Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


No business like snow business

For the Davenport brothers, this year’s wild Wisconsin winter has been a gift from God.

?This is beautiful,? Travis said with a grin, scanning the fresh heaps of snow piled around his bright blue Jeep Sunday night. ?Let it snow.?

Travis, Zach and Casey Davenport have been shoveling yards in their Maple Bluff neighborhood since they were boys. Now, with 20-some-odd years under their belt and nine snowplows to their name, the three brothers consider themselves the fairest snow plowing company in all of Madison.


?It’s kind of a family business,? Travis said, explaining how their father, a long-time factory worker at Oscar Mayer, used to mow lawns and shovel driveways on the side, bringing home a little extra cash for the family. ?Then he got older and he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore, and he passed it down to us.?

And so the business began.

Today, the homegrown company Best Buds boasts nearly 110 regular lawn-mowing contracts and approximately 120 snowplowing contracts annually. And that doesn’t include the landscaping, dump truck work and other odd jobs they also do.

As co-owners and full-time workers, Travis, 21, and Casey, 28, said they’re in the business for life.

?When you’ve got a good thing going you might as well stick with it,? Travis said. ?We didn?t come into it thinking this was going to be a career for us, it was just something we started doing and we were like, ?Wow, we?re making good money, let?s keep going.??

Indeed, good money it is.

?Honestly, if we were to tell people what we made it would blow people’s minds,? Travis said with a laugh. ?We make a lot of money!?

From shovels to plows

After dragging mowers behind their bikes for years, the teenage ?buds? were eager for Casey to turn 16 and get his driver’s license. One of the first things they did was trade in the shovels for a plow.

?The very first plow we got was already on the truck, and we were so excited,? Travis said. ?We were like ‘Man, this is beautiful! Every truck we get from now on is going to be four-wheel drive, and we?re going to slap a frickin? plow on it!’ So we did.?

The next step was advertising, and magnetic labels on the sides of their trucks seemed to offer an easy solution. Mom came up with the company name, and the boys smacked it on their vehicles.

Yet signs reading ?Best Buds? soon proved too temping to marijuana-friendly teenagers, and before they knew it, their removable labels began to disappear.

?That didn’t work,? Travis remembered with a laugh.

The boys then sought an ad in the Madison phone book. Yet again, they met with little success.

Throughout the following year, the boys received less than a handful of calls from potential clients but double that number from people wanting to buy drugs.

And so, after two somewhat costly failed attempts at advertising, the boys quickly returned to their original approach: word of mouth.

?That’s about the only way we advertise now, and that’s how we grew,? Travis said.

Yet even while the company continues to grow, the boys said it can be hard to distance themselves from their image as the young boys who shoveled yards years ago. They’ve often found people are hesitant to give a $15,000 landscaping job to guys they still consider the kids around the block.

To help hone their professional image, the brothers have started to paint all their trucks the same memorable bright blue color.

?I think that’s really going to up our appearance,? Travis said.

All roads lead to landscaping

Although the oldest brother Casey now has a pretty clear view of his future at Best Buds, as a recent high school graduate ten years ago, this was not the case.

After graduating from Madison East High School, Casey went to play Junior Hockey in Las Vegas and then Minnesota. After two years of the athlete?s life, however, Casey was ready to leave the world of hockey and enter the world of academia at Madison Area Technical College.

He soon transferred to the University of Wisconsin and walked on the hockey team. Yet his 1.0 GPA only afforded him one semester as a Badger athlete, and school in and of itself proved less than interesting.

?I would be sitting in class thinking about the cute chicks around me or the money I should have been out making,? Casey playfully admitted. ?I already had money waiting out there for me.?

Travis said when Casey finally dropped out of the university a year-and-a-half later, the business really started ?blowing up.?

By that time, Zach had already kissed the world of landscaping and snowplowing goodbye for a life in the business world. Yet after a brief time as a realtor, he returned to working with his brothers at Best Buds.

As for Travis, the baby of the family, he said he didn?t even give college a shot.

?She yells at me for it all the time,? Travis said laughing, glancing in the rearview mirror of his Jeep at his girlfriend, Jackie, in the backseat.

?He got into the UW and he didn?t even go!? Jackie protested teasingly.

Now, however, with business booming, a house in the neighborhood he grew up in and a girlfriend at UW, Travis said he wouldn?t choose anything else.

?I love this, I love working with my brother ? brothers, when Zach wants to work,? Travis joked. ?We?re a tight family.?

The good life

Although summers are crammed with work from 8 a.m. to sundown most days, the brothers said they enjoy an easy ride through the winter.

When asked to describe his average workday during snow season, Travis hesitated, chuckling to himself.

?Now I feel lazy,? he said. ?Winter?s a little embarrassing.?

As the youngest of the two business owners, Travis said he generally wakes up around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., makes himself some eggs and bacon for breakfast and sits down to watch a little TV before the day begins. Then he might spend a few hours running errands for the business, getting parts for the trucks or doing paperwork.

?Winter is slow,? Travis said. ?On the off days, when we?re not plowing, I wake up and try to get the trucks going. Otherwise I just relax. It?s kind of a good life as far as I?m concerned.?

For Zach, the best part of plowing is working with his brothers.

?We?ll have jokes about something that happened that night, and we?ll all sit around the table and laugh,? Zach said. ?We love spending time together.?

Yet while winter work is light, it generally comes unpredictably and in big bursts at a time. After Sunday?s snowfall, Casey said he was out plowing from 7:30 p.m. that night until about 8:30 the next morning.

?For us that?s kind of typical,? he said, explaining that their winter plowing shifts generally last between eight and 12 hours at a time.

However, this year has brought an unexpectedly heavy workload for Best Buds. When over 13 inches of snow hit Madison just over two weeks ago, the guys were out plowing for nearly two days straight.

?We went for about 40-some hours,? Travis said. ?I got about an hour-and-a-half nap in between, but Casey went straight through, he didn?t even sleep at all ? he?s always the last one to go to bed.?

It?s a family thing

Not only do the brothers spend hours and hours working with each other, but their mom, dad, uncle and older sister Bridget have also helped out with jobs over the years.

?Mom even likes to snowplow,? Travis said smiling. ?I think it makes her feel powerful, pushing all the snow.?

Although Bridget now has a full-time job elsewhere, she still helps out with plowing and occasional odd jobs in the summer.

?She loves being out there [in the summer] ?cause she works in like a sports bra and flip flops, just getting a great tan,? Travis said.

It?s not tough for the brothers to coordinate their plowing schedules, considering the three of them still live together in the house in which they were raised. Although their parents and sister moved out years ago, the brothers said they were just too attached to move and decided to keep the house for themselves.

In fact, the trio has yet to move out of the generous-sized bedroom they?ve shared all their lives, leaving two open bedrooms in the house for friends to crash.

?People who have had their own rooms since they were kids think it?s weird or cute or whatever they want to call it, but for us, that?s always how it?s been,? Casey said.

?We still share the same clothes believe it or not,? Travis added. ?But I love where I?m at right now. I love this work. I love being with my family.?

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