Our Columbia store, which serves Mountville, entered Royer’s classic 1969 Ford Econoline delivery van in the procession. Store manager Patti Barclay and her team walked beside the van and handed out 400 carnations to spectators.
Royer’s Camp Hill store won a multi-year contract to service the new hospital as well as the established Harrisburg Hospital and Community General Osteopathic Hospital. The partnership began April 1.
“It’s just been extremely good the whole time,” said Joan Line, manager for PinnacleHealth Auxiliary.
She works closely with the Camp Hill store’s Holly Newpower, manager, and Aimee Arrowood, assistant manager. Royer’s delivers flowers at various price points to the hospitals every week, but Line also has been impressed with how requests have been accommodated on weekends.
“If a family comes in and wants a special arrangement,” she said, “all we have to do is call Holly and Amy and they will bring it in.”
PinnacleHealth’s gift shops are open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
What’s more, PinnacleHealth Auxiliary’s website includes an online gift shop, and orders placed there are filled by Royer’s. Or if customers buy flowers on Royer’s website that are destined for a PinnacleHealth hospital, Royer’s gives a small percentage of each sale back to PinnacleHealth Auxiliary.
The nonprofit PinnacleHealth Auxiliary manages the three gift shops. All of the proceeds from the gift shops come back to the hospitals to support various programs and services.
Holly, Royer’s manager in Camp Hill, called the PinnacleHealth Auxiliary partnership “a huge deal” for her store.
“More than just selling flowers,” she said, “it’s benefitting the community, too.”
Added PinnacleHealth’s Line: “It’s just a good match.”
Meanwhile, six other Royer’s stores service eight other area hospital gift shops:
Our Google search for “flowers hershey, pa” returned several sponsored links from what appear to be local florists.
On one website, there’s this message: “Hershey, Pennsylvania Flower Delivery by our local florist to Hershey TODAY!”
The owner of that website is in Michigan.
On the home page of another of the websites is this: “Best Hershey, PA Same Day Flower Delivery!” The page lists Hershey-area hotels, schools, funeral homes. It even includes a Hershey weather forecast.
The company behind that website is out of New Jersey.
They take orders and then broker them to local florists or even ship the flowers (unarranged, of course) via UPS or FedEx. These DOGs, which operate year-round, are hunting for your Mother’s Day order. And if they get it, they’ll likely take a bite out of your wallet that will exceed what you would have paid by working with your local florist to place the order.
The order gatherer will entice you with deals that look great but, upon closer inspection, probably aren’t.
In almost all cases, the order gatherers present their flowers at discounted prices. A tulip bouquet valued at $81.99 is shown as marked down to $44.99, for instance. They also tend to upsell, so that when you select a standard or regular arrangement it defaults to a “deluxe” (read: more expensive) version.
Costly commissions and fees
On one order gather’s website, the home page featured a “best seller” arrangement of lilies, roses and alstroemeria valued at $34.99 but discounted to $27.99. When we clicked on it, our selection instead chose the deluxe version: valued at $44.99 but with a “Google discount” of $9 that put the total at $35.99.
At checkout, there was a $2.99 charge for same-day delivery – and a service/handling fee of $14.99. Our total was $53.97 even with the so-called Google discount.
Order gatherers typically deduct a 20 percent commission and other fees from orders, according to the Inquirer article. So if a flower order is valued at $44.99, that leaves less than $36 for the local florist, who then must deduct his delivery fee. Pretty soon, that $44.99 worth of flowers is maybe only a $28 value or less to the customer.
“It’s a no-win situation,” the Inquirer noted of this practice. The florist “can either fill the full order and lose money, or substitute a cheaper arrangement and risk consumer outrage.”
Let your local florist help
Either way, it might not be a risk worth taking when it comes to the impression you wish to make on the recipient. If you have a strong and trusting relationship with your local florist, then why not let them help you with an out-of-town flower delivery?
Reputable florists will make sure you get the value and quality that you deserve on your long-distance orders. After all, they want to be treated fairly when they are on the receiving end of orders.
The deceptive order gatherers, on the other hand, extract high service and delivery fees – only to hand off the order to someone else.
Another one of the order gatherers we examined offered same-day delivery of a gerbera arrangement valued at $49.99 but discounted to $29.99. Then another offer appeared, lowering the price to $9.99. But a service charge of $19.99 and a handling charge of $10.50 brought the total to $40.48.
The order gatherer won’t earn those fees, and you won’t get what you paid for.
When it comes to flowers, these DOGs aren’t man’s best friend.
“Where will I wander and wonder? Nobody knows But wherever I`m going I`ll go In search of a Rose”
–From the song “In Search of a Rose” by The Waterboys
Just after Labor Day, Tom Royer is going in search of a certain type of rose.
“We don’t want a rose,” said Tom, Royer’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. “We want a rose. We want the best rose and that’s what we need to do to be competitive in our business, is find the best of the best.
“We pride ourselves in doing that. Our flowers last longer, they’re bigger. We constantly have to be looking at all the things that are available to us to make what we do in the flower business better than what anybody else does.”
In some ways, this is nothing new. Tom is always in pursuit of better-looking, longer-lasting flowers.
“I’m constantly looking at farms,” Tom said. “It’s just now that the focus has been more on Ecuadoran roses.”
Specifically, he is looking for roses that have bigger head sizes, consistently. It costs more to ship fresh-cut roses from Quito than from Bogota, Colombia, the single-biggest source of Royer’s roses.
