SANTA ROSA – Alan Kostelnik hasn’t always worked in the landscaping industry—in fact, he started his career as an educator, but it wasn’t long until he found himself at an impasse. “I had been working as a high school teacher for a few years when I realized it wasn’t for me,” he explains. In what was initially to be a temporary transition, Alan traded his ruler for a shovel, his blackboard for topsoil and the inside of the classroom for the fresh air of residential landscapes. As it turned out, this provisional detour eventually became a permanent direction. “I had some previous experience in landscape work during my college years, so I decided to put together a small gardening business as a temporary means of making a living until I figured out what to do next. In time, I found I had an aptitude for the landscaping business, and I really enjoyed it.” After he decided to make landscaping a career, Alan returned to school to receive a more formal education in important industry aspects like horticulture and landscape design and installation.
Prior to his watershed transition, Alan lived in Detroit, Michigan, where he was born and raised. A frequent visitor to the Bay Area during his college years, his growing affinity for the local weather and culture prompted him to relocate permanently. “The company I worked for in Michigan had an office in San Francisco, so I applied for a transfer,” he remembers. “Six months later, they called and offered me a job.” Later, when Alan’s teaching career dried up, he discovered that the Bay Area offered an ideal setting for landscape work. “The weather in Michigan simply didn’t compare to that of the Bay Area. Also, Sonoma County was in development stages at the time, so there was a lot of business to be had.” Nearly 40 years later, Gardens of the Wine Country’s business continues to thrive in its picturesque environment. “I still love the Bay Area vibe,” says Alan. “It’s a beautiful place and I feel blessed to live and work here.”
When describing one of the major aspects of his profession, Alan invokes the old adage of “you get what you pay for.” “Professional design and installation are crucial to landscaping, so if you’re only paying attention to saving money, you’ll be sorry down the road,” he says. “In my 40 years in business, I’ve seen customers make the same mistake over and over again: shopping for price rather than expertise and quality. The invariable result is a job that has to be redone in a few years because it wasn’t done right the first time.”
Outside of work, Alan enjoys golfing, hiking, wine tasting and photography. He also follows professional sports like basketball, baseball and football, rooting for both the local Bay Area teams and those in his hometown of Detroit. When asked about the first thing he would do if he could retire tomorrow, Alan has everything planned out. “I would take a long trip through Tibet, Burma, Bhutan and India. Then I would come home for a few weeks, visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, come home for a few more weeks, and take a trip to South Africa. After that, I’d take a few river cruises through Central America and Europe. And after that…I guess we’ll see!”