Alex Antilety began at 13, working full-time in the summers during high school and college. He attended the University of Delaware to study landscape, horticulture and design, and then moved to Denver to work for a landscape design firm.

“When I was out there, I kind of just realized I wanted to come back,” the 27-year-old said. “I’m getting married in December, and it was just something that I felt I wanted to do — and I take a lot of pride in taking it over.”

Alex Antilety returned to the company seven months ago, and has already been working on ways to re-brand the company and increase its local presence. He designed a website and logos for the trucks, and took out advertisements in local magazines to further get the name out.

“Until now, it has always kind of been a word-of-mouth business, which has worked out great for us. I mean, clearly, we’ve been here long enough where it hasn’t been an issue. But I just thought that the company deserved a little more publicity and recognition for what we’ve been doing,” he said.

He also noted that increasing local competition was part of the reason for the new changes.

“Even since I’ve been a teenager, the number of full-time companies that I’ve seen out here has grown exponentially. So I didn’t want us to kind of get lost in the shuffle with all these businesses being out here,” he said.

Over the next decade, he plans to take the company in a direction toward sustainable landscaping, with a goal of leading the local charge for that sector of the industry. He said that people have been expressing an interest in sustainable landscaping services, which he believes stems from the larger cultural shift toward a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

He wants his staff to practice greener ways to use things like water, fertilizer and pesticides, as well as develop the ability to teach customers about sustainable landscape methods that can fit their aesthetic.

His father and grandfather support the changes and are excited about the future, Alex Antilety said.

“It’s always been client referral that has got us new work, but times are changing. Loyalties aren’t what they once were,” his father said, “And Alex is taking the business where it needs to go in the 21st century and it’s exciting to see. I’m very proud of him.”

Bill Antilety, despite passing the torch to his son years ago, does not let his age weaken his dedication to the business. He still shows up to work every day — except for the winter, when he vacations in Florida — to help operate equipment and visit different job sites.

“He loves the business. We talk about how it’s like his hobby,” said Lauren Antilety, his granddaughter. “When he’s not in Florida in the winter, he’s around town always in his Jacob Antilety Landscaping logo stuff and polos and hats. He’s our biggest ambassador.”

Even some of the employees have been with the business for decades, like Luther William, who was hired in 1978. Because of how much time he spent around the family, he gradually became a part of it. He was there when Mark Antilety got married and started a family, and he watched those kids grow up and start their own lives.

“I couldn’t ask for a better job. I wouldn’t leave this job for nothing in the world. They have been so good to me,” said Mr. Williams, who lives in Riverhead. “I’m in the shop at 5, 5:30 in the morning, even though I don’t have to be to work that early, but I’m always in the shop doing something.”

Mr. Williams was one of four siblings to have worked at the landscape company. Two of his brothers, Oscar and Harold, worked with him, and his other brother Robert had left before Mr. Williams was hired.

It was not unusual to have relatives working together at the landscape business, as is the case with other businesses in labor industries. The staff is often made up of sets of brothers and cousins that would add to the tightknit atmosphere at the job.

Mark Antilety pointed out in addition to their solid relationships with customers, their bonds with employees played a big role in the lasting success of the business.

When he was skimming through the old record books, he brought up how the company’s employee base had demographic shifts that mirrored the regional immigration patterns over the decades.

Most of the employee names listed in the company’s first book from the 1930s were Polish, then in the 1960s they were a majority African-American, and now, as of the last roughly two decades, they are mostly Hispanic, based on who was moving to the area and looking for work, he explained.

“We never forget how fortunate we have been to live this story. A true gift,” Mark Antilety said in a later text message. “A day never goes by that I don’t reflect on what this community has meant to my family.”

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Worked for the family one summer during school break. Great family to work for...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Oct 21, 19 11:30 AM
Grew with up Mark in the Rosko Drive ....epic memory's great family....
By minarditraining.com (19), Easthampton on Oct 21, 19 2:48 PM
Great Story!!
By coxie1 (37), southampton on Oct 21, 19 2:53 PM
Good People
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Oct 21, 19 4:43 PM