Laurence P. Smith (Larry), founder and owner of Village Green Home and Garden, died Sunday evening, April 12, in the home of his daughter in Mequon, WI, after a long battle with cancer.
Larry was born September 30, 1939 in Rockford, IL, to Ernest and Gertrude Smith. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from Marquette University, Milwaukee and went on to a career as a writer and critic in Chicago. In 1962 he left Chicago for Rockford to assist in the family business, Condon’s Lawn & Garden Store, after the death of his father. In 1965 he started Village Green, specializing in garden products, equipment and plants, on the growing east side of Rockford.
He expanded that operation to another store on the west side of town in the late 1960s, adding a growing operation and patio sales. The initial east-side location eventually outgrew its space, so the now flagship store on East Riverside Boulevard was opened. There Smith expanded the outdoor furniture area with construction of a sun-lit 5,000 square indoor atrium, where over 100 patio groups are displayed, and added an interior furniture and gift sales area.
Village Green Home and Garden has grown significantly from the once humble start and Smith’s reputation as a businessman grew with it. He is recognized in the business community for his knowledge, wisdom and foresight as well as his passion for the home, garden and casual furniture industry. In 2018 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Casual Furnishing Association (ICFA) and in 2016 the store received the prestigious Apollo Award and the Mary Freuhauf Retail Genius Award in recognition of marketing excellence in 2018. Village Green has been a consistent nominee for the Apollo Award, being nominated five times since 2014.
The business also is appreciated locally in Rockford, winning the What Rocks Rockford Garden Center award in 2018 and 2019. It also was given the Casual Living’s Best Merchandising Award in 2011, 2012 and 2015. Village Green Home and Garden operates in two locations, 6101 East Riverside Blvd., and 2640 North Main St., Rockford.
Jessica Salisbury is CEO and Creative Director. Salisbury and her team are honored to continue Smith’s legacy and will remain strong in the community. In line with Illinois Governor JB Pritzker’s stay in place order, Village Green is closed to the general public but is continuing operations online and by telephone with curbside and delivery options.
Smith is survived by two daughters, Carolyn (Ray Carlson) Smith, Fox Point, WI, and Cynthia Smith, Middleton, WI, and sisters Ann (Dennis) Costello, Hilton Head Island, and Sue (Steve) Walker, Durand, IL. Because of COVID-19, a celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.