Friends and colleagues are mourning the death of Joe Lutey, 32, who died January 21, 2015.
His ability to think creatively and to consider how various issues would have a long time impact on both the garden center he worked for, Wojo’s Greenhouse, and the industry as a whole, made Lutey a sought-after adviser. He participated on several advisory boards, from AmericanHort’s retail committee to Greenhouse Grower’s GROW partners’ board.
Many industry players turned to Joe for insight on how growers and retailers can work together to meet the needs of consumers.
And his playful personality won Lutey many friends.
“He was always so loving, genuine, always made you laugh and enjoyed pranking others,” his wife Jennifer says.
At work, he wore many hats, from retail manager to tree and shrub buyer and hardgoods buyer. He helped make Wojo’s what it is today, Lutey’s boss Joe Wojciechowski says.
“I think the biggest item that Joe was instrumental in was how technology could shape our future,” he says. “Other than that, Joe not only understood the plants, but the numbers. He was especially great at keeping inventory levels to the correct amount, and always displayed product in an appealing matter. He was also our go-to-guy for tech help. As you know, he was also involved in our industry outside of daily work.”
Lutey leaves behind his wife, Jennifer, their son Aiden, and a large, extended family.
The funeral service was held on Monday, January 26, 2015. You can sign the online guestbook at WintFuneralHome.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made for the future education of Aiden. Wojciechowski is offering to collect donations on behalf of the family. Send donations to:
2570 Oakwood rd.
Ortonville, Mi. 48462
Attn: Jennifer Lutey
If you would like to donate, make the check out to Jennifer Lutey, Wojciechowski says. “If anybody wants to contact a person, they can call our greenhouse and ask for Joe W. or Luana at 248-627-6498,” he says.
Tributes From The Industry
From Susie Raker, C. Raker & Sons Greenhouses:
“There are a lot of things you can say about Joe… funny, sweet, smart. But the things that I will miss the most are that Joe genuinely cared about people and his open-heartedness. If I had an article published in a trade magazine, he would always shoot a text to say, ‘Great job, loved the article.’ He genuinely cared about me and my success, and I know that sentiment is shared by many others in the industry. I worked with Joe through several industry functions and organizations, and Joe was very good at making every person feel welcome and a part of something.
“Joe had passion about two things, Plants (hydrangeas, in particular) and the customer’s experience at retail. Joe had some really forward-thinking ideas about what the retail garden center should and could be. He opened my eyes to what the retail experience could be.”
From Lloyd Traven, Peace Tree Farm
“Joe Lutey was one of the finest people, of any age, I have met in a long career in floriculture. Highly intelligent, always curious, never acted like he felt your observations were in any way condescending. Instead, he listened, and asked questions to follow up, so that he understood what you were trying to make clear for him – always looking to get better at what he did.
“He always was willing to engage about ‘connecting’ with consumers, wanted to know what you think about reaching consumers and fellow workers, to make the full experience satisfying and easier and more effective. He paid attention, never distracted – he looked at you, watched your eyes, so he understood what you meant more than just by word or tone.
“He was aware that he was regarded by me, and many others, as a ‘young gun’, one of the sharpest out there, bound for a major presence, and he was always surprised that I sought out his thoughts and observations, and he appreciated it greatly and told me that. You wanted to make sure Joe Lutey was always included – whether it was a conversation, a group discussion, a meal or just a good story or joke. People gravitated toward him, naturally, because of how he treated you in return – and that is all too often rare.
“He was curious, he was totally present and he always knew, even though so highly accomplished at a young age, that he was still very young and had so much still to learn and accomplish – even though he was superbly qualified.
“We are so saddened here at Peace Tree Farm at such a devastating loss, so early.”
From Stephanie Whitehouse, Peace Tree Farm
“I first met Joe at the last Short Course in 2013, but really got to know him personally at the last fall committee meeting for OFA when the transition to AmericanHort was approved. We later served together as Community Connectors for AmericanHort and teamed up for a number of panel articles with Greenhouse Grower and other trade magazines.
