Images by Blakeney Cox
Most nights you’ll find Austin West behind the wheel of his Vestavia Hills police cruiser. His friend, Jonathan Piteo, alternates working 24-hour shifts, battling blazes as a firefighter in the Jasper area. Both have chosen careers of service. Both risk their lives every time they put on a uniform.
Austin, a 2012 Cordova High graduate, and Jonathan, a 2012 Walker graduate, first met three years ago while working for a landscaping company. In February 2018 they became business partners for Outdoors Unlimited, LLC.
It’s not yet noon and already you can see undulating waves of heat rising from the pavement. It’s the kind of day that inspires sympathy for those who work in the roofing and lawn care businesses. Inside the air-conditioned kitchen of a fire station off Walston Bridge Road, Austin leans back in a chair as Jonathan relaxes on a couch.
“You think you know how to cut grass, but things are really different when you’re doing it as a profession,” Austin says, recalling his beginning in the world of landscaping in 2015.
The next year, Austin was hired as a Jasper police officer, and Jonathan left to work for the Jasper Fire Department. Even with new careers, they still discussed landscaping, often joking about starting their own business. “We had talked about it for about a year,” Austin says. “One day out of the blue I texted him and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It really happened that fast.”
And lo, Outdoors Unlimited, LLC was born.
Operating a business and working a full-time job is no walk in the park. Off days are a rare luxury. Then they have to contend with the unbearable heat. “You see the discoloration of this hat?” Austin says, pointing to his faded tan ball cap. “You just have to get used it.”
“You can get a little spoiled sitting around in here,” Jonathan adds.
Heat, snakes, and tricky terrain can be impediments to the work of these men. Notwithstanding, both agree there is an upside to owning your own business.
But you don’t have to be a business owner to appreciate the fruits of your labor. There is a deep sense of accomplishment, Jonathan says, in seeing a lawn transition into something beautiful. Austin believes the benefits of a well-manicured lawn are not limited to the homeowner. “That’s some of my favorite time, when you take the yard from leaves everywhere, bushes grown up, the grass is high, and you can really change the whole curb appeal of a house in just a few hours,” he says. “I believe a good-looking yard can really make a house, and a neighborhood, look better. The curb appeal is huge. We try to make sure the customer gets what they want, and we make it look the best we can for them.”
With all the landscaping companies in the area, you might assume the competition would be fierce, but the guys say they have no interest in competing with anyone. They believe there is enough business for everyone. “We like working in Jasper. There’s a lot of the same type businesses in town, but there’s room for everybody,” Austin says.
Outdoors Unlimited is licensed in Jasper, Walker County, and the state of Alabama. Their business is based around the Jasper area, but they also service Vestavia and Hoover. In addition to providing a mowing service, they offer removal of leaves and weeds, shrub trimming, and other cleanups. They can provide a free estimate at your home and there are no binding contracts.
“We try to make our work speak for itself,” Austin says. 78
To contact Outdoors Unlimited, phone 205-878-0917 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can see examples of their work on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OutdoorsUnlimitedLawnCare/