Keep the Core Values Constant but Adapt to Change

The Key to Stuppy Greenhouse’s 150 Years of Success and Growth

Laurence Justinian “L.J.” Stuppy founded Stuppy Greenhouse, Inc. in 1873, by selling cut flowers to retail customers.

Stuppy Greenhouse, Inc. is celebrating 150 years of being in business. Not only that, it has been owned and operated by the Stuppy family all of these years. That’s a long time, even in the horticulture industry, where multi-generational family-run businesses are common. Five generations of Stuppys, beginning with Laurence Justinian (“L.J.”) Stuppy in 1873, have steered the helm of the company, steadily growing it into the well-respected greenhouse manufacturing business it is today. As a 70-person employer that has built thousands of greenhouses in North America, today Stuppy continues to play an important role in both the commercial and educational greenhouse industry.

More interesting, however, is how Stuppy stayed in business. Each generation has had to make key decisions about what direction to take — or no longer take — the company. Laurence Justinian (“L.J.”) Stuppy was a court reporter and hobby flower grower in St. Joseph, Missouri, when he decided to grow and sell flowers full time. His sons, Francis Xavier (“F.X.”) and John Stuppy, continued the business, and expanded it into wholesale distribution, selling ribbons, vases and other floral supplies to florists. John died in 1918 in the flu epidemic. In 1922, F.X. passed away unexpectedly after establishing the Stuppy Supply Company in Kansas City; his son George took over as president in 1937, with his brother, Frank, joining him shortly after.

One of the most important things Frank did was to connect with Acme Engineering and Manufacturing in Oklahoma and help to bring evaporative cooling to the greenhouse industry, says Matt Stuppy, President of Stuppy Greenhouse. “This was a game changer for growers,” he says. “Uncle Frank would take fans and Aspen pads to California and start selling them up and down the state. That got us into the greenhouse supply business.”

Through Frank’s entrepreneurial leadership, the company manufactured its first greenhouse structure; greenhouse manufacturing was seen as a rising opportunity, and Stuppy continued to expand and adapt its greenhouse lines.

The company’s background as growers informs its decisions today. Pictured here is the wholesale cut flower range in St. Joseph, MO.

Adapting to Industry Change

George’s son Jim entered the business in 1971 and became president and CEO in 1975. The company exited greenhouse growing in the 1970s and the retail flower store in St. Joseph was sold in 1980, allowing Jim Stuppy to focus on wholesale floral distribution and greenhouse manufacturing.

In 2007, Jim’s son Matt became president, and the family made the decision to sell the wholesale flower business. “Transportation had changed, distribution changed when grocery stores became involved, and we just decided it was time to exit,” Stuppy says.

To show the strength of Stuppy’s greenhouses, one ad involved placing a car on top of the structure.

At the same time, the company saw the opportunity to expand into greenhouse construction services. Stuppy says it was a natural expansion and filled a critical need within the industry. Greenhouses were becoming more specialized with more complex technologies. On one side, growers who used to build their own greenhouses realized construction wasn’t their core capability, and on the other, most construction companies didn’t understand greenhouses. This knowledge allowed the company to bridge the gap in another market segment: educational greenhouses. Stuppy Greenhouse is the leading greenhouse provider for schools and universities, meaning it is the primary greenhouse company providing growing environments that foster the next generation of growers, whether it’s high school students learning horticulture basics or scholars at leading universities testing out the industry’s cutting-edge solutions.

“With our company experience as growers and manufacturers, we are able to help identify customers’ needs and customize the greenhouse for the technology they required and build it properly,” Stuppy says. “The nice thing about having been in business for 150 years is we can look back and see where the company pivoted or adjusted to different market trends and technologies. We are continuing to do that, which is why we have developed heating products and growing system products that we know will be successful for the grower. We will continue to diversify into other areas of controlled-environment agriculture and play a part in the success of the greenhouse industry.”

Read more about how Stuppy is celebrating 150 years of leadership, service and innovation in the greenhouse industry.