Denver businessman buys local Lawn Doctor store

Scott Frith, CEO of Lawn Doctor, says he wants to grow the franchise in Colorado.

Denver businessman Brent Harl, who helped grow Bruegger’s Bagels in Colorado during the 1990s, has bought the Colorado Springs Lawn Doctor store, making it his 17th location in the state.

Harl bought his first Lawn Doctor franchise, which specializes in fertilization, weed and insect control, in 1998. Since then he’s purchased existing Lawn Doctor businesses and built his own across the state. In his newly acquired Colorado Springs store, he’s preparing for spring, when he intends to hire about 15 employees adding to the current staff of five.

“I do think we will raise the standard for lawn care in Colorado Springs,” Harl said. “We have taken a lot of the market share from our competitors.”

Harl has owned and sold franchises since the 1990s. It all started when he left corporate America in 1992. He had worked for Arthur Andersen accounting giant, earned his MBA from Harvard, and went on to work for other large firms.

Tired of that grind, he went to work for a Bruegger’s Bagels shop in New York at 20 percent of his corporate salary. It was then that Bruegger’s started franchising its operations and Harl was in on it from the beginning.

“I decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge,” he said.

He opened the Bruegger’s Bagels shop downtown on Tejon Street, one of 17 stores he opened in Colorado. In 1997, he sold the stores back to its parent company, Quality Dining.

Next he got turned on to to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s brand and managed 25 stores, but the organization wanted him to move to Kansas City and he couldn’t leave Colorado, he said.

Instead, he bought a Lawn Doctor store in Denver and grew the store’s revenue to $400,000 a year. This year, revenue at all his locations is $4.5 million and his Lawn Doctor stores have about 11,000 clients — about 3,000 in the Springs, he said.

Lawn Doctor started 45 years ago as a hardware store in New Jersey that only sold the lawn products. But its owners saw a need to help consumers apply the products. Some people thought it was a crazy notion that people would pay for lawn care, said Scott Frith, CEO of Lawn Doctor.

“Today, everyone has lawn care,” he said.

The company has invested in technology, with an online store and mobile apps that keep the business moving forward, Frith said. The business has grown to 450 stores across the country and does about $100 million in annual revenue.

The Lawn Doctor franchise has been in Colorado for 30 years. A person can get into the franchise for about $98,000, which includes the franchise fee, according to the Lawn Doctor website.

Twenty years ago, the majority of the owners would have been single operators, Frith said. Now, there has been a shift toward owners with multiple locations, trying to seize an entire region or state, as Harl has done with his Colorado stores.

“This year we grew 6 percent,” Frith said. “And, we expect to grow 10 percent next year.”