Mike Rohrer, who joined the Ephrata store in January as a driver, was delivering flowers to a woman at the Brethren Village retirement community in Lititz.
“It’s my birthday,” the woman said expectantly, “and you’re going to sing to me, aren’t you?”
“I said, ‘You bet I am!” Rohrer recalled. “How could you pass that up?”
Singing birthday greetings has become Rohrer’s calling card.
Rohrer, 66, was born and raised in Manheim, Lancaster County. He spent 32 years as a Christian school administrator, first in Lititz and recently in southern Maryland.
The pandemic prompted him and his wife, Becky, to move to Ephrata and closer to family. They have three grown children; they are “Mimi” and “Poppy” to six grandchildren.
It was Becky who spotted the Royer’s job opening.
“She said, ‘I think you’d really like this job,’“ Rohrer said. “And you know what? She was right. I love the job.”
Rohrer has made it his mission to deliver kindness to customers along with rose bouquets. Of course, challenges exist, from slow traffic (including horse and buggy travelers) to hard-to-find house numbers to growling dogs.
But that doesn’t deter Rohrer.
“There’s a little verse in the Bible that says something like this: Be kind to one another,” Rohrer said. “And on any given day, I’m going to meet people who maybe have had a bad day. Maybe they’ve had a good day. Maybe they have health problems. Maybe they have financial problems. Maybe there’s problems with their families.
“I look at it as kind of a ministry to try to help meet their needs by making them have a good, fun day,” he said.
Rohrer works approximately 30 hours per week, typically making 20 to 25 deliveries each day.
‘It’s somebody’s birthday’
On a recent Tuesday morning, his first shift comprised five stops in Ephrata. First, he pulled up alongside parked cars on a narrow street, turned on his flashers, and slid the side door open. No one was home to accept the snack basket.
The second stop took him to Elite Coach, a charter bus company, where he delivered a Tranquility arrangement to a woman in the office. Next, he brought mixed flowers in a vase to a woman who said she was celebrating her 42nd wedding anniversary.
“Hey, I’ve got you beat,” Roher said in fun. “This year’s my 46th!”
The fourth stop brought him to a neighborhood where many of the streets are named after American presidents. This recipient lived on Garfield Drive.
The typed printout on Mike’s clipboard noted that it was a birthday delivery. Lest there be any doubt, “B-DAY” was handwritten and circled in pink highlighter.
“It looks like it’s somebody’s birthday,” Rohrer said to the woman answering his six knocks on the door. “Is it your birthday?”
“It’s my birthday, thank you!” she said, accepting the Jewel arrangement.
There’s a bar in the East Village of Manhattan that opened its doors in 1854. A sign in the window greets patrons young and old with a pointed message: “We were here before you were born.”
In northern Lancaster County, Pa., Frysville Farms bests the bar by three-quarters of a century, tracing its origin to practically before the United States of America was born.
“We’ve been here since 1785,” said Simon Fry, who with brothers Tony and Vincent represents the eighth generation of continuous family operation of the farm. A ninth generation is now involved.
Simon oversees sales and shipping logistics; Tony is the chief greenhouse grower; Vincent is the chief mum grower. Simon noted that they help one another out in all facets of the business.
Frysville Farms produces 80,000 mums each year for customers in a three-hour radius that stretches from northern New Jersey to Maryland and Virginia. Customers include garden centers and groceries and organizations that sell mums as fundraisers.
Royer’s Flowers & Gifts, itself a fourth-generation, family-owned business, has been a Frysville Farms customer for years. Its mums arrive in stores in early September.
10 acres for mums and fall products
Although Frysville Farms has been growing flowers since the 1960s, they represent but the latest evolution in the family’s august entrepreneurial history.
That began 200 years earlier, when ancestor Hans Martin Fry set up a grist mill in 1760 along the Little Muddy Creek in what is now East Cocalico Township, several miles upstream from Frysville Farms, Simon said.
Hans’ son Johan Martin Fry, after fighting in six battles in the American Revolution, purchased the farm at sheriff’s sale in 1785. It already had a grist mill, which today, with its exposed timber walls and ceiling, serves as the company’s main office.
When a larger grist mill was built next door, the original one became a saw mill. Downstairs were, at various times, a distillery and a creamery.
With the grist mill’s closing in 1920, the family focused on farming. In 1955, Frysville Farms began growing hybrid poplar trees, according to the company’s website, and in the 1960s it progressed to the greenhouse production of annuals, perennials, vegetable plants and hanging baskets.
