Monday, November 5, 2012
Atlee Raber retires from Berlin Gardens
A fascination with backyard living is what led Atlee Raber, owner of Berlin Gardens form 1988 to 2009, into the backyard design business.
Beginning in the 1970s with a dedicated landscaping crew, he took joy in satisfying customers by creating beautiful backyards where they could relax and fellowship with friend and family. Backyard makeovers were his passion
For many years Atlee operated a successful landscaping business. Then the summer of 1988 hit, bringing severe drought and heat wave that was one of the most severe weather events ever - listed on the "Billion Dollar US Weather Disasters" list.
It occurred to Atlee that there must be a more stable way to help customers enjoy their backyards, one less dependent on the weather. Some friends from Lancaster, PA gave him his answer - why not make gazebos?
Partnering with a carpenter and learning how to build them, Atlee found assembling skilled workers in carpentry and woodworking easier than hiring landscape workers. Plus, indoor manufacturing provided a controlled environment. Best of all, he could ship gazebos anywhere in the country.
So, in 1988 he began Berlin Gardens as a wooden gazebo and furniture manufacturer (those were the days before poly lumber was perfected as a building material). To meet his suppliers, Atlee traveled to the southern US for timber and to California for cedar shingles.
Through the 1990s business boomed. In 2002 poly lumber finally reached the level of quality that enabled Berlin Gardens to add it to their line. Consumer demand grew and eventually lead to the elimination of wood furniture completely.
As a company owner, Atlee was always keenly interested in visiting customers and forming friendships. He was essentially the face and voice of Berlin Gardens. He always believed in the principle, "Take care of the customer and business will take care of you." He and his wife Liz received invitations to backyard barbecues and cookouts to enjoy both the gazebos and landscaping -- which Atlee had provided through his other company, Raber's Greenhouse. To Atlee, life's greatest pleasures came from getting to know people.
He also treated his employees like family, and they felt the same about him.
After a successful career leading the company, Atlee sold the business in 2009 to current owner Sam Yoder, although Atlee continued to represent the company as a salesperson and consultant. Finding Sam, Atlee says, was a real work of the Lord, and a blessing to him. He credits Sam for carrying on the concern for employees and their families that was so important to him.
This year marks Atlee's official retirement from Berlin Gardens. Our thanks and prayers go with him!
The bottom line on life for Atlee comes down to his faith in God and trusting His leading.
"Walking with God is worth doing," he says.