Gary Stockner, 31 

President and Manager of Operations at Stockner’s Nursery

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

It’s difficult during a depressed economy to grow a small business — much less grow exponentially while increasing community volunteer work. Gary Stockner found a way to accomplish both.

Thirty years ago, his grandfather started Stockner-Rockville Nurseries, a company that offered plant and landscaping installations. It was taken over by his son in the 1980s, and then by his grandchildren in the late ’90s.

Stockner, who began as a teenage foreman, quickly showed his business acumen when directing the company, transforming it into a full-service, one-stop landscaping business and taking it from half a million dollars of work a year to more than $6 million in 10 years. The company’s earned recognition twice by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing small companies in the nation.

As Stockner’s Nursery — the name was changed — has grown to employ around 90 people, it has also increased their volunteer work for the Special Olympics, the Multiple Sclerosis Walk, Feed Richmond and the Boys & Girls Club, among others.

“Really a couple of employees opened my eyes to charity work,” Stockner says. “The team I’ve been able to hire on is who this award should go to.”

It’s the little things that Stockner recalls fondly, such as working with Journey Christian Church to provide a home makeover for a family who lost out at being on the television show “Extreme Makeover.”

Stockner’s father-in-law, a teacher at Collegiate, has suffered from multiple sclerosis, which makes that work personal. “Being able to drive down the road and say we did that school, that bank, that house — it’s really neat,” Stockner says. “But really the more we’ve grown, the more we’ve been able to give back.”

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