Picking up what the city won't
by Jan Schlain
When friends complained one evening about the end of the free fall "loose" leaf pick up from the streets of Ann Arbor, property manager Mike Calderone discovered his inner entrepreneur. He and his wife, Linda, who works for a local attorney, set up a leaf-collecting business that would simultaneously restore curbside pickup--for a fee--and fund their new nonprofit to encourage tree planting (arborenvironmentalalliance.com). Mike and one of their daughters hand-delivered 3,000 flyers to homes in affluent, tree-thick neighborhoods like Ann Arbor Hills, Burns Park, and the Old West Side, offering their services.
As a cost-cutting measure, the city no longer picks up leaves raked into the street. Residents are encouraged to compost them on-site; if they don't, they'll have to bag them or place them in a compost cart for collection. If that seems like too much work, Calderone is contracting with four lawn care companies who will blow or rake the leaves to the curb for about $130; he will then charge about $90 to collect them. So far, the Calderones are feeling their way, both with the business and with defining their foundation's goals, but they're raking in customers--seventy-five to eighty so far, and autumn's just begun.
[Originally published in October, 2010.]