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Royer’s at 85: An internet pioneer

Customers could stop by Royer’s Lebanon flower shop to sign up for Nothing But Net Internet service, according to this 1996 newspaper ad.

This is part of a series of occasional blog posts about important events in Royer’s history as the company marks its 85th anniversary in 2022.
The internet is so entrenched in our lives that it’s easy to forget that only a generation ago everything was new. Online access was mostly via dial-up service using phone lines. The term “blog” hadn’t yet been coined.
And you may not know that Royer’s Flowers pioneered online marketing within the floral industry and was among the first Internet providers in central Pennsylvania.
Kevin Laicha had joined Royer’s in 1984 to provide support in the areas of accounting and computers. In 1993, he hired Scott Curtin, a Lebanon native who was studying computers at Carnegie Mellon University.
Carnegie Mellon was an early player on the internet, which began as a Department of Defense project. Ostensibly hired to clean and maintain computers, Curtin steered Royer’s to acquire an Internet connection through the university.

Selling to the public

In 1994, Royer’s created a new company – Nothing But Net – to get a foothold in the burgeoning online world. To cover the cost of connecting each of its stores and leveraging its computer server capacity, in 1996 Royer’s, through NBN, began selling internet service to the public.
“So that was all we thought: we’ll just get 100 users to offset the cost,” said Laicha, who was president of NBN, which operated from Quentin Circle Shopping Center in Lebanon. Before long, NBN had 3,000 customers paying $19.99 per month for unlimited online access.
NBN built Royer’s first website around 1996; at the time, Laicha recalled, 1-800-Flowers was the only other florist online. NBN’s profits paid for Royer’s ads on Yahoo!, then itself a nascent search engine. Orders flowed in from all over the world.
Another offshoot of the NBN/Royer’s partnership was the development of Flowerlink, an internet-based flower-ordering service that grew to a membership of some 1,000 flower shops around the world.
Royer’s eventually sold NBN to a Lebanon County competitor, Lebanon MobileFone, to focus on its core floral business. But Royer’s maintained an internet division and a strong presence in the digital world while growing its brick-and-mortar stores.
Royer’s today attributes more than half of its annual revenue to online sales.

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