Perennials Icon Louis Stacy Dies
Louis Ormand Stacy, Jr. 81, passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.
As the founder of one of the largest perennial growing operations, Stacy’s Greenhouses, Louis Stacy was a true pioneer and strong proponent of the floriculture industry in the Southeast and beyond. His $40 million business consisted of 12 acres of greenhouses and more than 120 acres of outdoor production at three farms. Two of the locations had retail garden centers, and Stacy was the founding chairman of the South Carolina Farm Bureau’s Roadside Market Committee.
Metrolina Greenhouses purchased Stacy’s Greenhouses in 2013. At the time,the purchase figured in well with Metrolina Greenhouses’ business growth plan, and the perennial business was a natural addition to the company’s line up as it worked to continue to provide new and innovative solutions to its retail customers, said Metrolina Greenhouses’ Co-Owner and Co-CEO Abe Van Wingerden.
“By making the business grow again, we will be able to honor and extend the business legacy of Mr. Stacy as he and our founder, Tom VanWingerden, were both pioneers in this industry, who worked together on many projects over the years. Combining the work of these two visionary leaders into one company makes logical sense. Our goal is to follow in those footsteps and make both companies stronger in the future.”
Industry Remembers Stacy and His Contributions
“Louis was an innovator in our industry and his mark on the industry still exists today,” Van Wingerden says. “Specifically, he was a pioneer in three areas. First, he led the charge on in-store merchandising at big box retailers in the industry and had people in the stores well before Bell Nursery, Metrolina Greenhouses, and others started on that trend. Secondly, he pioneered the ‘big tag’ on perennials with his Stacy’s Tag Program that told a story about the plant vs. just naming the plant. Third, he decided when he started his business that Stacy’s was going to be known for quality, and they led the industry on quality for years. He knew that if consumers did not know for sure how to use perennials, they would at least buy them for the great quality.”
As an industry giant in the Southeast, Van Wingerden says Stacy made an enormous impact on his family and the local floriculture industry.
“Art (Van Wingerden) and I have known Louis for years, both when we were younger in the business, and over the last few years since we purchased Stacy’s,” Van Wingerden says. “Louis was a great friend and a great competitor at the same time. He shared his knowledge of what was working and things he was struggling with, and would always ask us for the same information. Many times, these meetings were done over his infamous lunches at the Garden Café in York, SC, where Louis held court with many industry heavyweights over the years. Louis will be missed, but his mark on the industry will last.”
Tim Brindley, who was formerly President of Stacy’s Greenhouses and is now Director of Operations at Metrolina Greenhouses, also paid tribute to his former boss and mentor.
“If I had to use only few words to describe Louis it would be fearless, forward-thinking, and lucky,” Brindley says. “He was a risk-taker, evident when in 1998, Stacy’s grew from $12 million to $23.8 million, all backed by a customer handshake and hard work, and fueled by the first in-store service program on the east coast. He was a visionary also, planting his first 20,000 perennials in 1994 before anyone was even talking about the category. By the way, that same year we planted 20,000 Hosta roots upside down in fall, and re-planted them in February! And 80 missions flown over Vietnam unscathed: enough said on the topic of good luck.”
Prior to starting the greenhouse business, Stacy served as a Naval Aviator for 10 years and had 85 successful missions over North Vietnam.
“Working for Mr. Stacy was different. He was a very disciplined man with a great vision,” says Regina Coronado, who is currently Head Grower at Bell Nursery after working for several years as Head Grower at Stacy’s Greenhouses. “Although [Stacy] was very strict, his commitment to excellence set up a model for all his employees. Due to his management style, he helped his employees become better every day.”
Some of the skills he implemented in his employees’ careers included the ability to work in a very fast-paced, intense, and competitive work environment that allowed his team members to succeed and excel. He instilled in them the need to always be on time and with accurate information, and how to present that information and react to different situations with flexibility, Coronado says. Stacy also cross-trained his employees, allowing them to see different areas of the business and how they were performing, which was a key to many growers’ success, Coronado says.
“Mr. Stacy was an very hardworking man, compassionate with people’s needs. He was not only the Boss Man. His people skills made him an outstanding mentor and a great friend,” Coronado says. “His passion and love for plants made him a very sensitive person with a strong personality. By recognizing people and treating them right, he developed a very strong bond and earned the respect and unconditional loyalty of his employees. His guidance, wisdom, and commitment to excellence will remain in my heart and mind forever, always grateful and thankful for being able to work for him and spend time with him.”
Stacy’s passion and love for plants and the floriculture industry is another thing he passed on to his employees and others in the industry.
“Louis loved this industry – there was no denying that,” Brindley says. “He loved his company, and took care of all his employees over the years very well. And he loved the state of South Carolina and the South Carolina Gamecocks. He always told me, ‘It teaches you that sometimes you have to take the bitter with the sour.’ He would be very proud of how Art and Abe, and everyone at Metrolina have carried his dream on, ‘Where Great Gardens Begin.'”
Stacy was a son of the late Louis O. Stacy, Sr. and Ruby Paxton Stacy. He is survived by his sisters, Linda Koon (Wayne), Jane Spratt (John), brothers, Herb Stacy (Paula), Gene Stacy, and seven nieces and nephews.
The funeral took place on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Filbert Presbyterian Church in America. Memorials may be made to Filbert Presbyterian Church in America at 2066 Filbert Hwy. York, SC 29745.Online condolences may be made to the family at the website for Bratton Funeral Home in York, SC.