Premier Artificial Grass Installer – Home Grown & Locally Owned in Penn Valley Since 1998
By Cory Fisher
Special to TWI
Eighteen years ago, a handful of seniors sat on a bench at the Nevada County Fairgrounds watching Annie and Paul Costa install a patch of artificial grass as a way to promote their new artificial grass company, TuFFGrass.
“It’s not gonna work,” said one old timer, shaking his head.
“It’ll never last,” said another.
Flash forward to 2019 to find that patch is still there — near the entrance at Gate 1 – almost 20 years later — a testament to Paul and Annie’s ability to deliver quality work to their customers, as well as, to the artificial grass surfaces’ durability.
“In fact, a few of those same seniors will regularly come up during the annual Home and Garden Show and say (with a chuckle), ‘Still there — looking good,’” said Annie.
Why artificial grass? When the dot-com bubble burst in Silicon Valley in the late ‘90s, both Annie and Paul found themselves having to consider career changes; there had been a complete meltdown in the computer industry. They sold their Belmont home, bought a house in rural Penn Valley and began looking for new opportunities; locally.
This happen during the height of the drought in the late nineties and a friend from Southern California suggested they explore the artificial grass market
After extensive market research, the couple was impressed by what they’d learned. Though a young industry, safe, beautiful, proven products were available from American manufacturers and the market was wide open; they would be one of the first installers in Northern California! They partnered with a local contractor to qualify for their own license and in 4 years, the Costas were ready to launch their own company, TuFFGrass.
They looked for ways to introduce their new products and services; it was just before the Nevada County Fair and exhibit areas were available. Former fairgrounds CEO Ed Scofield gave the couple a small spot near the entrance that had historically been hard to mow and keep groomed. By installing TuFFGrass permanently at this location, it could serve a dual purpose — it spruced up the area and allowed the Costas to showcase the quality of their artificial grass. The donated installation was dedicated to the volunteers of Nevada County.
“We used an artificial Kentucky bluegrass style at the fairgrounds, to start — there weren’t many options then,” noted Annie. ” In the beginning, we had a light green, a dark green, and a putting green style to choose from – all were really natural looking and have outperformed expectations. Once the word started getting around business took off like a kite on a windy day. Since then, they have installed tens of thousands of square feet and related landscape elements.
Growing Interest, Lawn Styles Emerge, Industry Standards Set
As it turned out, the idea of natural-looking artificial grass that didn’t require watering or mowing — and isn’t full of weeds, bugs and damage from invasive rodents — resonated with a large number of Nevada County residents.
While demand for artificial turf had traditionally been for the likes of athletic fields, putting greens, bocce ball and play areas, the Costas were seeing a growing demand for full residential lawns that could withstand the drought, invasive pests and especially pets.. The rocky clay soil and uneven topography in many parts of Nevada County, such as Lake Wildwood, make it difficult to grow and maintain a thick, lush lawn.
“We began working with artificial turf manufacturers in Georgia,” said Annie. “By 2004, manufacturers realized there was new market that extended beyond sports. With California water restrictions and long droughts creating huge demand caught the attend of the general landscape industry. This changed the market dramatically; a lot of general landscapers simply jumped into providing services and we saw installation quality go down; not everyone builds the same.”
“We really love what we do and are proud of the role we’ve had a chance to play in building this incredible industry. locally and globally.” Paul shared. “We look for quality materials, made in the USA, and then build the project to suit the needs of the site and customer.”
Artificial grass installations, properly installed, should be completely porous and drain vertically. They never need chemical feeding and do not generate fertilizer run-off, which can leach into waterways and cause a host of negative ecological issues in our local lakes and streams. “I really enjoy hearing from parents and pet owners that the artificial grass also helps reduce allergens to both kids and dogs, too!” stated Paul.
As the market grew, Annie was instrumental in establishing a trade association for installers, in 2007, to build standard installation guidelines and best business practices for the industry. “Together, home owners and our installer group were able to change California law to void the ban of the use of artificial grasses; expanding lawn options for everyone in California!” Demand for knowledge expanded from California, to North America and then globally.
“I’ve trained people from Canada to Mexico and throughout the U.S.,” said Annie. “Paul and I started TuFFGrass as the crew, the office management and we continue to do all the estimates. Right now I’m the V.P. of operations and Paul is the president; our local team hails from the area. It all started out of a small office in “downtown” Penn Valley.”
“We’ve used TuFFGrass twice,” said the Wilsons, whose home is located on Lake Wildwood Drive. “The installation process was amazing; a lot of prep goes into getting the area ready for the turf. After all the heavy winter rains, recently – we are so happy it drains well. Their crew is very professional, courteous and considerate. The best part is how folks stop and say how beautiful our lawn is; so many think it’s real! It just looks perfect. We’re very happy.”
“The benefits of artificial grass are many”, stated Annie, a few of which include saving water and irrigation costs; eliminating fertilizers, mud, lawn chores, dust and allergic reactions; and maintaining a maintenance-free green, lush lawn year-round.”
“We’ve got good products and the best installation techniques,” said Paul. “When we started, we didn’t realize we would be integral in creating a new market in this particular industry. We’re over the clouds to be part of establishing this as a viable, sustainable business and it all started right here in Penn Valley.”
Paul agrees. “The most rewarding aspect of owning TuFFGrass for all these years — aside from being able to grow this company together with my beautiful wife — is we’re not only changing people’s yards we’re changing their lifestyles. You will never have to water or mow your lawn again; we promise!”
Annie and Paul Costa, owners
Phone: 530-432-8175 or 916-741-3396
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
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