We got a series of bids to have a retaining wall, paver patio and pergola installed in our backyard. All the bids were within a few thousand dollars of each other, but our interactions with the contractors were night and day. Joi Aoki and Rita Pacheco, the principals of Aoki Landscaping, are a breed apart. When you get right down to it, the best contractors are those where the price is commensurate with the quality. We don’t mind paying more for better quality, and when we are operating on a tight budget, we want to know that the quality is the best that what we can afford—we don’t want to spend money for a poor outcome. Rather than showing us a half dozen concrete pavers in the trunk of a car, Joi sent us to Beehive Brick and Stone’s expansive showroom; instead of a sketch map of the proposed construction drawn freehand on an iPad, we received a scaled drawing produced with AutoCad; rather than receiving vague answers to direct questions, we got straight answers, including a few “I’m not sure, I’ll get back to you on that.” And they always did. Work began in early September, heralded by the arrival of an enclosed trailer parked on the street that contained an entire Ace hardware store, a mini excavator, a Dingo skid steer and a large dump trailer. Over the next few months they removed about 20 yards of dirt, replaced much of it with gravel, then sand and then pavers. Along the northern and eastern edge of the patio, they built a long, sinuous retaining wall made from blocks that matched the pavers. Then they built and raised the pergola after cutting graceful curves along the bottoms of the beams and rafters, plus decorative ends. It is gorgeous. Joi, Rita and their dog Remy became members of our family within the first week. We gave them a key to the house without a second thought. They were punctual, considerate, industrious and kept us up-to-date on any issues that arose. Joi and Rita are also two of the kindest and gentlest people we’ve ever met. We made several changes during the course of the construction, and the additional costs were reasonable and fully documented. We can’t wait to spend time in our gorgeous backyard patio. An additional plus is we will never again have to get bids on a landscaping project because we’ll just hire Aoki Landscaping.