Skift Take

While some of us barely know how to keep a potted plant alive, Valerio Morano Sagliocco and his team make sure many hotels, residential developments, and other businesses never have to worry about leaves losing their green — or whatever color they’re supposed to be — luster.

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Landscaping requires more tender loving care than a hotel’s non-living decor. That’s where the landscape designers and watering technicians at New York-based Morano Group come in.

The third generation, family-owned and operated company’s attention and care to ornate landscape work has been featured in the pages of Architecture Digest. But Morano Group has since expanded into the commercial sector, including several hospitality projects like the Peninsula Hotel in New York City, the St. Regis Residences in Rye, N.Y., and several Arlo Hotels and Sonder properties in New York City. 

Morano Group CEO Valerio Morano Sagliocco 15 years ago took over the company his grandfather started. He is now leading the company through an era of significant expansion. 

“I moved down to Manhattan about 10 years ago, and I wanted to sink my teeth into a lot of the projects that I saw going up, and I wanted to take advantage of the construction boom,” he said in an interview with Skift. “The city really began to pop several years back.” 

Sagliocco, 38, cultivated a partnership with Miami-based interior plant design firm Plant the Future where the Florida company would design the landscaping or greenery layout, and Morano Group would build and maintain it. 

The construction and continuous maintenance in some of these creations, from vertical gardens on the walls of a Manhattan coworking space to the plants and decking on the rooftop of a Sonder at New York City’s Battery Park, is as much of an art form as the design work.

“People want to feel like they are surrounded by nature, in a sense. They want to feel like they’re bringing the outdoors to them,” Sagliocco said. “The bottom line is that plants make people happy. That’s what people are looking for: to get away from whatever their normal routine is and be surrounded by nature.” 

Morano Group CEO Valerio Morano Sagliocco

Morano Group is still very much a family business: Sagliocco’s brother runs one of the company’s two garden centers while his father “supervises everything with a broad brushstroke,” Sagliocco said.

Additional partnerships flourished as more people took note of Morano Group’s work around Manhattan. The team prior to the pandemic worked on the holiday installations at the Peninsula Hotel, a job with high exposure but not a lot of wiggle room for error: one night to do the interior work and another night to do the exterior work. Five-star service means keeping the holiday décor elves out of eyesight from guests.

“It’s a very grueling process because you have a very, very tight window of time in the dead of night to kind of make this happen. We’re basically like ninjas trying to get this stuff done,” Sagliocco said. “From 11 at night to basically six in the morning is the time you kind of have to go in.”

The pandemic set the company’s momentum back, as with most businesses catering to hospitality clients. Supply chain issues hit the landscaping industry hard, as farmers temporarily stopped planting the materials that keep this industry in business — and it’s not just a matter of turning the machines back on in a factory to catch up. There is now a gap in available tree sizes due to the gap in planting and growing during the pandemic. The landscape sector also grappled with rising materials costs for things like lumber used to build decks.

“It was like a sucker punch to all our clients, designers, architects, and ourselves,” Sagliocco said. “We were basically put on a standstill, and we weren’t able to do what we are normally able to do.”

But that isn’t stopping the company from eyeing further expansion. Sagliocco and his team have learned to forge ahead with what materials are available and have landed some significant new business. Upcoming work includes landscape installations for a Four Seasons in Miami as well as one further north in Surfside, Florida. 

The company is opening an office in Palm Beach and Miami, and Sagliocco is also eyeing further expansion to markets like California and the Hamptons.

“I always tell my employees: Don’t come to me with a problem without a couple solutions or potential solutions,” Sagliocco said. “We try to figure things out without compromising the quality — even with a design, we find solutions, and we keep it moving. That’s always the goal.”

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Tags: at your service, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery, four seasons, sonder

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