“From the very moment I met Joe, we had an instant connection, a mutual feeling that we had already known each other for years – as if we had gone to nursery school together, separated during grammar school and now had reconnected, even though that scenario was far from the truth. We called each other horticulture soul mates because not only did we have the same favorite flower (hydrangea), we had the same ideology for the industry’s future and how our generation can make positive changes, a passion for encouraging younger generations to get involved in gardening and a necessity to give back to the industry. I always admired Joe’s work ethic, which was to ‘show up to work seeking your dream job.’ His desire to always strive for the next greatest thing, to always improve really resonated with me – it was the kind of advice I would have heard from my dad or a seasoned industry vet.
“There is a handful of people my age with whom I regularly brainstorm big picture ideas for the industry with throughout the year; people whom I admire for their intelligence, personal drive and diverse thinking. A horticulture dream team, so to say. Joe was a member of my dream team, and I cannot imagine going through a spring season, attending Cultivate and getting together at the AmericanHort meetings without his insight, his smile and laugh and his outlook on the future.”
From Joe Wojciechowski, owner of Wojo’s Greenhouse
“We are all saddened with the loss of Joe. He was always happy and shared a smile and his own unique chuckle. He had a quick wit and liked to have fun. He enjoyed children and would always engage with them when they came into our center, especially his own four-year-old, Aiden. He would bring him to work many times and teach him how to do things like water plants.”
From Crystal Cady, Sunflower Acres Farm & Garden:
“Joe was by far and away my very best friend, in and outside of, this great industry we all love, work and play in. I spent a couple years interacting with Joe on social media – sharing tweets about the industry and plants – before I had the opportunity to meet him in person. In January 2013 I was standing in the Knowledge Center at Next Level watching a demo on HootSuite and a tweet from Joe showed up on the screen about the event. I looked around the room, saw him and knew I had to introduce myself because I always looked up to him as a ‘Rock Star’ in the garden center and green industry. From that day forward we became instant friends, and that friendship only grew stronger when we connected again for lunch at the last OFA Shortcourse in 2013. The connection we made quickly grew from an acquaintance in the industry, to a colleague, to a friend, to the very best of friendships with a bond that couldn’t be broken. We were each other’s counterparts.
“Joe had so many qualities that make someone in our industry stand out, shine and succeed. He was so driven and passionate about all things plants, retail and, of course, furthering the next generation. Joe came up with unique, creative ideas that were vastly different than others – be it displays, how to’s or even when it came to dreaming up his own garden center. His thirst for knowledge was unlike any other – always gathering new information, ideas and meeting new people to further his network and learning of the industry. It was this past summer at Cultivate ’14 when one of his ultimate dreams came true – and I introduced him to Dr. Michael Dirr. He and Joe had a two hour long ‘date’ – geeking out on hydrangeas. Dr. Dirr drew him a diagram he will never forget, explaining the breeding of the Endless Summer hydrangea collections – Joe’s favorite.
“Aside from being someone we all loved and admired as a rising star in this industry for his talents and passion, Joe was a friend and human being unlike any other I have met in my life. He was smart, funny, honest, strong, loving, caring, kind, knew just what to say, always encouraging and always put others in front of himself. Gems like that don’t come around that often in life. Losing someone so great and so special to you makes it hard to want to continue and go about your daily life, chase your dreams and strive for those things he encouraged you to strive for – but I know – that if I, if you, don’t keep pursuing those things you love and dream about, Joe would be sad. So, if for no one else besides yourself, keep doing and keep dreaming, for Joe.”
Links To Articles Joe Lutey Participated In
Lutey talks about what new marketing tools we should be looking at now to reach consumers and where he thinks the industry will be in a few years.
Lutey explains how Wojo’s Greenhouse significantly increased its nursery department’s profit by eliminating end-of-season sales.
Lutey shares his opinion on whether the next generation will become plant consumers once they buy a house.
Lutey talks about how the green industry can begin reaching out to kids (Generation Z).
Lutey on how technology will change how we handle marketing in the future.