Chalet is deep-rooted in history as a third-generation, family-owned, local business entering our 100th year serving the North Shore. From our humble beginnings as a self-started yard care business by L.J. Thalmann, we have grown to incorporate multiple divisions, increasing the Chalet offerings. The expansion of our Landscape Division and the addition of Chalet Farms are just a few of the transformations that have helped shape Chalet.
We constantly strive to find new ways to accomplish our mission of exceeding the expectations of our customers and continually improve our image of excellence and professionalism. We celebrate our historic past, but realize that in order to continue helping our customers succeed, we must search out new paths that lead us to better serve you.
While many things have changed throughout the years, one thing has stayed the same and always will: Chalet’s commitment to providing our customers with the highest quality products, services and information.
In 1917 Lawrence J. Thalmann ("L.J.") founded L.J. Thalmann’s Architectural Landscaping. After his high school graduation, he would pedal his bike, pulling a red wagon loaded with gardening tools, to client's homes. Not long after, L.J. acquired his first dump truck - the kind you hand cranked to dump its load- while attending Northwestern University at night and receiving a diploma from the American Landscape School.
In the 1940's, a Swiss Chalet-style restaurant in Glencoe that stood in the path of the new Edens Expressway was put up for auction. L.J. bought it for $751, believing a bid should always be an odd amount. Cut in three parts, the building was moved to Wilmette where it became the home and offices for L.J. and his wife Elaine. Due to zoning restrictions, business signs were not permitted, so the company's ads featured the house as an identifying mark. It was only a matter of time before customers were writing their checks to "Chalet." Always customer-centric, L.J. determined that the public had already named the business.
In the 1950's a new 9,500-square-foot garden center (a whole new concept, a "Garden Center") was added. L.J.'s wife Elaine and their children, Larry Jr. and Diane, managed the growing place, adding a pet and gift department and expanding landscape services.
Expansion continued when Larry Jr. and Diane took over the business. The Landscape Division mushroomed, moving to larger facilities twice over time. It is currently housed in an award-winning 28,000-square-foot North Chicago facility to accommodate the over 160 green fleet vehicles and acres of plants and supplies. The Chalet Office Plaza was built. Computers, staff and new product lines were added. So was the Marine Division, which was twice awarded "Dealer of the Year" by Catalina Yachts.
In the 1990’s Larry Thalmann III became president and the business continued to grow. An Education Center was established. Chalet received national awards for landscape and retail excellence. A one-of-a-kind internship program was founded, as were scholarship programs. A 183 acre farm was purchased in Salem, Wisconsin to grow quality plants worthy of the Chalet name. Making a significant commitment to promotion of the “Green Industry,” Larry became president of the Illinois Nursery Association and the Mid-American Horticultural Trade show. More of his staff became Illinois Certified Nursery Professionals than any other business in the State.
Chalet has been recognized by its peers and named "Innovator of the Year" by Garden Center magazine. And as we step towards our 100 year anniversary, we consistently strive to serve our customers and community in exemplary fashion while helping to steward the earth. The business culture at Chalet continues to evolve, as Larry III wrote in the company's Vision Statement:
We will be aggressive in determining our future direction. We will celebrate, but not be held prisoner to the past. We will be aware that no matter how distinguished our history and reputation have been, the past cannot be the future. Issues such as: expanding market share, upgrading and creating new facilities, new products, new services and lines of business will be considered with due diligence and openness. These decisions will be approached with the appropriate degree of speed and caution to insure that we are able to preserve excellence in our current operations while we reshape the future.