Today, approximately 10 acres are devoted to growing mums and other fall products outside. Some two acres are “under plastic,” as Simon referred to the 15 greenhouses used mainly for growing spring crops and poinsettias for Christmas.
Potting in May and June
The cuttings arrive over time starting in late April, as Frysville Farms grows early-, mid- and late-season mums that bloom in early August, late-August/early September, and mid-September, respectively.
Just as candy corn sometimes arrives on supermarket shelves in July, mums aren’t limited to fall. Customers have different preferences, which extends the selling season.
“Some people want their mums early,” Simon said. “We’ll oftentimes have people calling in here, ‘Do you have mums ready,’ and that’s the beginning of August.”
The cuttings are green, just a piece of plant that is stuck in soil in plug trays. Nestled in misting beds in a greenhouse, the cuttings establish roots over three or four weeks.
Frysville Farms depends on labeling and individual packaging from its suppliers to know what color the cuttings will grow into. There will be mums of red, pink, yellow, bronze, orange, purple – in various shades of each.
“And we take great care in making sure to not mix them up,” Simon said.
The first plugs are potted in late May, early June.
Simon broke from an interview to take a phone call. He joked with the wholesale customer on this hot, sunny Friday afternoon.
“You’re going fishing, I know you,” he said.
Stack of white gloves
After the call, Simon related across desks to Tony that the customer wanted all of Frysville Farms’ remaining echibeckia (a cross between coneflower and black-eyed Susan that has a starburst appearance).
Not only do the brothers work together, they (and a sister) all have homes on the sprawling farm.
“Yeah,” Simon noted, “but not right on top of each other. Tony’s right here, I’m up on the other side, my brother Vince is down the road. So we all live separate lives. I think that’s how you’ve got to do it. You can’t be in each other’s hair all the time.”
“Occasionally I have to fuss at one of them for walking into my hunting spot while I’m sitting there,” he quipped. “ ‘Hey, I’m sitting here, you’re scaring all the deer away. Come on!’ ”
Before taking a visitor into the fields, Simon conducted a brief tour of the office, which also serves as a museum of sorts. In cabinets with glass doors are old mill ledger books dating to 1799; family bibles; books written by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, Norman Mailer; medical and legal books. A stack of white gloves is available for anyone handling the delicate pages.
“The Frys were prolific readers,” Simon said.
Outside, he got behind the wheel of a Dodge Caravan and took his guest to the fields and greenhouses, with stops for photos, to check on the irrigation system and to show early-stage mums and poinsettias in a misting house.
Simon marveled at the nimbleness of deer that cause surprisingly little damage to the mum pots. They might occasionally knock over a pot or kick out a watering line.
“You’d think they’d be in here browsing and munching all this nice tender green stuff, but no,” he said.
In another couple weeks, the mums would start to reveal their colors. Then it would be time to start delivering them to customers.
“We’d rather that they color up at your place rather than mine,” he said.
Do it yourself doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.
A case in point: Royer’s new fresh gathered bouquets.
Available in 13 different options (with the promise of more to come), the bouquets sell for $19.99 or $29.99 including delivery. They arrive in a brown craft paper sleeve tied with raffia, giving the package a “rustic, farmers market feel,” said Cheryl Brill, Royer’s chief operating officer – retail.
The small ($19.99) version of the Tuscan bouquet, for instance, comprises mini green hydrangea, alstroemeria, daisy poms, viking poms, carnations, mini carnations, caspia, and tree fern. The larger ($29.99) version adds two roses to the mix.
Increasingly, flower buyers like to purchase loose bouquets they can arrange themselves, often using favorite containers, Brill said.
Yet customers can take comfort in knowing that each fresh gathered bouquet is professionally designed with complementary colors and textures (caspia and tree fern, for instance) in mind and then hand-assembled in Royer’s stores.
This removes some of the guesswork for customers while allowing them to be hands-on at home.
Brill said she took one of the bouquets home, trimmed the stems to the appropriate length, and dropped the bouquet into a vase.
“I couldn’t be happier with how that turned out,” she said. “And if customers can do that at home, I would think they’d be very happy with that, too.”
Many customers like to purchase for themselves. Of course, as with any other Royer’s product, the fresh gathered bouquets can be sent to someone as a gift.
While fresh gathered bouquets currently are available only in Royer’s market area, Brill delivered this tidbit: soon customers will have the opportunity to ship them almost anywhere in the United States.
Whether you’re a planner or procrastinator, online or in-store shopper, you can expect the same high-quality product and customer service from Royer’s.
We really shine at Valentine’s Day. It’s our busiest time, and we enjoy the challenge of rising to the occasion. If a customer buys flowers once per year, it’s probably for Feb. 14. And with matters of the heart, the pressure really ramps up to deliver in a special way, for lovers and florists alike.
