MARICOPA — Maricopa will soon be seeing a new face at the front desk of Wildcat Landscaping Materials as Terry Jackson, 15-year owner and operator, prepares to retire. As community members Donnelle and Donny Schimpa ready themselves to take the reins, Jackson recently reminisced on his career in Maricopa.

“It’s not even similar to what it was then,” Jackson said. “I can remember, when I first opened, Amtrak would block the road for half an hour and the cars would back up to my driveway. … It’s been tremendous growth.”

Jackson opened Wildcat Landscaping at 19347 N. Maricopa Road in 2004 when the population of Maricopa was just over 1,500 residents. He made his daily commute from Buckeye to what was then a sleepy town.

His business specializes in decorative rock, as well as sand, ABC (aggregate base course), flagstone and slate. When the Schimpas take over, they will grow to include bagged cement products, mortar, pavers and block.

The population has grown tremendously since Jackson arrived and, for him, the customer base is valued as much as his products.

“It’s still got a small town feel to it,” he said. “In over 15 years, I know I could not fill one hand with people that weren’t nice. … Seems like everyone is friendly and they’re just trying to help each other and trying to get things done that they need done, and it makes it very enjoyable to work with them.”

Jackson recalls one memorable experience he had with a family in the Sorrento neighborhood. Their daughter had a disease that greatly weakened her immune system, and left her vulnerable to illness. The nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation wanted to build her an accessible backyard, and Jackson immediately volunteered.

A team of landscapers, artists and business people descended on the backyard, creating an oasis complete with murals, wheelchair-accessible paths, allergen-safe plants and, of course, concrete and gravel.

“It was great to see that many different people all come together for a good reason,” Jackson said. “I’ve helped an awful lot of people. Helped them figure out what they want to do and what they want to use and how much of what they need. We’ve had the opportunity to help underprivileged families in some of the shelters and so forth and Make-A-Wish people. (I’ve) made a lot of friends down here.”

Jackson has left his impression on the community, and Donnelle and Donny are ready to do the same when they rechristen the business Wildcat Building Supplies and officially takeover this Friday. Donny has 30 years of experience in the concrete contracting field under his belt, but they’re still feeling a little nervous.

“I mean, it’s a little daunting because you have big shoes to fill and it’s scary,” Donnelle said. “I would want to say thank you (to Jackson) for the greatest opportunity to come our way. His legacy is definitely going to be hard to fulfill, but we’ll do our best and try to make him proud, because this is his baby.”

But Jackson is sure about his decision to pass the business on to the Schimpas.

“They really want to make it work, and I think they’ve got enough training and they’ve got enough desire that when times get tough they’ll stick it out and figure out how to get through it — just like anyone in business has to do,” Jackson said.

And times do get tough. When the Great Recession hit, Jackson struggled to stay afloat as sales plummeted over 50%, but he said he made it through by being “too dumb to know when I’m beat.”

He hopes that the Shimpas will do the same, and take it even further.

“There’s room to expand and that’s part of their plan. They’re bringing it into the — whatever century it is that uses computers and stuff. I wouldn’t know, I don’t use them,” he said, joking.

Donnelle and Donny will certainly be making some big changes but, according to Jackson, they just need to remember his special and not-so-secret recipe for success.

“You offer a good product at a fair price and be honest with people. I don’t think it’s a big secret to succeed,” he said.

Once Jackson relinquishes his business, he will retire in Surprise with his wife of 49 years, Marsha Jackson. After some medical care, it’ll be time for a little fun. In his entire career, they managed little-to-no vacation time, so that’s first on the to-do list for the couple. They’ll hitch up a trailer next summer and ride off, not knowing when or if they’ll stop.

Meanwhile, the Schimpas will celebrate their newest endeavor too, though forever thankful for the man that started the business. Jackson on the other hand, is still focused on the community that gave as much as it received.

“The biggest regret I have in leaving is that I’m not able to individually thank everybody that’s supported me over the years and there’s just no way to do that,” Jackson said. “The city has been very good to me over the last 15-plus years and I’ve greatly appreciated it.”

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