Taylor Gardner never expected to take over the family business, essentially following in his father’s footsteps.
He says he never planned on it, never thought about it — pretty much figured it wasn’t in the cards for him.
“I thought I’d be a career military man,” the former U.S. Marine says. “Now, I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
Taylor Gardner Gutters & Exteriors is the re-branded version of a family business that has been around for 20 years.
Back in 2000, Taylor’s father Ed started Gardner Gutters, a small business in the heart of Lutz, but also servicing communities and residences in the outlying areas such as Land O’ Lakes, New Tampa and at-the-time-fledgling-but-on-the-rise Wesley Chapel.
Ed ran his gutter installation and repair company with poise and charm, honesty and dignity and even a down-to-earth goodness that was evident to every one of his customers, as the small business quickly became a multi-million-dollar operation.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Taylor adds. “He did it all and everyone loved him and always came back to him when they needed new gutters or more work done. It still impresses me to this day.”
Taylor describes his dad as a hard-as-nails tough guy, who was always in great shape. Ed was a hard worker and an even nicer fellow, one that just about everyone would approach to chat with at the local grocery store, as his other son (and Taylor’s business partner) Brandon explains.
“He had a great reputation and just a real knack for people liking him,” Brandon says. “I just remember as a kid, going anywhere, and people would always come up to him and just talk to him. There were so many people at his funeral that wanted to say something about how he was such a great guy.”
As with many self-made-businessman stories, this one also has its tragic side. Not because Gardner Gutters failed financially but because, 12 years ago, Ed Gardner was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
And, as with just about every cancer diagnosis, Ed’s world, and his family’s, was turned upside down. He started the treatments and lifestyle changes immediately. Taylor returned from his service with the Marines for a time.
“I really thought it was no big deal,” Taylor says, “because prostate cancer runs in our family and both my grandfathers had it and didn’t die from it. Granted, I’ve been tested as much as I can and so have my brothers, but I really thought it was no big deal because I knew my dad and figured he would beat it.”
Well, Ed did, to an extent. For about three years, Ed did all of the usual treatments and was moving along pretty well until 2011, when Taylor had just returned from being deployed in Iraq, and was told Ed had only three to nine months to live.
At that time, Ed was told he was beyond Stage 4 cancer — “a dead man walking” is what Taylor said the doctors told his dad — and it was time to say his goodbyes to his family members.
However, Ed being Ed, he wasn’t about to quit. He moved away from traditional treatments and started trying holistic methods, including diets and different supplements and, miraculously, he lived for another 10 years.
“Those things (treatments), they’ll make you look like you’re wacky, but he lived another decade after a death sentence,” Taylor says. “So, it’s hard to argue with (those results).”
Even so, Ed did pass away in August.
The holistic treatments, however, were not cheap. They drained Ed of a lot of what he made building up Gardner Gutters. He did still run it, with help from his family, because he could be gone for weeks at a time getting some “controversial” treatment in Mexico.
The business took a back seat to Ed’s survival. He worked hard to keep it alive, with help from Taylor.
Taylor had been around the business most of his childhood, even helping out as “free labor” as a teenager and such, until joining the Marines, which included that deployment in Iraq. But, he always found himself returning home.
In 2015, Ed’s health deteriorated even more and once his uncle Rusty, who had been helping run it, retired, Taylor began taking over the business.
In 2018 the transition from Ed to Taylor began, but it was 2019 when they re-branded it Taylor Gardner Gutters, for liability reasons, from the original Gardner Gutters, even though Taylor and his crew were doing the same work, for basically the same customers, as Ed.
“Just like dad, we don’t talk to customers like customers here,” Taylor says. “We talk to them like we know them personally because we usually do, so we take pride in that’s how dad did it and that’s how we plan to continue to do it.”
In addition to custom gutter installations and repairs, Taylor Gardner Gutters also provides gutter cleaning and leaf protection, pressure washing services, screen enclosure installations, soffit and fascia repairs and window replacements and is proud to be veteran-owned-and-operated.
As partners in the business, Taylor handles sales and the day-to-day operations behind the scenes and off-site. Brandon is the project and sites manager, usually checking on the work about to be done, being done or that has been done, up to a couple of times a day.
“And, I’m just fine with that,” says Taylor, who has a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, which he earned after completing his military service.
“I help clean out gutters in a pinch, but my days of climbing on roofs are over,” Taylor says. “Brandon is the real gutter installation expert, where he can eyeball a house from the road while driving by and tell it was done all wrong (laughs).”
Meanwhile, Brandon says he’s revelling in the fact that the Gardner boys have truly come full circle.
“It’s a great sense of pride now taking on the family business after dad is gone,” Brandon says, “and it’s neat for me because I was helping at the start of it and now I’m back here, getting it back up to what it used to be.”
Ed’s fingerprints will forever be on the business he started when his sons were just boys. He taught them not only how to install gutters, but also how to treat the customers. As Taylor and Brandon move forward in growing the business back to its previous level, they are adding more crews, new equipment and maybe even a new office.
Brandon says the business is primarily focused on installing gutters — which divert rainwater rolling off your roof from accumulating next to your home’s foundation and damaging it — as well as gutter repairs and installing outdoor screen enclosures.
And, Taylor says he takes to heart all that he either directly or indirectly learned watching his father become a local celebrity business owner, one who will always be sorely missed by his family and his extended family members — the customers he treated with respect and kindness until his last day.
“Anyone can learn to install gutters,” Taylor says. “What my dad taught me was how to treat people. That was the biggest thing. I think when I was younger, I would listen to my dad talk to people and when someone would yell at him, my dad would still be nice to them. As a testosterone-filled kid, I would wonder, ‘How can you take that from anyone?’ But now, I get it.”
Taylor Gardner Gutters & Exteriors is located at 19007 North U.S. Hwy. 41 in Lutz. Its business hours are Monday- Friday, 7:30 am.-5:30 p.m. For more information, call (813) 486-2730, or visit TaylorGardnerGutters.com.