Carol Siegel is true blue Martin City. Her resume at Suburban Lawn & Garden stretches more than a quarter century, with most of that time spent cultivating the company’s sprawling location at 135th and Wornall.
“Working at Suburban is just wonderful,” says Siegel, surrounded by lush greenery on a sunny autumn morning inside the store. “There’s great camaraderie, and it’s just like one big family. It really is. I’ve always loved it. We offer a huge array of very high-quality products and there’s a lot to be proud of in our work.”
Siegel’s career with Suburban started with a simple response to a job ad, and her timing was perfect. The company was just taking off, expanding to multiple locations and reaching more customers all over. Part time quickly turned into full time. She was good at handling money, which was an especially valuable talent in the days before software calculations. But balancing cash drawers was only her first step. Siegel moved on to other responsibilities ranging from rock inventory purchasing to vehicle licensing and weight permits. The list goes on.
“I’ve always welcomed new challenges and Suburban is eager to open doors for employees wanting to do more and discover new areas of the business. They love to fill open positions with existing employees. I really think there’s lots of opportunity here for upward mobility.”
These days, Siegel is largely retired, but still makes the rounds to stay close to other employees who have become friends over the years. She jumps in here and there to help out where she can, and her main mission is representing Suburban on the Martin City Community Improvement District (MCCID) Board of Directors. Siegel has worked closely with the MCCID for nearly a decade, helping other business leaders solve problems in the community and map out revitalization.
“It’s interesting and exciting work. I’ve developed an understanding of how things get done on a community level, and I enjoy reporting back to Suburban’s management so that they can make decisions about how they can help and otherwise fit into MCCID plans.”
The MCCID had been around for a while before Siegel joined, but was still trying to fully define its role. The organization originally focused on overhauling 135th Street and cueing up Holmes Road enhancements, but now does substantially more. Siegel credits the diligence of District Manager Vickie Wolgast in addition to Board members who imagined broader service.
“The MCCID is so much more involved in the community now. I think we’ve really explored our larger potential to facilitate revitalization and support businesses who want to invest in Martin City’s future. Business owners looking to move into the neighborhood now come to us for advice. We help them navigate zoning rules and city processes so that they can thrive and succeed. The MCCID offers a big advantage you rarely see in other neighborhoods.”
Another way the MCCID boosts the community is through activities and events. The Martin City St. Patrick’s Parade is the biggest celebration of the year, and Suburban has faithfully participated to help turn it into the high-profile spectacle it is now.
“I think it’s a badge of honor for us, and as a Martin City business, we feel a responsibility to get involved. Preparing isn’t easy for us because the parade and our company’s busiest time are both in the spring, but we want to help. Suburban believes in the Martin City community.”
Just like other MCCID board members, Siegel champions the message of participation. MCCID leadership is made up of people working in the neighborhood and depends on them to move revitalization forward. Any Martin City businesses can get involved. And why wouldn’t you?
“If you really care about your business, step up and get involved in the MCCID. You’ll get more perspective on the potential of your own business and you’ll have a voice in improving the neighborhood, which affects your business as well. You can help organize events, join a committee, or simply attend monthly meetings to find out what’s going on. We are a reflection of the community. We want all businesses to join the effort.”
Take it from someone who has seen firsthand how our neighborhood has pulled itself up by its own bootstraps. Carol Siegel has watched progress unfold step by step as Martin City has blossomed into something much bigger than a bump in the road.
“When I first moved into this area, there was little more than Jess and Jim’s Steakhouse and a few offices. Now we have so many family-owned businesses and lots of larger retail brands on the west side, too. I’ve seen so much change in the neighborhood. Even now, when I look around, it just amazes me how far we’ve come.”
Maybe the reemergence of our name is the best marker of our progress. “You hear more and more people referring to the neighborhood as ‘Martin City’ these days,” says Siegel, walking with us along an endless row of fresh plants. “There was a time when the name had sort of faded away. But it’s back now and so many of us take pride in saying we’re part of Martin City.”
Between her work on the MCCID and spending time with both of her kids, and all four of her grandchildren, you might find it hard to catch a glimpse of Carol Siegel at Suburban Lawn and Garden. But if you do, give her a pat on the back and thank her for all she’s done to help make Martin City all it can be.
“I love Martin City and all of South Kansas City. I’ve lived in the area most of my life and I’m happy to call it home.”
About Workforce Spotlights
Martin City Workforce Spotlights recognize people working in the neighborhood at local Martin City businesses. If there’s someone your company would like to showcase, please send their name, job title or role, photo (it’s okay to send more than one), and a brief explanation of why you want them showcased to [email protected]
Please write “Martin City Workforce Spotlight submission” in the email subject line so it doesn’t get lost in the inbox crowd! We’ll confirm receipt as soon as possible and work with you to publish a short workforce story.