Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
After the Oct. 20 tornado, Brant Landry used his leadership skills and business know-how to make a difference in our community. Saddened by the number of destroyed trees, he launched a buying program so that neighbors could come together to replace what they lost in a cost-efficient way. After City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates promoted the cause, nearly 200 homeowners emailed him to join the effort. He became the “tree guy,” a single point of contact for those who wanted help. The first phase is leveraging the purchasing power of those who need to replace trees on their properties. The second phase involves coordinating fundraising efforts to plant trees in public areas. Landry is the co-founder of a company that includes private equity real estate investment firm Reserve Capital Partners, a real estate brokerage company called Landry Commercial, and Reserve Construction, a general contracting company. He and his wife, Jenny, built a house a year and half ago on Pemberton Drive, where they live with their three boys, ages, 12, 7 and 5.
How did the tornado affect you?
We went to the State Fair that evening with the boys, came home and turned on the Cowboys games. Then the meteorologist said, “There’s a tornado on the ground at Midway and Walnut Hill, going north, northeast at 25 miles an hour.” We grabbed the kids and the dogs and went under the stairs in a closet. My wife said, “You need to go get the lanterns in case the power goes out.” I ran back upstairs to get the lanterns, looked outside our windows and could see debris flying around. Not 30 seconds after I got back under the stairs, the power went out. We could hear the freight train noise, our ears were popping, and then the windows started to break.
Was your house badly damaged?
Yes, we’re out of our home for six months while it’s repaired. There are families that are worse off. Our whole street took a pretty hard hit. As you go down Pemberton and Orchid, there are houses that are leveled. The trees are all gone.
What made you interested in the trees?
We had a 100-year-old oak tree that was taller than the house. It was a big part of our yard, and it was completely gone. I made the assumption that insurance was going to cover trees. Not too long into the process, I realized that insurance doesn’t cover trees or landscaping. We knew we couldn’t replace a 100-year-old oak tree, but to try to get something comparable was going to be expensive. The canopy over the street was completely wiped out. I never saw St. Mark’s from our house, and now I can see the entire school. In my businesses, I know that purchasing power creates leverage and usually drives down costs from vendors. That’s where I came up with the idea to create a purchasing group to try to get the pricing from these tree farms down as low as we can.
Are you hearing from homeowners who want trees or from people who want to contribute?
A little bit of both. The initiative for the purchasing group will be homeowners. The charitable kind of initiatives that are going on will be for public spaces.
How much money have you raised?
We haven’t kicked off the charitable initiative yet, so we’re still in formation mode. We’ve been meeting with other organizations like the Texas Trees Foundation and ReTree, which specializes in disasters. We’re trying to join forces so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Once we get that established, we’ll start fundraising. For the homeowner purchasing group, we interviewed five tree farms. We came to the conclusion that Texas Tree Farms out of Waxahachie was the best partner as far as discount, size of trees, number of trees, variety of trees and the willingness to work with us.
What are the next steps?
We had a town hall meeting with 100 attendees. It was more of a question-and-answer opportunity for homeowners. Now they are in direct contact with Texas Tree Farms. I’ve already planted one tree. Several neighbors have started to plant them. The best time to plant trees is during these winter months. There are many homeowners that can’t plant until the heavy construction is done on their houses a year to 16 months from now. The nice thing about Texas Tree Farms is they’re extending the discount for as long as it takes.
How much time are you spending on the tree effort?
For the first month after the tornado, it was about 20 hours a week. Now that we selected a partner, it’s less. But now the charitable piece is starting to really pick up. Luckily, because I’m the co-founder of these companies and have supportive business partners, I have a little bit of flexibility.
What surprised you throughout this experience?
Homeowners’ strong emotional attachments with their trees was greater than I anticipated. I received long emotional emails from neighbors describing how they’ve been in their house for 20 years, for example, and how their three kids grew up with that one magnolia with a swing.
What do you like about your Preston Hollow neighborhood?
We have one of the best streets as far as community and other kids. We live in a cul-de-sac, where we host Halloween, Christmas and block parties.
What are your favorite neighborhood places?
We love everything at Preston and Royal and are sick about what the tornado did there. We go to Eatzi’s and shop at Central Market. I get my haircut at The Gents Place.
How do you relax?
I’m a big outdoor hunting and fishing guy. I grew up in Central Texas. My wife’s family has a ranch in South Texas. Now that the boys are growing up, I’m passing on the outdoor legacy to them.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a humble guy that put his family and faith first and gave back to the community.
For more information about the tree-buying program, email firstname.lastname@example.org. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.