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Royer’s at 85: Four generations

Profitability, efficiency, marketing, each would get its say in the 500 pages to come.

But Ken Royer was unequivocal from the opening sentence of his book, “Retailing Flowers Profitably,” as to its true focus.

“This is a story of a family business,” he wrote.

Ken, whose parents, Hannah and Lester, started Royer’s Flowers when it was called South Side Flower Shop, noted that his first experience with growing plants came soon after the family’s 1937 move from downtown Lebanon to what was then the edge of town. He was 6. His sister was two years older; his brother, six years younger.

“The move to the new home provided almost an acre of land that we could use for gardening; thus my involvement with plants and flowers,” Ken wrote.

As Royer’s marks 85 years in business in 2022, the company remains a family business. What’s more, it has achieved the remarkably rare feat of reaching a fourth generation of family involvement.

How rare? The average life span of a family-owned business is 24 years, according to the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University. Just getting to a second generation of family involvement is a significant achievement, as only 40 percent of businesses achieve that.

Then things get really tough. A third generation: only 13 percent of family-owned businesses get there, and only 3 percent of businesses reach a fourth generation or beyond.

Except for a three-year period (1998 to 2001) when Royer’s was part of the Gerald Stevens national chain, the Royer family has owned the company. Even during the Gerald Stevens era, Ken and son Greg were involved at the corporate level while son Tom oversaw Royer’s operations.

The silver lining – or Christmas present, given the time of year — to Gerald Stevens’ demise was the subject of a cover story in the Dec. 12, 2001 Lebanon Daily News. The headline heralded, “Royers buy back flower shops.” (The deal also included the opportunity to enter Ohio with Connells Maple Lee.)

Greg, Tom and brother Mike appeared in a photo surrounded by poinsettias at the Lebanon store.

“We’re obviously thrilled to have it back,” Greg Royer said at the time. “There’s a picture of growth in the future.”
Growth for the business, but also opportunity for more family members to arrive on the scene and help lead the company into the 21st century.

Greg’s sons Andrew and Geoff are active in day-to-day management; their brother Gregory was a store manager. Tom’s oldest daughter, Layla, worked for the company when she was in high school and college while his youngest children, Tommy, Sumer and Brooke, help out on weekends, holidays and summers.

That story about a family business that Ken described has more chapters to come.

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