We handle a similar volume of orders during the Christmas season, but that’s over a month or longer. By comparison, the Valentine’s Day “season” squeezes a similar volume into several days.
From South America, with love
But behind the scenes, Valentine’s Day is months in the making, and it takes us thousands of miles from our stores.
You see, we don’t just place a phone call and wait for roses to come to us. We go directly to the flower farms in South America, where we can see firsthand the crop that’s being grown just for our customers. This way we can make sure everything is to our satisfaction. If there are problems, then we have more time to correct them.
Once the Valentine’s Day crop is harvested, it is flown to Miami, where it is inspected by U.S. customs officials. From there, we move the flowers to a refrigerated tractor-trailer for their journey to Royer’s corporate complex in Lebanon.
The truck is unloaded at our distribution center. The flowers are either picked up by drivers from our stores or, more likely, headed to the back of the building and our central design department.
Central Design: heart of the operation
The demand is so great at Valentine’s Day that our stores simply can’t accommodate all the work. They get a big assist from central design, where teams of workers gather around long tables to package roses in boxes or turn them and other flowers into beautiful arrangements.
Whether you give or receive Valentine’s Day roses, or both, we want to make sure you get the most out of them. In fact, with the right amount of care, you should be able to keep your roses looking just rosy for a week.
Click here for specific care instructions, which differ depending on whether your roses arrived in a vase or loose in a box. Either way, it’s best to keep them cool and, of course, sufficiently watered.
From the farm to your front door, we love making Valentine’s Day special for our customers.
Thanks for letting us show you how.
There’s a gender gap when it comes to buying flowers: Women buy 65 percent of fresh flowers, according to the Society of American Florists, while men buy 35 percent.
To the extent that men might be intimidated or uncomfortable buying flowers, we’d like to make the experience a more enjoyable one for them.
To do this, we tapped the expertise of Cheryl Brill, Royer’s vice president of retail operations. Cheryl shared these insights based her more than 20 years of experience in the flower business.
Roses are red – and lots of other colors
Too often, men think only of roses for their significant others, and then only in red. Cheryl encourages male customers to be more adventurous, whether it’s with other colors of roses, other flower varieties, or other looks such as a textured garden appearance.
Don’t stop at Valentine’s Day
Maybe the tendency to focus on red roses has a lot to do with Valentine’s Day which, let’s face it, is ruled by red roses. But the year has only just begun when Valentine’s Day rolls around, so why not mix it up for the 364 days that don’t fall on Feb. 14?
What’s more, 63 percent of flower purchases are for the buyer, compared with 37 percent as gifts. And 86 percent of purchases are for non-calendar occasions, 50 percent of which fall into the “no special occasion” category. The bottom line is that people like to receive flowers any day of the year.
Bouquets don’t have to break the bank
Flower prices tend to rise around Valentine’s Day, in concert with a spike in demand for what is the floral industry’s equivalent of football’s Super Bowl. If that’s the only time of year that you purchase flowers, you can get a warped sense of how much they cost on a day-to-day basis.
Cheryl described how a $7.99 rose bunch made a positive impression on one male customer, who realized that he could afford to be a more frequent flower buyer.
Get the right vase
If she likes to arrange flowers, Cheryl said, then get her a vase that lends itself to arranging and one that fits the décor of the room where it will be used. Does she tend to put flowers on the kitchen counter or on the coffee table?
You don’t have to DIY
In this age of do-it-yourself, there’s a tendency to think that we must go it alone with everything. Rest assured, your trained florist is eager to help. It starts with the right container; she noted that it doesn’t have to be a plain, clear vase. Either bring one in, or your florist can help you select one.
Think about what you want to say
Before you visit or call your florist, Cheryl advised, think about the words you want to send along with the flowers. She said florists are a bit like bartenders: they’ve seen and heard everything, so don’t be embarrassed. Speak from the heart because the sentiment is just as important as the flowers that it goes with.
Valentine’s Day is an oasis amid the darkness of winter, Cheryl said, but it’s nice to see male customers the rest of the year, too.
The last time we joined Geoff Royer in South America, it was in the run-up to Valentine’s Day. Geoff, area manager, and his uncle Tom Royer, senior vice president and chief operating officer, were checking on the quality of roses being grown just for Royer’s customers for the holiday.
Early October found Geoff and Tom back in South America, half of their time spent at farms and the rest at the big Proflora floral trade show in Bogota, Colombia.
