Surrounded by loyal customers and dedicated employees, Manzer’s Landscape Design & Development celebrated its 20th year in business in November 2023.
Founded in 2003 by Chapman “Chappy” Manzer, the company at first occupied several different locations. That was until five years ago, when Chappy purchased property in Peekskill to put down permanent roots in the city where he and his sisters, Michelle Manzer Barrera and Katrina Gans, grew up.
While Chappy Manzer is the heart and soul of the business and its dedication to community service, he is quick to acknowledges employee Jennifer Dewender as its backbone.
“Without her, much of what happens at Manzer’s wouldn’t happen,” he asserts. Recent successes also have proved bittersweet for Chappy. “My father Woody passed away in December 2022, and less than a year later, I’m celebrating the 20th anniversary of the business.”
As Chappy’s 50th birthday approaches, he is reflecting on his life, accomplishments, and what he is most grateful for. At the top of the list is his family—wife Juv, their daughter Samantha (Sammy), his stepsons Connor and Jake, his sisters Michelle and Katrina, and his late parents Christina and Woody. Also on Chappy’s list: landscape architecture and the dedicated team of Manzer employees.
“I always knew I wanted to be a landscape architect,” Chappy says. He graduated from Peekskill High School with a wrestling scholarship to Manhattan College and credits the late Matt Moore and Ronnie Tompkins—two of his wrestling coaches–for his many successes. He attended SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry for three years before briefly transferring to Manhattan College and then to SUNY Oneonta where he received a finance degree. He later entered a landscape architecture program at Rutgers University.
What motivates Chappy Manzer’s tireless dedication to the community where he has been a life-long resident? “I didn’t always have it easy, and I want to pay it forward because now I can.”
He explains: “I worked in finance at Cantor Fitzgerald [in the World Trade Center] prior to September 11, 2001, but I didn’t like being in an office all day. Wrestling and the outdoors are my passions.”
Chappy left Cantor Fitzgerald, and while between careers, he tended bar at Peekskill’s Kelly’s on the Green, where a former wrestling coach approached him about coaching varsity wrestling at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor. “Coaching led me to Brooklyn College where I got a master’s in physical education. I taught first in the South Bronx and then Haldane School District in Cold Spring.”
To supplement his teaching income, Chappy, worked in landscaping and recognized it was his calling. “Owning a landscape business has been hard work, especially when faced with the crash of 2008 and then the Covid pandemic. No matter what, I never let tough times compromise customer service. Manzer’s may be a big company, but we maintain a small company feel.”
Ever the entrepreneur, Chappy also is co-owner of Peekskill’s The Central with business partners John Sharp and Louie Lanza. When asked what advice he’d give to others contemplating a business startup, Chappy says, “Expect to fail more than you succeed, but concentrate on the successes.”
Selected Highlights of Chappy’s Community Service
- Past President of Peekskill Rotary
- Chairman, Cherry Blossom Festival
- Board Member of Hope for Youth Foundation
- Donated 100 Trees to the City of Peekskill, Planting 10 in Honor of His Mother Christina Rasbeck
- 2022 Volunteer of the Year, Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce
- Award of Excellence from Peekskill Youth Bureau 2021 Martin Luther King Celebration
- New York Giants 2020 Giant Hero
- Sponsor of Peekskill Rotary Cherry Blossom Festival
- Donated Christmas Tree to Peekskill Fire Station for Grand Opening
- During Covid Pandemic, Led Volunteer Effort to Distribute More than 7,000 Meals to First Responders and the Food Insecure
Laura Joseph Mogil is a freelance writer and publicist residing in Briarcliff Manor.