When George Lucas was 14, he took his first job in a greenhouse. By the time Lucas was 20, he was running that same greenhouse after steadily working his way up the ladder. After a year at college, Lucas went into business for himself by opening a 9,000 square foot operation growing foliage plants in 1979.
Now, his Monroeville, N.J.-based operation is almost 40 years old and features more than 1.2 million square feet under cover while producing everything from young plants to hanging baskets to poinsettias. Lucas Greenhouses also sell liners through a broker network.
“Things have come along pretty well,” he says. “We try to make some kind of significant improvement every few years.”
Lucas Greenhouses’ customers are largely within a 400-mile radius, stretching from Boston, Mass. to Richmond, Va., although their liners are shipped across the country. To meet demands, 26 trucks come in and out of the facility almost constantly taking products to independent garden centers all over the country.
In that type of busy environment, it can be difficult to keep everything and clean and organized. But making sure the trucks and working spaces are kept tidy is what Lucas believes makes his business stand apart from the competition. When the basic tasks are done, it allows Lucas Greenhouses to also address the bigger, more complicated jobs and better serve its variety of customers.
“Our slogan is ‘excellence is our standard’ and we try to make that real,” Lucas says. “Everyone pretty much does the big stuff well. It’s the little stuff that sets you apart.”
In 2002 and 2004, Lucas Greenhouses installed a high mass boiler system from other companies. While it worked well, there were some minor issues with leaks, busted tubes and electronic malfunctions. In 2007, they expanded again and the system installed that year included two high-mass Hurst boilers. Since then, Lucas says he has had no issues with his boilers and added another boiler from Hurst during a 2009 expansion.
“I trusted [my heating contractors] and they wanted to run with Hurst,” Lucas says. “I’m glad they did. [Hurst Boilers] are very reliable.”
Hurst’s boilers also solve a problem Lucas faces for roughly four months a year: snow. In New Jersey, snow will often pile up greenhouse roofs. If the weight becomes too heavy, the roofs could collapse and cause severe damage. Even without the threat of collapse, snow can be a headache for any greenhouse grower based in a cold-weather state.
“We can heat our greenhouses to a pretty high temperature and maintain [the plants] through the snow,” he says.
Hurst Boiler, in a sense, helps define Lucas Greenhouses’ ethos of setting a standard of excellence and doing the little things right. Investing in a dependable, energy-saving boiler can be the difference between being good and being great.
“If I was going to another build that required high mass boilers, I’d definitely want them to use Hurst ones,” Lucas says. “We’ve had no issues, zero.” — Chris Manning