Unlike most florists, Royer’s acts as its own wholesaler, distributing fresh flowers to its 16 stores in seven counties. Dealing directly with growers gives Royer’s more control over costs and quality but warrants a continual presence in South America.
“It’s important to us to look at the farms because that is where we can see if problems are starting to develop,” Geoff said. “It’s also the last place our flowers are before they are boxed up and sent to the U.S.”
Meanwhile, that same desire to stay ahead of events is why Geoff and Tom attended Proflora. As a preview of what’s coming, the show allows Royer’s to be on the forefront of procuring the best products for its customers.
It is held every two years so that floral buyers and growers alike can see what’s new and what’s coming in the floral industry. The show exhibitors range from flower food makers and logistics companies to, of course, breeders and growers.
“It is start to finish what a wholesaler needs to complete their job,” Geoff said.
It’s typical for Royer’s to approach the show with specific goals in mind. This year, the focus was on finding additional growers to meet Royer’s needs for poms and limonium.
Specifically, Geoff said, poms (as is true for other types of flowers) used in arrangements should have long laterals, which is the distance from a flower to its main stem. The longer, the better, in terms of appearance in an arrangement.
“We have a pom grower now that does very well with this, but we are continually looking for who else is growing what we are looking for,” Geoff said.
“With the limonium (also known as caspia), we use a specific variety and are searching for another grower of it. It helps us at holidays to ensure we can get the supply that we need.”
Among the other Proflora highlights:
In the show’s variety competition, one of Royer’s carnation growers, Geoflora, and its breeder, S.B. Talee, won two awards for carnations and one for ranunculus.
Geoff and Tom saw new spray rose varieties. Spray roses typically used to be smaller, Geoff said, with a lower petal count. They didn’t last as long and tended to open very quickly. The new varieties not only have higher petal counts but are much larger. Royer’s potentially can use them in corsage and wedding work or even in vases.
Geoff and Tom also saw several new varieties of red roses. Currently, Royer’s most-used variety is called Freedom. It has a high petal count, and when it opens is just beautiful. Everyone is looking for the next Freedom, Geoff said.
“The most exciting things about the garden roses is the smell,” Geoff said. “In many cases the scent of flowers has been bred out of them. Scent and vase life are typically linked. Garden roses still have the scents and they are typically larger bloom sizes.”
Geoff and Tom will head back to South America early in the new year, ahead of Valentine’s Day, as the cycle repeats itself.
Temperatures go from warm to cool, green leaves turn gold, red, orange.
And just as fall is the season of change in the natural world, it can be in the digital realm, too.
At Royer’s, this fall coincides with the launch of our new website. It’s still at royers.com, of course, but it has a fresh, crisp new look and functionality that should make the shopping experience even more fulfilling. (This look also is evident in our e-blasts and printed fall catalog.)
Among the improvements, both functionally and aesthetically:
The website now features “responsive” design, which means that it adjusts to the size of the browser in which it is viewed. We realize that customers shop online from different-sized screens, from desktop to laptop, tablet to smart phone.
Additional filters help shoppers more readily find what they’re looking for. For instance, instead of just searching by price across all products, it’s now possible to narrow that search by categories. Soon you’ll be able to filter by flower and color, too.
Arrangements are shown bigger and scale according to screen size.
Text is set against transparent colors, allowing more of the background flower images to shine through.
If the curvy page designs have a familiar feel, it’s because they are macro-views of actual flower shapes. The size, color and placement of the shapes are not determined by templates but rather are unique to each layout. This allows the layouts to remain fresh and change with the seasons.
What do you think of our new website? We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below, or let us know the next time you visit one of our stores.
We don’t procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping. In fact, no sooner is one Christmas in the rearview mirror than we start planning for the next one.
It’s not that we’re eager for the passage of time. Rather, we’re beckoned by AmericasMart in Atlanta, which describes itself as the nation’s leading gift, home furnishings and area rug wholesale marketplace.
In Atlanta, we might purchase containers bearing a Christmas decoration, or snowflake or snowman stick-ins to complement an arrangement. We source Christmas décor at AmericasMart but also gifts that customers will give at the holidays, such as a picture frame.
A half-dozen Royer’s representatives visit AmericasMart’s three-building, 7 million-square-foot complex every January, buying gifts and arrangement accents for the next Christmas season, and again in July, when the focus will be on the next spring.
Focus on larger gifts
Jenni Eberly, Royer’s market manager, has made six trips to Atlanta, so she’s a veteran now. But as a first-time visitor, she found the experience daunting.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said, “looking at all that merchandise set out in the displays. Because then you have to take these huge displays and then pick out what you’re going to buy.”
