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Childhood Friends Grow Lawn Care Business After COVID-19 Canceled Their Summer Internships

Gavin Andersen and Steve Dierkes (courtesy Lawn Barbers)

Steve Dierkes and Gavin Andersen — co-owners of local lawn care business The Lawn Barbers — have dealt with snakes, poison ivy and swarms of cicadas when caring for the lawns of Arlington residents.

But they say the bugs and weeds were worth the experience of running a company together.

The two dabbled in lawn care in high school, and when their summer internships were canceled due to the pandemic, they decided to turn their high school jobs into a business.

“I was going to work at a big consulting firm in D.C. — so a little different than landscaping,” Andersen said. “We tried to find a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy situation.”

“I was going to work at a think tank and, frankly, I’m not too upset I ended up in landscaping,” said Dierkes.

The two built up their client base on Nextdoor, trading names with other area lawn care businesses. After starting out with tools and equipment Dierkes’ parents kept in a shed, they soon earned enough money to buy their own equipment.

Their diligence paid off. Now in its second year, Lawn Barbers offers all kinds of lawn care services — from general yard maintenance to weed control to landscaping renovations — and their business was voted in the top three lawn care businesses in last week’s Arlies.

They say their bond is the key to their success. The friends, who are both 22, met in preschool at Westover Baptist Church and went through elementary school, high school and college together. They both studied at William and Mary.

“We’ve known each other for pretty much our entire lives,” said Dierkes.

“It’s pretty crazy, Steve,” added Andersen.

Drawing on nearly two decades of friendship, the two joke around while their hands are deep in weeds. They say the customers respond well to their positivity and energy.

“What’s better than having two guys on your lawn in 100-degree weather having a blast?” said Andersen. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything I enjoy as much as waking up to do this with Steve.”

Their friendship has helped them through tough times: long hours, backbreaking work and the occasional argument. Once, they moved more than 10,000 pounds of rocks in wheelbarrows to create a drainage solution and pulled up 500-1,000 square feet of English Ivy.

“That was pretty brutal,” Andersen said. “I’ve had to mow a lawn with snakes in it and weeds up to my shoulders.”

For one job, the two scaled a steep hill that gave them a view of all the houses in the neighborhood.

“It made for a great picture,” Dierkes said.

The work gave them another view of Arlington: one through the eyes of people who have been here for decades and seen the community grow and change. Completing projects near the schools they attended, Tuckahoe Elementary School and Yorktown High School, reminds them of how they’ve done the same.

Despite now being able to call themselves an award-winning lawn care duo, Dierkes and Andersen are trading their mowers for desks and office jobs as the summer ends. Looking forward, the partners say their experience will make them better employees and people.

“There’s a lot of life lessons in doing what others consider elementary work,” said Andersen.

“I think working in landscaping, and working in the summer, you really learn resilience and persistence,” said Dierkes. “Gavin and I couldn’t just quit after six hours. You had to get the job done.”

Dierkes is now in Pittsburgh, working at a startup, and Andersen is still in the D.C. area as a consultant, but they refuse to say goodbye to the business. They say they will be available for work over holiday breaks and other times they’re both in Arlington.

“I’m not [expletive] leaving,” said Dierkes, adding that he misses Arlington and his lawn care partnership. “It’s like that corny Dr. Seuss line, ‘It’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later.'”

Andersen agreed.

“The barbershop is eternally open,” he said.

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