Dec. 18 2010 12:00 AM

RICHARD ANGELO was the oldest of nine children. As was customary, the kids did chores around the house. When Angelo reached the age of 12, his chore was to mow the lawn, trim the shrubs and keep the landscaping neat at the family’s home in Los Angeles, California.

“Each week, after I cut and trimmed the shrubs, I would take a few steps back and look it over,” said Angelo. “Every time I looked at the finished work, I would get jazzed. It looked so good that sometimes I thought it was a painting.

That was the first inkling I had that I enjoyed gardening.” Little did he realize then that this would be the career path he would later choose.

Following his graduation from high school in 1964, Angelo got a job at a department store chain while attending a community college. He was hoping to build a career in retailing, and was placed in the nursery department of the store. “The manager of the department was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about plant material from him ,” said Angelo.

After being there for only a short period of time, the manager got promoted and Angelo was made manager. This was an important promotion for Angelo, as he had married his sweetheart, Charlene. He was 20 years old. He was promoted again and became the supervisor for the entire chain of 22 stores. He was promoted once again after that and became purchasing agent for all the plant material for the chain.

Angelo was on a fast track.

Unfortunately, about seven or eight months later the chain was sold to another group. When they merged the departments, the other manager had more experience, so Angelo’s job was eliminated.

He applied for a position with a company that sold to retail nurseries. They were interested in him, but wouldn’t have an opening for about eight months. Angelo needed a job right away. A local nursery was seeking someone who could help perk up their sales. They offered him incentives on sales over what they presently had.

Angelo took the job, and with 12 full-time employees he immediately began to increase the sales. Each month, he exceeded the previous year’s figures, but when it came time to be paid, management claimed that it would be too much money to pay him, and that it would have to be shared with the other employees. When the company that was interested in him prior to taking this job contacted him and offered him a position, he gave his notice.

His position with that company was as product manager, selling chemicals to retail nurseries. His family was growing and he now had two children. In addition to working full time, at night he attended Pierce College in Woodland Hills, taking courses in agronomy, where he received his A.A. degree. He dreamed of going to Cal Poly, Pomona, California.

While attending Pierce, one of his professors told the class that he thought landscape maintenance was going to have a good future. While other students laughed, Angelo began to give it a lot of thought.

While working his full-time job, Angelo started a gardening service on the weekends. This turned out to be a very good decision because, as government regulations on chemicals became more stringent, the company Angelo worked for eliminated his position in December 1969, and later went out of business.

With his job eliminated, his dream of going to Cal Poly went out the window. Angelo had two children and another on the way, and he needed to do something to support his family.

He discussed the possibility of building up his weekend gardening service with his wife. Charlene told him, “We can always go to work for someone else; let’s give it a try.” He borrowed money from his church’s credit union to purchase a truck.

And so, Stay Green was born, nurtured, and grew, in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles,

California. It grew because Angelo was delivering a quality product, and his reputation was growing along with his business. Charlene worked in the business and, typical of other small family businesses, his kids grew up in the business, as well.

When the kids got older, they worked in the business. When their daughter Wendy turned 16, she worked in the office part-time, answering the phones, filing, etc. Son Chris worked on various crews during the summers, joining the firm full-time following his 1999 graduation from Cal State Northridge, where he received his bachelor’s degree.

How well did Chris and Wendy do in the business? When Chris joined the firm, it was doing slightly less than two million dollars annually. In the eleven years since the younger Angelo joined the firm, Stay Green’s volume shot up to just about $13 million annually.

Even as the business grew, Stay Green remained a family entity. Richard and Charlene have been extremely active in the business, and Wendy worked the office. She married and her husband, Rene Emeterio, came into the business, and Chris was anxiously working to help grow the company.

“Chris, Wendy, and Rene were dedicated and committed to this business. Wendy and Rene made major contributions to the growth of our company,” said Richard Angelo. A few years ago, Wendy and Rene decided that they wanted to start their own business, which is successful in its own right.

“Past the immediate family, our employees are part of our extended family. Some of their children are now working in the company. We have a loyal group of employees. Commitment, dedication, and a desire to be the best is what made our company grow.”

In their spare time, Richard and Charlene like to spend time in San Diego, and bought a small retreat there. Chris and his wife have two young children. In his spare time, Chris loves to play golf.

Father and son have become a true partnership. As a team, they’re planning for the future. The Angelos see the future quite clearly. “The potential growth for our company is in grounds management,” they said. “We see strong indicators for natural pruning, using fuel-efficient equipment, propane lawn mowers and organic fertilizer. We believe that going green is part of our future.” If there’s one word to sum up the mission statement of Stay Green, that word would be quality.