Mario Halasa, operations manager for Akron’s Finest Mulch, can sum up the company’s growth in a few, succinct, apples-to-apples statistics, comparing the early years with today. “In our first year in business, we sold about 400 yards of mulch. Now we do over 60,000 yards of mulch, plus topsoil and gravel. We started on 4 acres of property, and now we have over 50. We started in a 4-by-8-foot trailer, and now we have two retail yards, a stockpile yard, and we’re going to open another retail yard.”
The company recently purchased a 1,000-plus horsepower Morbark 6400XT Wood Hog Horizontal Grinder to meet growing demand for its products.
Akron’s Finest Mulch has progressed through an array of increasingly larger grinders, culminating in the Morbark. Since taking delivery from Columbus Equipment Company in July 2020, Halasa has been impressed with the grinder’s performance. In fact, he said “the 6400XT is a badass grinder.”
"The Morbark has the horsepower and the ability to get the volume we want. It grinds so fast we're going to get a bigger stacker to take care of it."
Mario Halasa; Operations Manager, Akron's Finest Mulch
“We like the grind on the finer side, unlike some companies that make their mulch chunky,” he noted. “For the finer mulch, you need a double or triple grind, and we’re able to do that really well with the Morbark. It has the horsepower and the ability to get the volume we want. It grinds so fast we’re going to get a bigger stacker to take care of it.”
“I bought an excavator with a grapple on it to feed the Morbark, and we have multiple machines loading it, typically two to three loaders,” Halasa said. “Before buying the Morbark, we used a Bandit grinder, and one loader was always enough.”
While the Morbark’s production rate is outstanding, Halasa is also celebrating another feature of the machine—long-lasting wear parts. “With the Bandit, operators had to change at least one or two teeth daily,” he said, “racking up $5,000 to $7,000 in wear part expenses every month.”
With the Morbark, operators rotate the teeth weekly with little need to replace teeth. “It’s thousands of dollars of difference. We grind big nasty logs, and the difference in wear and tear between the Morbark and the Bandit is night and day. The amount of wear we get out of the Morbark teeth is unbelievable.”
Akron’s Finest Mulch is the first buyer in the world to get a machine with Morbark’s new Vtection metal detection system, noted Bob Stewart, Environmental Division sales representative. The system uses sensors to monitor vibrations from the rotor and can detect when metal is hidden in a load of wood fed into the grinder. If the system detects metal, it backs the material out of the mill area, idles the engine and disengages the clutch.
Stewart has been assisting Akron’s Finest Mulch since 2011 when the company purchased an old used Vermeer that Columbus Equipment Company had taken as a trade-in. “Bob is the one who started us on grinding mulch. We were paying someone else to grind it,” Halasa said.
“The huge benefit we get from Morbark is that they are linked to Columbus Equipment Company, which is right down the road from us,” he added. “It’s a powerful machine, so we know there are going to be wear items, we’re going to have questions. Columbus Equipment’s ability to get over here quickly is huge. If the grinder goes down, we need it to be up ASAP.”
Akron’s Finest Mulch also runs Komatsu loaders and excavators purchased from Columbus Equipment Company, and Halasa is happy with the service and parts support Columbus Equipment Company provides for all his equipment.
Mario’s father, Husni Halasa, started the company around 2010, and Akron’s Finest Mulch has been growing ever since. They’ve grown from a two-man operation to one that employs 25 to 30 people at peak season, including many relatives.
The Halasas wholesale to landscapers, municipalities, colleges, and other large buyers, and sell retail mulch to homeowners. They have two sales locations in Akron and plan to open a new location near Cleveland in 2022.
Akron’s Finest Mulch is famous for same-day delivery, Halasa noted. “We introduced the idea to the area, and now lots of competitors offer it, too.”
The company grinds all the mulch it sells, and it also processes compost and topsoil. It operates a dump that accepts brush, limbs and trees from tree companies, municipalities, and anyone who pays the $10 dumping fee.
Throughout its growth, Akron’s Finest Mulch has turned to the expertise of Columbus Equipment Company’s Environmental Division as it needed more powerful and efficient grinders. From a used Vermeer to a badass Morbark, the company has concentrated on making high-quality products, and “that’s the primary reason we’ve grown,” Halasa said.