The Arborsmiths' Story

Gilbert and Lesley met in the schools of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.  They both come from 4 generations of entrepreneurs on each side so the desire and vision to start their own business seemed very natural.  Their families settled on Chicago’s North Shore over 130 years ago and were instrumental in the establishment of both Hubbard Woods, now Winnetka, and Glenview. 

After a courtship spent walking under and around trees, they were married in 1979 underneath flowering Hawthorne trees. In January of 1982 just following the birth of their first son and the purchase of their first home, in the middle of a recession, in the middle of the winter and with interest rates hovering around 22% they started Arborsmith.  

Their dream was to create a business that was founded on the principles of excellence in horticultural care, honesty and superior service.  Although they had been invited to join two other businesses as partners, they were dedicated to a unique business model that reflected their deep commitment to their Christian values.

Over the years the most satisfying aspect of their business has been their relationships to their clients. They have serviced clients on Chicago’s North Shore for over 30 years. Sometimes stewarding trees on properties through several different owners, in addition to following clients through the acquisition and development of new properties, as they seek to care for and maintain the health of their little corner of the earth. 

With an even wider vision of that stewardship, Gilbert and Lesley have both served in Africa and during emergencies, such as hurricane Katrina, here at home.  In both Nigeria and Congo they have helped to develop sound agricultural practices for the majority world.  Lesley, an artist, served with her older son Garret, a potter, teaching widows and orphans jewelry making skills and entrepreneurial principles. As a whole family they assisted their youngest son, Dustin while he served as a pilot in Central Congo with Wings of Hope.

In an increasingly impersonal and globalized world, their commitment to quality has motivated them to remain small in size with a dedication to a high level of personal care.  They have a passion for horticulture that goes far beyond the typical professional.  They have served as guest faculty at the Chicago Botanic Garden , Morton Arboretum, and local garden centers and libraries as they are committed to stewarding the earth, one small section at a time.  They believe that we all have a responsibility to “do the right thing” towards our tree friends and are interested in how that integrates into the wider community of the world.  Although the challenges have changed over the years, their vision to lead a company that delivered on its promises to help you care for our earth has remained the same.

Gilbert Smith in 1982 on Arborsmith's first truck.

Gilbert Smith in 1982 on Arborsmith's first truck.

Client Testimonials

“What I love about Arborsmith is that you not only run a value driven business, you are people who care about the world, and are engaged in it!"
    — Linda Kellough, client, Highland Park, IL

“Working with ‘the other guys’ vs. Arborsmith is the haircut equivalent to Fastcuts verses a private session with Vidal Sassoon”
    --Jerry Rosenberg, client Highland Park, IL

“Arborsmith isn’t just good, they are the best there is!”
         --Shiela Hollandar, landscape designer  and long time client, Riverwoods, IL
“With Arborsmith you get highly personalized service from people with a high commitment to tree care. You can depend on their integrity, they’re the most honest people I’ve ever met.  They are extremely competent.” “Experienced people with a vast array of knowledge, prepared to do the best job possible.  Owned by individuals who are involved in ‘hands-on’ direction...sensitive to owners needs...not afraid to tell the truth.”  --Lee Benish, Benish Consulting, Chicago, IL