As vast as AmericasMart is, Royer’s spends most of its time on five floral and holiday floors. In July, the group arrived in Atlanta on a Wednesday and worked through Friday. The pace is constant, and even lunch and dinner conversation turns to what each of them has seen from vendors.
Geoff Royer, whose great-grandparents started Royer’s, coordinates the Atlanta trips. He sets up meetings with specific vendors. He also arms each member of the Royer’s delegation with a folder that identifies, by holiday, items on their shopping list.
The needs range from broad to specific. In January, some of the focus was on larger gifts, such as clocks, afghans and pillows that are relatively new for Royer’s. In July, one of the goals was to find new versions of a heart stick-in and accent ribbon to give a new look to an existing arrangement.
Erica Bixby, Royer’s store manager in Lebanon, has been to Atlanta three times. With experience, she has learned to think beyond the initial appeal of new products to identify how they will work in Royer’s stores.
How will they complement other items, and will they work given the price at which they will have to sell, including once freight costs are factored in?
Something might look nice, Erica suggested, “but you can’t really sell it for $50.”
Moments of inspiration
Technology has made it easier to document the trips. Photos taken with a tablet or smart phone are invaluable for jogging memories. After all, Christmas giftware purchased in January won’t arrive until summer or fall.
Photos also capture moments of inspiration.
“I have a bunch of things that I liked for silks,” Erica said, with an eye toward Royer’s crafting similar arrangements in-house rather than buying them already made.
“Or I take pictures of displays that I’d like to duplicate in the stores,” Jenni added.
On her phone, Jenni pulled up a photo showing how one vendor used eye hooks and ropes to display pillows.
“It’s up, it’s still in the display, but it’s out of the way,” Jenni said, noting that pillows are vulnerable in a flower shop, where the need to water plants is constant.
One week after returning from the July trip, Erica and Jenni were in Royer’s central design department in Lebanon. Looking around them, at tables filled with arrangements being created or revamped for fall debuts, they estimated that 30 percent of the items were from Atlanta.
“That container, that container, that container,” Jenni said, pointing at specific arrangements. “That vase. Those deer [figures]. Those are all things that we picked up in January.”
Royer’s received the honors, but it’s you, our valued customers, who deserve the applause.
Thanks to you, we continue to be recognized on multiple “best of” lists compiled by area media outlets.
“We’re thrilled when we are voted the best in the communities we serve, but we’ve always stopped short of asking for someone to vote for us,” said Greg Royer, president and CEO. “We’d rather win on our everyday activities, which makes it truly an honor that our customers recognize us in these ways.”
Among this year’s honors: “Best of Lebanon Valley”/Lebanon Daily News
Royer’s was named the top florist for the fifth year in a row. “Best of Harrisburg”/Susquehanna Style In its June issue, the magazine named Royer’s “best florist.” “Best of York”/York Sunday News This year’s survey received more than 16,000 ballots, including 5,800 in the florist category. Said the newspaper: “Looking for the perfect centerpiece for your next event oracustom arrangement for your upcoming wedding? Look no further than these favorite York-area florists. Family-owned Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is the first place winner for its wide selection and dedication to meeting customers’ needs.”
There are lots of statistics out there about the economic benefits of buying local. When you buy from locally owned stores, the money stays in your community and puts your neighbors to work.
It’s true whether you spend your money at a local restaurant, hardware store or florist.
Speaking of flowers, buying directly from a local florist rather than through a national wire service such as FTD (which last year bought ProFlowers) or Teleflora can put money back in your pocket, too.
That’s because the wire services are middlemen, adding another layer of charges that consumers pay for without realizing any added value in return. The wire services are marketing companies that hand orders over to local florists, who make the arrangements and deliver them to your home or office.
CNN Money, in a story timed to Valentine’s Day 2013, noted how FTD had advertised a glass vase with roses and mini-carnations for $44.99. However, to send that arrangement to Reno, Nev., FTD’s service charge bumped to price to $65.
By comparison, that same arrangement ordered directly from a Reno florist: $53.
“If all orders came in this way, our business would not be sustainable,” the florist said.
Of course, this begs the question of why they stick with the wire services if florists have trouble making money on incoming orders.
Greg Royer, president and CEO of Royer’s, said that FTD and Teleflora are generally well regarded; they have been in business since 1910 and 1934, respectively.
“We also want to be able to send orders to other florists, so accepting orders via the wire services is only fair play,” he said.
However, he noted that from a consumer perspective, it’s a better deal to work with a local florist. You’ll be dealing with the same people who are going to arrange and deliver your flowers.
And you’ll avoid the added fees associated with the wire services.