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Rock solid help: Kees like sharing knowledge
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Renee’ and Ed Kee make quite a team at Ed’s Rockery as they advocate home landscaping with a smile. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Ed and Renee’ Kee are VIPs to their customers at Ed’s Rockery on Lathrop Road who have learned they always go above and beyond in their service whether it’s selling flagstone, rock, or koi for the home pond.

Ed is known to spend countless hours answering customers’ questions about landscaping even when he doesn’t expect a sale – it’s definitely a passion with him.  Renee’ uses what little spare time she has being involved in church and her Rotary service club.  She has been tapped as the incoming president for the noon club on July 1.

She also spends time in the office of the Calvary Community church on the “connection team” where she sends out letters to newcomers in the community to help make them feel welcome to the Manteca community.

Renee’, a former real estate agent, has earned the title of San Joaquin County Master Gardner giving classes monthly at Micke Grove Park, educating the residents in the art of gardening.  The effort is funded by the waste management division of the county.

After her 17 years in real estate, she and her husband Ed saw the downturn in the economy on the horizon.  She said the real estate profession helped her raise her children as a single mom.  She grew up in Santa Clara where she vividly remembers her hands-on and caring kindergarten teacher she knew as Mrs. Rogers.

It was an old school, she fondly recalled, with original sliced slate for chalk boards.  The reason she went to Fremont School was because she spent the days with a grandmother and that was the neighborhood school in the downtown area of Santa Clara.  She chuckled as she remembered her grandmother being from Spain speaking Spanish and she spoke English.

“We learned a lot of Spanish in that kindergarten class too,” she mused.

Jumped into landscaping as economy started slowing
It was in November of 2005 when she and Ed were awed with the forecast of the economic slowdown and realized real estate was not the place to be.  Ed had his general contractor’s license and had a lengthy history in building tract houses for a large firm.  

They opted to buy the landscaping business located at the corner of Lathrop Road and Highway 99 that would keep them in better stead throughout the recession.  

“We didn’t expect (the slowdown) it would be a tidal wave 50 feet tall,” she said.  Admittedly she has fun dealing with people on a one-to-one basis.

“People get very excited about fixing up their yards – it’s all good stuff,” she said.  The Rockery staff has taught people how to do ponds and waterfalls, holding classes on just how to do it.

Renee’ said people will call on the telephone on their way home from work and ask that they stay open and wait for them.   

“We have a lot of fun,” she said, “If an idea makes sense we will always help.”

A number of high school students have found after school jobs at the Rockery where they take on odd jobs such as watering the plants.  Many others use the business to offer their community service time helping out.

One 16-year-old from East Union named Elle Lewis started by working in the office and has continued to work there until she went on to Delta College where she is majoring in accounting.  She said that Renee’s mentoring played a major role in her decision on that vocation.

One fun part of the business is donating “rocks” to kindergarten students who are currently painting faces on them to give their moms for Mothers Day gifts.  

School classes have pretty much an open invitation to visit the Rockery and their students  leave with a little education on flowers, plants and a wee bit on landscaping.  Letters of thanks from the boys and girls can be seen tacked up around the office area of the facility.

One thank you note read, “Dear Nursery, I loved my tomato plant – it grew little tomatoes.  I made spaggettie and made a spicy kind of salsa.  They were very jucie.  My mom loved her flower.  It got very tall and it has lots of little flowers.”  Signed, a student.

Another wrote, “Thank you for donating the 60 rocks to Joshua Cowell Kindergarten.  The students did a beautiful job painting the rocks and now they are part of the playground landscape.”  Signed, a parent.

And a third, “Ed’s Rockery, thank you for your generous donation to Ag Day at Great Valley Elementary.  Children had opportunities to learn and appreciate many exciting experiences relating to agriculture.  We feel so fortunate to live in a community where people such as you will make donations to aid in learning experiences that enrich the lives of our children.  Your donation enabled us to make our Ag Day a special one for the students, teachers and presenters, as well as helping children to understand more about the important role agriculture plays in all our lives.  The experiences you help to provide are invaluable!”

Kee said that many churches borrow boulders for special stage events and then bring them back.

Ed worked for 15 years earlier for a general contractor that built tract homes on area streets in the ‘70s including Hacienda, Crom, San Castle and Orchard.  Later in 1996, he and a group of Vietnam veteran buddies started an internet network they named Red Line Connections in Seattle, WA.

All the networks were built out by 2001, five years later, and the firm went out of business.  That was a time when few really knew what the internet was all about, he said.  Kee then started remodeling homes which evolved into his purchase of the rock and landscaping operation on Lathrop Road.