Growing with the times: Local landscaper now one of largest in country

The Munie family celebrates at a recent gathering. Joe Munie, left, and his wife Linda, right, flank their children, from second left, Craig, Clare and Matt Munie.

 

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH, The Illinois Business Journal

Joe Munie built his company quite literally from the ground up, and in the last 40 years, he hasn’t ventured far from the land he loves.

His business has grown along with the turf and landscapes he’s established and maintained across the country.

“I’m extremely thankful to have spent my entire career in the green industry, which I believe is host to some of the greatest people and incredibly rewarding and exciting work,” he says. “It’s extremely satisfying to know the work we do is having a positive impact in the improvement of outdoor environments.”

The Munie Company, based in Caseyville, today generates annual revenue of around $24.8 million. It is comprised of two major segments: Munie Greencare Professionals, a land maintenance arm with an emphasis on turf services that cater to large complex sites such as commercial, industrial, and recreational facilities as well as military housing communities; and Munie Lawn Specialists, which serves the sports, residential, and commercial markets with professional turfgrass management and lawn care services.

Munie started off humbly in 1980, working out of a barn on his parents’ property in Belleville. He began as a lawn care business specializing in fertilization programs and chemical lawn care, then evolved in to commercial grounds maintenance, irrigation, sports field and golf course construction and military housing greenspaces.

Perhaps the most pride comes from enlisting his three children in the business. Joe remains president of the company and is very active. His daughter Clare Munie is the national account manager. His son Matt, the oldest, is the construction manager, and son Craig is the plant health care manager and Caseyville branch manager.

The company’s business really boomed when it got into construction of sports fields and golf courses, “helping us get our equipment specialized, and giving us the capability of becoming a full-scale service company. That gives us a competitive edge,” Clare Munie said.

The scale of work done within the St. Louis market has helped Munie grow into different markets around the country. It now does work in nine states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland and North Carolina.

Munie’s headquarters are on 10 acres and include several buildings off Milburn School Road in Caseyville near its boundary with O’Fallon. O’Fallon Township High School’s Milburn Campus is just east of the site.

The company has a seasonal peak employment of 400 to 450 employees. In Caseyville alone it has 150 to 175 people dedicated to operations and services. It also has some 13 satellite offices across the country.

“Basically, Maryland to Kansas, we kind of make a circle,” said Erin Barr, director of human resources for the company.

So successful has it become that Munie this year landed on Lawn and Landscapes’ Top 100 Lawn and Landscape Companies in North America, the only one in the St. Louis market to do so.

Clare Munie say the company has grown by developing several niches. One is building landscapes for commercial sites, from building to maintenance. Another is sports field construction from the ground up, which includes the modified soils, laser leveling, draining, irrigation and sodding.

“Having our own sod farm gives us a competitive edge,” she said.

Among local examples are soccer fields done for Saint Louis University this past year; the ongoing Plummer Family Park sports field development in Edwardsville; and the grounds at Saint Louis University Hospital.

“We have done work on many professional and collegiate sports fields such as Louisiana State University, Notre Dame, Baltimore Ravens, St. Louis Rams, and University of Illinois to name a few,” she said.

The company has also done a few native landscapes for customers.

The coronavirus of 2020 has at the very least delayed any plans for celebrations of the 40th anniversary, but other than a few customers who have called off service, no big projects have been delayed.

“As an essential business, we’ve been able to maintain operations. We’ve had to adjust how we do things like every business, and it seemed like we were adjusting every day,” Barr said. “Now, we’ve gotten into a rhythm as to how to keep the workforce safe and how we can continue to serve our customers.”

A bigger struggle, she said, has been finding enough workers because of COVID-19, because of the hard work involved and because the use of temporary, H-2B visa workers has been greatly reduced by the federal government this year.

“We work every day to overcome that,” Barr said.

The military side of its business has seen tremendous growth in recent years and is done at installations outside Illinois and Missouri.

“In many of our other states, we have a satellite location on the military base, then handle all the residential landscape maintenance for all the housing on site,” Clare Munie said. The work is done not through military contract but in association with property management firms. Some of the bigger bases include Fort Meade in Maryland, Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Riley in Kansas.

Greenery, of course, must be addressed at all times of the year, but when the grasses aren’t growing, the company also does snow removal, routine fall and spring cleanup, tree removal, planting of ornamental grasses and prepping for the new growing season.

“Since the inception of our company, I believe an intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit helped spur us to new heights to become a leader in the industry,” said Joe Munie, who is on the board of the National Association of Landscape Professionals. “Over the past 40 years, I’ve seen many changes, and we always rose to the occasion and have been an early adaptor of technology and innovation.”

Barr said Munie’s solid reputation drew her to it a couple of years ago.

“One of the things that really attracted me to the company was that it was in essence a family owned company around for a long time, a stable company that’s always looking for new and innovative ways to do business,” she said.

“Our focus moving forward as a company, and we talk about as a leadership team all the time, is how we can best continue to serve our customers, stay up to date and innovative. Goals are always changing and that willingness to change with them is a cornerstone of what makes our company successful,” Barr said.

Said Joe Munie: “I am so proud of the company we have grown to be. This is, in large part, due to the exceptional group of people that we have on our team with great talent and passion for what we do. I am grateful to work alongside these people as well as have the opportunity to work with my three kids who have all chosen to pursue a career on our team, which has been incredibly rewarding. I am also endlessly thankful for the opportunity to serve in this community that has treated us so well over the past 40 years.”

OTHER PHOTOS: Joe Munie with his first work truck; and Joe and Clare Munie on the golf course.

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in our August issue. Find other stories from that issue by clicking on the Current Edition link at ibjonline.com

 

 

 

 

 

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