Facing The Daily Grind Is A Joy

Story by Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

Jim Fredericksen, owner of Jim's Stump Grinding, Saukville, provides stump-grinding, lawn-maintenance and snow-plowing services for commercial and residential customers throughout Milwaukee's northern suburbs.

"My main area covers Washington and Ozaukee counties, with frequent jobs as far away as the northern edge of Milwaukee." he says. "But contractors are now hiring me to work on projects south of the city, too."

Fredericksen decided to go into business for himself five years ago, after 14 years of working as a sheet metal specialist in commercial construction.

"I wanted something more stable than the cycles of working like crazy and then being laid off, so I decided to build a business of my own," he says.

Fredrickson didn't go into the experience blind, having previously co-owned a sporting clays business in Saukville.

The stump-grinding portion of Fredrickson's current business depends on his Vermeer SC352 stump grinder, which he uses on every job.

The stumps he tackles range from a few inches in diameter up to several feet.

Says Fredericksen, "The largest stump I've tackled so far has been a 15-foot-diameter willow, and there have been a lot of stumps more than 10 feet in diameter, as well."

On a typical day, he handles nine or more removal projects involving from one to more than half a dozen stumps each.

Keeping that pace means quickly moving onto a site, grinding the stumps, loading up, and heading to the next job.

Within just a few minutes of the time the blue pickup truck and white, 10-foot-long, enclosed trailer with "Jim's Stump Grinding" lettered in yellow and green on the side pulls up, the Vermeer SC352's turbocharged engine has been fired up and Fredericksen is walking the hydraulically driven unit into the work area.

When the grinding begins and the cream-colored wood shavings begin to fly, it takes only minutes for the stump to disappear.

Fredericksen deftly adjusts the power, speed, and cutting depth and head swing by using his fingertips to operate a bank of short-throw levers on the side of the machine as the head with the grinding wheel passes back and forth across the stump.

When the job is done, he walks the machine back into the trailer and heads off to the next job.

All that's left are holes where the stumps were and a thin apron of fine wood shavings.

This new Vermeer SC352 is the second one that Jim's Stump Grinding has owned.

It is just a few months old and features Vermeer's new "Yellow Jacket" teeth, introduced to Wisconsin at the Conex show at the end of January.

Says Fredericksen, "The Yellow Jacket teeth are just great. They cut very quickly. They are easy to turn 180 degrees for a fresh cutting edge. And they are easy to sharpen. I grind about 30 hours a week, and I put in a set of newly sharpened teeth about once a week. It takes about half an hour."

Fredrickson says the new pockets that hold the teeth onto the cutting wheel are unique because the two halves are interchangeable, so he can stock fewer parts and interchange them when necessary. And he has noticed that the design prevents the pockets themselves from ever hitting the stump.

He also feels that his dealer, Vermeer-Wisconsin, offers the best service support. "They know what they're doing and have always provided a loaner machine if they need to keep mine for service or repair," he says. "With the whole stump-grinding segment of my business riding on this one machine, that's important."

Fredericksen says that although owning and operating a business carries its own set of concerns, he welcomes the opportunity to have more control over his own future. "There are certainly outside conditions — such as the price of fuel — that affect the business," he says. "But to a large extent, my success is based on the value I provide to my customers."

For Jim Fredericksen, dealing with the daily grind means business is good.