During the 35 years that Tim and Toby Rost have been growing their business, they have taken their company from a small mom-and-pop landscape service to a sophisticated cluster of interrelated companies. Visitors to Superior Garden Center, located on 15 acres just outside Midway, would be surprised at the range of enterprises that the couple own and oversee. There’s the retail nursery, the wholesale plants and landscape supplies, the tree farm, the landscaping and design business, the irrigation business, landscape maintenance, fencing sales and installation as well as outdoor lighting and installation.
But, as they say on television infomercials that strain viewers’ credibility, “Wait, there’s more!” Since 2017, the couple has also ventured into the family recreation business, starting with a 50% ownership in what was then called Perche Creek Golf Center. This spring they became sole owners and renamed the outdoor entertainment venue Midway Golf and Games. Typical of the Rosts’ businesses, the entertainment complex has a large number of moving parts – a miniature golf course, a Par 3 golf course, a driving range, a snack bar, a golf pro shop, go karts, batting cages, laser tag, archery tag, bocce ball and more.
On a typical day, Toby can be found inside the main business office and Tim is outside, either on the grounds or checking work at one of their many job sites. They’re casual, comfortable and personable. Both in their mid-50s, both with the healthy complexions of people who spend a lot of time outdoors. Comfortable in their skins, they don’t seem hurried or worried.
When asked why they have added the entertainment complex to an already extensive business enterprise, Tim responds, “We wanted to offer a fun family spot for mid-Missouri. A lot of people told us there’s nothing they can do for a first date, other than a movie or bar hopping. And now grandparents are always looking for things do with their grandkids.”
The couple was first introduced to Perche Creek Golf when they took a youth group from church to the mini-golf course about eight years ago. The place needed some serious landscaping help and the go karts weren’t in tiptop shape. Always on the lookout for potential landscape clients, Tim left his business card. Four years later he got a call that led to him and Toby becoming partners in the business.
While upgrading the golf complex, they realized that local companies and organizations used the center for teambuilding activities. This led the Rosts to yet another business idea. They are in the early stages of planning construction of a new building that includes a hi-tech, digital-assisted driving range along with meeting and banquet spaces. The technology allows golfers to improve their game by getting instant feedback on their swing – the distance, speed and degree of flight or hook. Much like the TopGolf experience that is so popular in major cities, the Rosts’ computerized hitting bays would provide the same type of practice and fun to mid-Missourians. “It combines aspects of video games with real sports skills,” Toby says.
It takes a lot of employees to do the work of so many different businesses. In the warm months, when landscaping and plant sales are at their peak, the Rosts oversee more than 130 employees. During the winter months, the crew shrinks to about 35. It helps that family members have critical roles in the business. Tim’s brother is now full time, as are his son, daughter and his son-in-law. And as for Tim and Toby’s ability to stay married, happy and prosperous – they’ve smoothed out any wrinkles in their working relationship years ago. Tim explains, “We’ve had good years and hard years. I don’t micromanage her end of the business and she doesn’t micromanage mine.”
Although some businesses create a wall between family members and the rest of their employees, the Rosts see no such division. “We have a lot of people who have been with us 15 or more years, and for some of them, this is the only job they’ve ever had, starting in high school as weed pullers and working now as landscape designers,” Tim says. Summing up her perspective, Toby adds, “It’s a big family.”
Toby grew up in St. Louis and moved to Columbia to go to school. She met Tim at a Dillard’s cashiers’ training session. Even then, Tim loved landscaping and plants, but earned extra money for his landscaping business by working at Dillard’s during the winter. After the couple married, Toby started in the business, working out of a small bungalow office on Business Loop 70 in the All State Motel. When not doing office work, she supervised the adjacent Lost Paradise Miniature Golf Course, which she and Tim had landscaped.
Tim attributes much of their success to his upbringing and the values he learned growing up on a dairy farm. “You didn’t get to say ‘I don’t want to milk cows today,’” Tim says. “I’ve never thought anything was something we couldn’t do. And I never thought I knew it all. If we didn’t know something, we’d find out how to do it. And I hope honesty is a big part of this.”
Both Tim and Toby are practical problem solvers, but they also share another trait that helped fuel their businesses. “We both have a strong stomach for risk,” says Toby.
Not only is Rost, Inc. known throughout mid-Missouri, but the company recently gained a national reputation for the beauty and quality of its work. Last summer, Landscape Architect Magazine featured an elegant 140-acre estate the Rosts had landscaped. Whether they are working on a major commercial property or designing a patio with just a couple trees for a homeowner, the Rosts strive for something that’s more difficult to achieve than a mere symmetrical arrangement of trees, shrubs and flowers. They want everyone who experiences their work to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. “A good landscape makes you feel at peace,” says Tim. “That’s what we like.”