Tim Travis, the BBC’s Business Person of the Year
By Allison Jacobs
Photography by Brett Mountain
When Tim Travis informed his second grade class his favorite Christmas present was a Zebra plant, he ignored his teacher’s raised eyebrows: He knew he was destined for a career in gardening. Never afraid to get his hands dirty, Travis spent summers during his college years learning from Al Goldner, the original owner of Goldner Walsh Garden & Home, a family-run landscaping business dating back to the early 1950s.
Travis started his career at Goldner Walsh assisting with landscaping projects. At the time, Al Goldner immediately took note of Travis’ work ethic and passion for the job. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in ornamental horticulture and business, Goldner promoted him to manager.
While this was Travis’ first management gig, his leadership skills came naturally. With his vibrant personality, he connected easily with both his customers and employees.
Since the moment he stepped inside the original store at 12 Mile and Telegraph, Travis dreamed of running the business. After years of paying his dues as manager, he bought Goldner Walsh in 1988.
Since Travis’ takeover, Goldner Walsh has maintained its reputation as a top-notch landscaping company and nursery.
Even when the economy crashed in 2008, Travis held the business together. Despite a significant drop in sales, he still maintained customer satisfaction and continued to pay his employees. Eventually, with the assistance of a friend in the banking sector, Goldner Walsh fully recovered.
The financial problems Goldner Walsh faced during the economic downturn led Travis to revamp his business plan. He went out on a limb and decided to add three additional companies to the 9-acre space, including Telly’s Greenhouse, Spurlock Brick and Stone, and City Girls Soap.
“It’s created a great destination for our customers,” Travis says. “From the customers’ standpoint, it’s a one-stop shop.”
This collaboration has not only helped bring in more store traffic, it also benefits the entire company by allowing Travis to focus more heavily on the landscaping side and still branch out in his own unique way.
Thanks to Travis, the Goldner Walsh that stands today is more than just your average home and garden store. They also host weddings, movie nights, lectures and charity events.
Golder Walsh has always been known for its charitable contributions in the community, and Travis has continued that tradition with full force.
“Pontiac is the epicenter of charities,” he adds. He fondly recalls the biggest charitable event he was involved in with Global Relief in 1999. He helped coordinate the planting of 300 trees in historic Pontiac neighborhoods that has been neglected over the years. He also obtained a grant and recruited volunteers to assist with the project.
Travis is actively involved with the Birmingham Bloomfield Arts Center, the Community House in Birmingham and the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, among other local organizations.
Last December, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce recognized Travis as the 2016 “Business Person of the Year.”
“To be nominated and awarded is a huge honor. I’m hoping the message is that it’s important to pay it forward … whether it’s you personally or your business.”
While Travis spends a great deal of time at Goldner Walsh, he has a handful of interests he enjoys, including collecting vintage garden gnomes, photography and traveling.
Travis resides on Sylvan Lake, where he navigates his very own old-fashioned tugboat during the summer months. He’s an avid participant in tugboat races, and he stores his red-and-green-painted boat at Goldner Walsh during the off-season and will gladly show it to anyone who expresses interest.
Travis finds that engaging in areas he is passionate about fuels his creativity and helps him connect better with his business associates and customers. Those who know him personally know he’s rarely found sitting in his office.
Aside from his green thumb, Travis is also environmentally conscious. Along with developing a recycling and composting system at Goldner Walsh, he plans to add solar panels to the building soon.
Beyond being eco-friendly, Travis finds great joy in the entertainment side of his business. Goldner Walsh is booked until 2018 with weddings, but Travis has no shortage of ideas for the short-term, including building an indoor bocce ball court.
“We’ve created this as a new gathering place,” says Travis, who recognizes the importance of appealing to today’s generation, not just his longtime customers.
Aside from his love of entertaining, Travis emphasizes that sharing his space is one of the best parts of running the company. “I’m celebrating the experience and the talent that Telly’s has in my own space for both of our benefits.”
He also houses 10 goats for Amy McIntyre of City Girls Soaps that supply the milk used in her all-natural lotions and soaps. Along with the goats, he owns chickens that produce fresh eggs for sale and plans to add sheep to keep the grass in check.
Travis believes that other local businesses are co-professionals, not competitors, and he continues to grow Goldner Walsh and inspire others with this philosophy.
Each day when he strolls into Goldner Walsh, Travis focuses on the very same values Al Goldner shared when he started the company while driving the business, and his tugboat, to new places. NS
559 Orchard Lake Road