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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Grand Designs

When Steve Sheldon wanted to develop a wine-themed backyard at his home in Northridge, he turned to Scott Cohen and his crews at The Green Scene. Mary and Sean Beshay did the same when they remodeled their Chatsworth home with a vanishing edge pool, fire bowls, wrought iron fencing, and columns that matched the home’s façade. More than just the president of The Green Scene, Cohen is also an author, lecturer and television personality promoting the elaborate landscaping, pools and spas, outdoor kitchens, ponds, and decks and patios the company designs and builds. That he’s identified as a “garden artisan” on his business card tells something about Cohen and his approach to the projects built in the San Fernando Valley area. Each is unique; each reflects the interests and personalities of the client. The creative environments are meant to be something not seen before and elicit the asking of “How did they do that?” “I want people to be able to vacation at home,” Cohen said from his office of the Northridge company. “There’s no reason to go anywhere when you have a backyard designed by The Green Scene.” Started as a fertilizer and chemical care company, The Green Scene has attained a national reputation for its high-end residential work. As with any business tied to home construction, the recession proved challenging for Cohen & Co. as a backlog of business totaling $4 million a few years ago melted away to almost nothing. With new construction still sluggish, Cohen’s response was to go after more pool remodeling jobs. The slowdown also gave the opportunity to pursue the book projects, which now number five. Competitive business The poor economy has made the already competitive pool construction industry even more cutthroat. Those contractors that have survived are giving away work and cutting corners, said Steve Sadinsky, president of Guardian Pool Fence Inc. Cohen, however, doesn’t fall into the category, said Sadinsky, who supplies fencing for Green Scene projects. “Scott is not the kind of guy who is going to cut corners with a customer,” Sadinsky said. “It is pretty unique and it’s good stuff.” If the downturn wasn’t enough, earlier this year the company was forced from its high profile location in Canoga Park to make way for an extension of the Orange Line busway. When he could have been drumming up new business, Cohen instead was checking out property that he could move to, finally settling on a building near industrial parks in Northridge. He estimates the search cost him at least $1 million in lost revenues. That the new location is tucked out of the way is not a concern for Cohen because, he said, the company never got much business from people driving when he was at Canoga Avenue and Vanowen Street. Visible location The visibility of the old location certainly helped. Both Sheldon and Mary Beshay first learned about Cohen from the HGTV programs but it was driving by The Green Scene building in the Valley that kept him in their minds. After passing by one day Sheldon had told himself that when he was ready to remodel his backyard the way he wanted, Cohen would be the guy to do it. The Green Scene had been in Canoga Park for 14 years and before that had been in other locations in the Valley. It was in Sun Valley when Cohen’s father started the business in 1969 to provider fertilizing services. Cohen worked at the family business as a teenager and then started his own landscaping company. At the same age when his peers were in college, Cohen was working in the gardening department for Target where he rose to a regional manager. At 19 years old he was one of the youngest executives at the retailer. What Cohen took away from the five years at Target was the ability to manage at multiple stores, a skill needed as a landscaper to manage multiple job sites. Cohen left Target to return to the Green Scene where he found that working with family presented its own set of challenges. He and his father didn’t see eye-to-eye about the direction the company should go. In the mid-1990s, his father retired and the chemical care part of the business was sold off. That left Cohen as president and ready to focus on landscape and pool design and the construction of those designs. The hardest part of that focus has been blending business with art. The better business model, Cohen admits, would have been building the same design over and over again but that would not have been professionally or personally satisfying. He has always liked to build things and likes taking an idea on paper and seeing it through to completion. “As a kid, Legos were my favorite (toy); creating things out of blocks,” Cohen said. “This is the same thing but the blocks are a little heavier.” Customized designs What Cohen and his crews do with the blocks is bring a touch of Spain, Morocco, France, and Greece to Southern California. He’s created contemporary designs and those evoking a Robinson Crusoe existence on a desert island. “When you interview him he interviews you,” Mary Beshay said. “He gets to know about your life, personality and character and then he decides on the design that he will produce for you.” Sheldon and his wife like wine and so wanted a vineyard theme to their remodeled backyard. More than 400 wine bottles decorate an outdoor shower and a wine cask is used as the showerhead; a vineyard mural decorates the outdoor bar. Cohen also designed a separate area for the couple’s pet tortoise, (an example of a “petscape,” or animal-friendly landscape that Cohen collected into a book that has interested a publisher.) “He captured what we really envisioned and did a beautiful design,” Sheldon said. It is these one-of-a-kind designs that landed Cohen on HGTV shows “Property Buzz,” “Get Out, Way Out,” and “Designing for the Sexes.” He’s had three pools featured on “Big Splash” and was named the No. 4 designer on “Sizzling Outdoor Kitchens.” The television appearances turned out to be a marketing bonanza that resulted in more hits at The Green Scene website. The site attracts 45,000 unique visitors a month, Cohen said. Once the construction is completed and the clients are enjoying their new pool, spa or barbecue the upkeep is out of Cohen’s hands. Every year he analyzes whether to start a maintenance division and every year cannot quite come up with a lucrative business model. Besides, maintenance cannot compare to building things. “Maintenance is doing the same thing over and over,” Cohen said. “What fun is that?” The Green Scene FOUNDED: 1969 HEADQUARTERS: Northridge CORE OF BUSINESS: Residential landscape and pool design and construction NUmber of Employees 2010: 40 Revenues in 2007-’08: $5.1 million Revenues in 2008-’09: $3.7 million

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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