WILMETTE, Ill. – Lawrence J. Thalmann, Jr., 88, the son of Chalet’s founder Lawrence J. Thalmann and second-generation co-owner of Chalet, passed away last month, leaving behind a business and legacy that spans generations.
Last year, Thalmann, Jr., celebrated the company’s 100th year in business with his son and current Chalet president, Larry. He also saw his grandson, Lawson Thalmann, join Chalet, further positioning the company for the future and representing his family’s fourth generation of leadership.
Thalmann, Jr. and his sister, Diane Thalmann-Stanton, received the keys to the business in the 1960s from their father, who began Chalet in 1917 as L.J. Thalmann’s Architectural Landscaping. Inheriting his’s father’s entrepreneurial skills, Thalmann, Jr. also put his personal imprint on the business, greatly expanding the landscape services division, building the Chalet Office Plaza on Skokie Boulevard and expanding the store’s retail space. An avid sailor who once made a trans-Atlantic crossing on a 40-foot sailboat, he began carrying Catalina yachts at Chalet, making it one of the largest sellers of those boats at the time.
With 100 full-time staff members and more than 350 seasonal staff, the company is well-known for its award-winning landscape division and a lifestyle retail store based in Wilmette, featuring indoor and outdoor plants, garden essentials, nature-inspired home décor and a newly re-envisioned pet living collection. The company also owns a 180-acre farm in Salem, Wis., cultivating and providing locally-grown plants through landscape services and the retail channel.
“Larry was quite simply what I would call ‘one of the good guys from the old school’ –honest, fair and completely without pretense,” says Tony Fulmer, the chief horticulture officer who was hired by Thalmann, Jr., in 1986. “In 32 years, I never saw Larry show an ‘I’m-better-than-anyone-else’ attitude. For that, and many other reasons, I’ll always be grateful to have known him and worked for him.”
A veteran who served in the United States Navy during the Korean War, Thalmann Jr. was born July 4, 1930, in Wilmette. He is preceded in death by Margaret and Marion Thalmann, and he is survived by his sister Diane Stanton, children Lawrence III and Mark Thalmann, and grandchildren Lawson, Carleigh and Jack, and Cooper and Grace Thalmann. Memorial services were held.