“So all things being equal, why would you buy from Quito?” Tom said.
“Well, Ecuadoran roses have always had a little bigger head size, and we’re focusing more and more on that.”
While its farms are capable of growing roses comparable to what is found in Quito, Bogota experiences more rain and clouds that can be detrimental to head size.
One of the growers that Royer’s buys from in Colombia also operates farms in Quito.
“And so we’re getting some of their Ecuadoran farm’s (roses)” and comparing with the ones from Bogota. “And the thing you see is the head size is bigger.”
Tom’s trip will help him determine which one or two farms in Quito he will work with.
“But we’re experimenting with them because you can’t just get a shipment and say, oh, OK, great, this is wonderful or it’s terrible. One shipment doesn’t tell the story. You have to do it over a number of months.”
And even then it’s a never-ending process.
“But wherever I`m going I`ll go In search of a Rose”
Wherever he’s going, Tom is in search of a rose, too. The best rose he can find.
Retailers and consumers might count down the number of shopping days left until the holidays. At Esbenshade’s Greenhouses Inc. in Lancaster County, it’s a calendar of growing days.
One of the 100 biggest greenhouse operations in the United States, family-owned Esbenshade’s is a significant grower of poinsettias. Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is one of Esbenshade’s biggest poinsettia customers, to the tune of 30,000 plants each year.
In order for Royer’s to have poinsettias to sell starting around Thanksgiving, Esbenshade’s has to start growing the traditional Christmas plants during the summer.
In fact, poinsettias account for 75 percent of Esbenshade’s summer workload and 15 to 20 percent of the company’s annual sales. Esbenshade’s sells poinsettias to customers throughout Pennsylvania and into surrounding states and sometimes as far away as Boston.
This helps to explain why Roger Esbenshade, the company’s president, has a young poinsettia spilled out on a desk in his air-conditioned office in mid-July, when the outside temperature is approaching 90 degrees.
A computer controls when mist sprays on young poinsettia plants.
Three stages of root growth on poinsettia cuttings.
Poinsettias grown for the 2012 holiday season.
He has been looking at the plant’s roots under a microscope, “to make sure nothing funny is going on.” Besides proper root development, he tests for levels of pH and fertilizer in the “growing medium,” a mixture of composted bark, peat and the mineral perlite, which appears as tiny white rocks.
“If you wait until the plant itself starts to show the problem, then it’s usually much wider spread and much more difficult to make a correction,” Esbenshade said.
His parents – Lamar and Nancy – founded the company in 1960. Today, Esbenshade and brothers Fred, Scott and Terry own and operate the wholesale business from a complex of buildings on Route 322 just north of Lititz. A sister (there are seven siblings in all) works part-time for the company.
Every week throughout most of the summer, Esbenshade’s receives poinsettia cuttings from three different suppliers. These cuttings are two and one-half inch stems that will become the hundreds of thousands of poinsettias that Esbenshade’s will nurture in its greenhouses.
The cuttings have no roots; those will come in short order but only after Esbenshade’s workers stick them into the bark-peat-perlite mixture in pots. (Esbenshade’s also grows starter plants for other growers; these roots develop in a foam cube). The plants will stay in these pots right up until they are delivered to Royer’s.
The pots are in Esbenshade’s “Gilbert” greenhouse, which is named in memory of an employee who died. They are lined up, row upon row, on tables and under automated misters.
A pinch to unleash potential
A cutting by itself is fragile: left in the sun for 20 minutes, Esbenshade said, it will die. Regular misting is necessary for the cuttings to sprout roots. A computer considers plant and air temperature, humidity, light intensity to determine each burst of mist for each table.
It takes four weeks for the plant roots to grow fully. At that point, Esbenshade’s “pinches” – snapping off the tip – the cutting to force lateral branch growth. Everywhere there is a leaf is the potential to grow a new stem. This potential is unleashed by the pinching.
“There’s a hormonal change in that plant that stimulates that growth,” Esbenshade said.
At up to 100 degrees, poinsettias will grow faster the higher the temperature. Above 100 degrees, growth tapers.
Red poinsettias are the traditional variety and account for 70 percent of the plants the company grows, although they come in many varieties and sizes. When asked what his favorite variety is, Esbenshade at first quipped:
“By December 25th, my personal favorite is an empty greenhouse.”
Really it’s the “marble star,” whose leaves (or bracts) feature a “bold pink center” and white edges, Esbenshade said.
Esbenshade’s follows strict growing schedules to ensure that it produces the highest-quality plants it can for Royer’s, which holds Esbenshade’s to exacting standards. What’s more, Royer’s is based just 15 miles away in Lebanon, which makes it easy for co-owners Mike Royer or Tom Royer to get a first-hand look at the crop.
Variety (some grow faster than others) and hoped-for size determine the growing schedule.
“If we want a plant that’s 30 inches tall, then we have to start that in June,” Esbenshade said. “If we want one that’s 8 inches tall, that doesn’t get started until August.”
It’s possible to force faster growth, but then the plant lacks the stem strength and big bracts that distinguish the Esbenshade’s plants from, say, the poinsettias found at big-box retailers.
“It has to look different,” Esbenshade said of his company’s poinsettia crop. “The average consumer has to recognize that it’s something substantially different. We don’t try to explain to them that it’s different, we grow something that they recognize is different.”