As much as Vivian Berlinghoff enjoys being on her excavator, she also loves the mountains she can see from her home in Greenwood. (Pamela Chodosh)

A born entrepreneur, Vivian Berlinghoff always wanted to get a degree in commercial art. Instead, she ended up running her own business. Incorporated 16 years ago, Berlinghoff Construction is the umbrella under which Berlinghoff does excavation, landscaping and property management, and her husband Tim does electrical contracting. What brought Berlinghoff to the Bethel area is her son Mason, who is just finishing his sophomore year at Gould Academy. Says Berlinghoff, “I really like it here. Surprisingly, my son feels the same way.”

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I was born at home to hippie parents and raised in Amenia, New York, which was farm country. It was very rural and low key. We had horses growing up. Though I have a half-sister, who is 7 years older, I spent a lot of time on my own venturing out on my pony to explore the woods.

My father did a lot of traveling when he was young. He ended up in New York City, which is where he met my mom. She had always wanted to move to the country, so they went to Duchess County. They did temp jobs for a while. Then, my father decided to start a mowing and caretaking business. He bought a machine. He had a pretty successful business. In the 80s, there was a huge boom. When the recession hit, he went from employing 10 men to employing one. I grew up in the middle of that.

I labored for him through my early-to-late teens. I did things like pick rocks and did ditches and drains. I also ran the shovel.

I had other jobs, too. I was interested in the arts. When I was 16 or 17, I worked nights doing paste-up for a local newspaper. By the time I graduated from Webutuck High School in ’97, I had moved to the graphic arts department.

I then got a job at a local magazine as their graphic arts director. It was in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was busy and hectic and it involved parking garages, which I hated. I worked there for about six months. I had always gardened on the side for cash. I realized I did not want to be inside all day. I decided to start my own business.

I bought a York rake and my first landscaping tractor and decided to do lawns and install gardens. I did landscaping for my father and also worked for a landscaper. I slowly segued into creating my business. By the time I was 20 or 21, I was on my own.

Tim was a local guy whose family had moved from Long Island to Amenia when he was 8. When I met him, he was an electrician. He worked for a lightning rod company my family was friends with.

We incorporated our businesses under the umbrella of Berlinghoff Contracting 16 years ago. That was the year our son Mason was born.

My main goal when I had my son was for him to have a spectacular life. I figure he might want to start his own business someday or go to trade school. So I have always saved and worked hard so I can help him.

Because the schools where we lived were not that great, when Mason got to seventh grade he went as a day student to a private school which went through the ninth grade. He did well and became pretty independent.

Before his sophomore year, he interviewed at a bunch of schools. We had good choices, but they had a very private school feel. They were oriented toward academics with a strong focus on team sports. Even though Mason loves to mountain bike and free ski, he’s not into team sports.

He did like White Mountain Academy and Gould though, which were the farthest from Amenia. He loved Gould’s ski program. We loved the way the curriculum was set up and how happy people were. Obviously, it was also beautiful.

Mason got accepted to both and chose Gould. I did not know how, but I knew I was going to help him do this.

We made the decision last March and then found a house. I have a staff of 14 people. I staffed my business so I could work from here. I tried to get my office organized, and implemented a lot of digital strategies. I had some changeovers right as I left, which were challenging, and I was going back and forth a lot at first. By late December or early January, I got it organized enough so that I could run everything away from there. It was sort of a tough year and not as good as if I had been living in New York, but I would say it was a success.

My son is eons ahead of where he was last year. He is happy and confident, which is awesome for a 16-year-old. My staff is growing and feeling more confident without me there. I am looking for an office manager so I can get back to using my creativity in landscape and design, which is my strength.

I love being engaged and busy. My favorite thing is seeing a project go from start-to-finish. I love to come in and start from the ground floor and build to completion. Some projects have been going on for 20 years. One is a 100-acre farm which we have worked on for a long time. Another is an organic CSA where we have developed the landscape and an orchard.

I like trying to have an influence on what pollinators and native species there are. I want to create some unity, to work within the local ecology and to make people understand that you don’t have to mow everything. This is hard for people from New York City who really don’t want to see dandelions or geese on their lawns.

Running a small business it is very important to me. I still work in a 20-mile radius of the same town I grew up in. I love communicating with my employees and providing an excellent environment for people to work in. I love being a boss.


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