Louis Stacy Jr., who led horticulture empire from York County, leaves proud legacy

Louis Stacy Jr. was picking up his mother, Ruby, from work at a zipper factory in York when he noticed several large windows at the plant.

The facility was installing air conditioning that summer and planned to brick up its windows and sell them, Stacy’s sister Linda Koon said Friday.

In a flash of inspiration, Louis Stacy Jr. – who died Wednesday at the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House in Rock Hill at age 81 – decided those windows would be perfect to help build a greenhouse. So he and their father, Louis Stacy Sr., helped put together a 600-square-foot greenhouse.

Ruby Stacy had always enjoyed growing tomatoes to add a few more dollars to the family’s income.

“Louis got his love of growing from both of his parents,” Koon said.

The family sold tomato plants, cabbage and other items from the small greenhouse, netting around $1,500 in 1969.

Soon, Koon said, Louis Jr. was using the profits to help develop the small operation. He later founded and ran a highly successful flower and plant business – Stacy’s Greenhouses – that earned contracts with Lowe’s Home Improvement, Home Depot and Walmart.

Stacy lived in a home close to his first greenhouse in Filbert, midway between York and Clover near U.S. 321.

$42 million At his company’s height in 2010, Louis Ormand Stacy, Jr. led a horticulture wholesale empire that sold $42 million worth of plants and flowers annually to stores in 26 states across the country.

By 2010, Louis Ormand Stacy Jr. led a horticulture wholesale empire that sold $42 million worth of plants and flowers annually to retail stores in 26 states.

“Stacy’s Greenhouses was an empire that reached well beyond Filbert,” York Mayor Eddie Lee said Friday.

Lee remembers Stacy through a shared connection to the Vietnam War.

In 1989, Lee wrote a book about Vietnam. Stacy, who read Lee’s book, got in touch with him for a signed copy.

A funeral for Louis Stacy will be held 3 p.m. Jan. 14 at Filbert Presbyterian Church.

“I didn’t know him at the time, but when I found out that he’s a naval aviator, oh my goodness, his career was spectacular.”

Stacy flew F8U Crusader and F4 Phantom planes in more than 80 missions over North Vietnam before retiring in 1968 after 12 years of service.

Stacy, the oldest of five children, was raised by his parents on a farm in Filbert. He graduated from high school in York before spending a couple years at Appalachian State’s teacher’s college.

After returning home from abroad, Stacy turned his eye toward a business career. He took the lead on the greenhouses and eventually brought his sister and parents in to help with the operation.

He managed seven greenhouses by the time he opened Stacy’s Garden Center, a retail store on U.S. 321 in Filbert.

There was nothing Stacy didn’t like to grow, Koon said. He grew chrysanthemums, pansies and numerous perennials.

In the late 1980s, Stacy sold his flowers and plants off the back of his truck near local Kmarts. By the early 1990s, Koon said he secured a deal with Lowe’s Home Improvement.

“Business exploded in that time,” said Koon, who managed the garden center in York.

He was always a stickler for cleanliness and quality. It wasn’t just pots to him. The plants had to be first quality, and they were.

Linda Koon, on her older brother Louis Stacy

The business also added contracts with Home Depot and Walmart, turning a regional commodity into a national favorite.

If you bought a perennial on the East Coast from Lowe’s, there’s a good chance it came from York County. At its height, the company operated its wholesale farm in York County, had garden centers in York and Shelby, N.C., and a propagation center in Pendleton.

In all, Stacy’s Greenhouses stretched across about 260 acres in York County, with 16 acres devoted to greenhouses. The company sold about 16 million pots annually. Stacy employed around 800 employees during the peak growing season.

“He was always a stickler for cleanliness and quality,” Koon said. “It wasn’t just pots to him. The plants had to be first quality, and they were.”

Stacy’s health began to fail in 2010. Koon said Stacy suffered an undiagnosed palsy condition that robbed him of his ability to work. In his final days, Koon said, Stacy was unable to walk or talk and moved in an electric wheelchair.

As Stacy’s illness set in, the company took a turn for the worse, filing for bankruptcy in 2013. The entire operation was bought by Metrolina Greenhouses of Huntersville, N.C. Stacy’s garden center closed in 2013 after nearly 40 years in business.

His career was spectacular.

York Mayor Eddie Lee, on Stacy

“I think people will remember him as a very generous person,” Koon said. “He was very hard-working and expected his employees to work hard, too. But he loved his business.”

Koon said Stacy was always willing to share his nursery knowledge with anyone who would ask.

“He will be remembered for living a life where he was proud of his business,” she said.

Stacy is survived by two sisters, Linda Koon and Jane Spratt, two brothers Herb Stacy and Gene Stacy, and seven nieces and nephews.

The funeral will be 3 p.m. Sunday at Filbert Presbyterian Church. Family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. Saturday at the church fellowship hall and other times at the home of Linda and Wayne Koon, 407 Bratton Ave., York.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham