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News coverage of Royer’s Flowers gets to the heart of Valentine’s Day preparation

Dan Gleiter, photographer with the Patriot-News/Pennlive, shoots video interview with Geoff Royer, vice president of central operations.

Geoff Royer had been on the go for days, including an annual pre-Valentine’s Day trip to South America to check up on Royer’s rose crop.

But on this day, Geoff’s near-constant movement was confined to Royer’s corporate complex in Lebanon, specifically the central design department where teams of associates gathered around long tables to hand-craft arrangements for the company’s 16 stores in seven counties.

Yet Geoff, vice president of central operations, stopped long enough for a brief interview with Patriot-News/Pennlive photographer Dan Gleiter.

“We’ll do about 27,000 arrangements for the holiday,” Geoff explained, the room bustling behind him. “Fifteen thousand or so of those will be roses. We’ll also do mixed bouquets, rose bunches and loose flowers, as well. We’ll do about 10,000 deliveries on Valentine’s Day itself.”

The interview and a photo gallery can be viewed on Pennlive. Meanwhile, several photos appeared in the Patriot-News print edition on Feb. 12.

Helping the heroes

Meanwhile, PBS39’s Berks County reporter Brittany Sweeney visited Royer’s Reading store for her look at Valentine’s Day. She spoke with Jenni Eberly, Royer’s market manager in Berks County.

“With the vases prepped and the flowers pruned,” Sweeney began her story, “less than a week out, Valentine’s Day hustle is under way.”

“This is our Super Bowl,” Jenni explained. “We get very excited.”

She explained how Geoff and his uncle, CEO Tom Royer, painstakingly review their specific flower crop at farms in South America and then follow the shipment as it makes its way through U.S. customs in Miami and onto tractor-trailers for the ride to Lebanon.

“Because even though we’re dealing with this huge volume, we don’t ever want to sacrifice quality,” Jenni said.

That volume totals a half-million roses and carnations at Valentine’s Day. Each one of those roses is “individually touched and cleaned and the thorns stripped, any of the bad petals peeled off so the roses look perfect for their arrival to the customer’s home.”

Asked what he was purchasing, customer Robert Latshaw said: “Definitely roses because I think that’s what everybody wants. Stick with tradition, right?”

Despite the volume, the flowers pass through Royer’s in short order.

“It comes in and goes out very quickly, and at the end we’re helping a lot of people be heroes to their loved ones,” Jenni said. “It’s great.”

You can view the PBS39 story here.

Just like Jack: Become a seasonal independent delivery driver for Valentine’s Day

Jack O’Hara started with Royer’s for Valentine’s Day in 2015.

It took more than 40 years of playing golf, but Jack O’Hara recorded his first hole-in-one on June 5, 2018.

He was part of a foursome participating in a senior men’s league at Spring Creek Golf Course in Hershey. They were on the eighth hole.

“Hit the green about four inches behind the hole, [the ball] curled around, dropped in,” he said. “That was really fun. We all just kind of jumped and started screaming.”

At 65, O’Hara still brings plenty of youthful enthusiasm to his job as a seasonal independent delivery driver for Royer’s. He has been with Royer’s since Valentine’s Day 2015, having responded to a newspaper help-wanted ad shortly after moving to the area from Richmond, Va., with his wife, Terrie.

“I love doing this,” he said one afternoon at the start of his shift. He was wearing boots, jeans, a fleece jacket and a ball cap.

O’Hara spent 40 years in the printing industry, during which he was a customer service manager overseeing 19 customer service representatives in five states. Covering that much territory meant plenty of time behind the wheel, time that he put to good use.

“A lot of windshield time, a lot of time to put your mind together, reflect, and think about how you can make someone’s day,” he said. “Customer service has always been one of my things that I’m really proud of.”

‘Instant love affair’

He credited his father, who was a funeral director in Pleasant Mount, Pa., for teaching him customer service and other skills. As a customer service representative himself, O’Hara worked on major accounts from across the country.

“You learn how to treat people,” he said. “You treat people well, that will come back on you 100 times. I always taught my CSRs to think positively. If your day starts off bad, it’s OK, start it over. It’s not the end of the world. There’s no issue or error that cannot be fixed. Forty years, I’ve been able to bring that with me.”

From his first Valentine’s Day with Royer’s, he said, “It was an instant love affair for myself. I wanted to do something. I’d been looking around. Being new the community, this opportunity helped me to learn a lot about the area, the community, and meet a lot of people.

“A lot of people that I deliver to, I deliver to maybe two or three times a year,” he said. “And it’s always great to go back and see someone, say hi.”

That first year, he also worked at Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. More recently, the store has needed him on additional occasions. He typically works three-hour shifts for Royer’s. (During the golfing season, he also works in the pro shop at Spring Creek Golf Course.)

He offered this endorsement to anyone interested in becoming a seasonal independent delivery driver for Royer’s:

“If you’re looking to do something, and if you’re the type of person that likes to meet people, talk to people, and help people out, I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s something people should at least check out. I really find it very fulfilling. If you can bring some joy into someone’s life, I think that means a lot.”

If you or someone you know would like additional information about seasonal independent delivery driver opportunities, please call or stop by your nearest Royer’s store and ask for the delivery room manager.

Be like Liz: Join Royer’s as a holiday helper for Valentine’s Day

Liz Bazewicz has been a holiday helper in Hershey for some 15 years.

Liz Bazewicz still marvels at what she saw that first winter some 15 years ago when she first joined Royer’s Flowers as a holiday helper.

“The volume,” she said. “I had no idea what was involved in putting together Valentine’s Day.”

As Cupid comes calling once again, Royer’s is counting on seasonal mainstays such as Bazewicz to augment its regular staff during what amounts to the floral industry’s version of the Super Bowl.

Royer’s has a range of holiday helper openings with flexible hours available at royers.com/careers.

Bazewicz initially was drawn to Royer’s at a point when her three children were sufficiently grown and she wasn’t needed at home all day.

“I was bored, and the opportunity arose [with Royer’s],” she said. “I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for Valentine’s Day, and I knew I loved being around flowers, so I thought I’d give it a try.”

‘Real camaraderie’

Bazewicz has always worked at the Hershey store. She’s a fixture at major holidays and during homecoming season, primarily to wrap orders but also to help with any number of other behind-the-scenes tasks.

“I am still amazed at the planning and the organization that it takes to pull off these holidays,” she said, “and how successfully they do it. Speaking more than three weeks before Valentine’s Day, she noted that Royer’s already was in production for the holiday.

“It’s such an incredible well-oiled machine in terms of timing and personnel and getting everything done in a timely fashion so that there are no crises,” she said.

Asked what she likes most about her job, Bazewicz cited teamwork.

“Anybody that’s coming in new is going to be trained properly on what needs to be done,” she said. “They don’t have to feel like they’re going to be left alone to figure it out on their own. It’s well orchestrated.

“And we have fun. We really, honestly do. We joke around. And because people are so helpful toward me, I try to be so helpful toward them. So there’s a real camaraderie that I feel is really important. I literally wouldn’t come back if I didn’t feel cared about.”

Bazewicz, 61, noted that floral work is fast-paced and physically challenging.

“Number one, you are on your legs all day long, period, amen, end of story,” she said. “And there is lifting, there’s no question about that. And if you’re not comfortable or able to do that amount of lifting, then certainly you ask for help.”

It’s good, hard work for someone who wants to be physically active, Bazewicz said, that brings with it a deep sense of satisfaction.

“To be a part of this process where you can pull this off is almost an amazing accomplishment,” she said. “You need to be prepared to work hard. But I think it’s very rewarding. A job well done.”

Valentine’s Day: from field to front door

Making a rose arrangement in central design department in Lebanon.

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.

 

 

 

 

Back in Bogota for the big Proflora trade show

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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.

Specific goals

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.
  • Garden roses also are becoming more popular, mostly for weddings and event work. Alexandra Farms, a group Royer’s is just starting to work with, grows multiple varieties of garden roses. These include David Austin varieties, named for the renowned English breeder whose roses are regaled for their beauty and scent.

“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.

The making of our ‘Thoughts of You’ arrangement

Among the thousands of Valentine’s Day arrangements we’ll be making this year is one called Thoughts of You, which this team was handcrafting in our central design department in Lebanon.

This arrangement features shades of pink comprising a rose, alstroemeria, carnations and mini carnations, as well as lavender button poms and stems of bupleurum, all contained in a 5.5-inch pink mason jar.

To send one to someone you love, click here.

 

Postcard from South America: Day 3

Day 3 found Tom Royer and Geoff Royer again in Bogota, again inspecting Valentine’s Day roses, this time at the Multiflora farm.

“The quality was very good from what we saw,” Geoff said. “It’s impossible to look at every bunch we get, but we make sure we go through the process with them about the cut point, again.”

As noted in our Day 2 entry, cut point is crucial. It’s the stage in a flower’s life when it is cut from the plant. The cut point has to be just right to ensure that our customers get the best quality and most value from their flowers.

Multiflora has invested in its processes to make them more accurate and efficient. Workers used to grade flowers in the field, so it was not as accurate as it could be, Geoff said.

Now the only thing they do in the field is sort the roses, long-stem vs. short stem. Now there’s a post-harvest building where the roses are graded more accurately, prepped and packed in boxes for shipping to customers such as Royer’s.

Multiflora now cools its loading dock, so there is no break in the “cold chain” between the post-harvest building, the loading dock, and the refrigerated trucks that will transport the roses to the airport.

“The better that flowers can be kept cold, the longer they will last throughout the process and for our customers,” Geoff said.

Multiflora is switching to a hydroponic growing system, so the plants are growing in raised beds rather than directly in the ground. This gives the farm more control over the nutrients the plants receive — and increases the yield by 50 percent.

Headed for home

Tom and Geoff also visited the Hossa farm, which provides us with spray roses (multiple small blooms per stem). But the focus of this stop was Hossa’s lilies.

Hossa has developed new varieties that produce more blooms per stem. And like Multiflora, Hossa has improved its processes, namely packing.

“They tightened the lilies into the boxes better so during transport they don’t shift,” Geoff said. “If the lilies shift in the boxes, it damages the buds and leaves bruising and creasing once the flowers open up.”

Their farm tours completed, Tom and Geoff are going their separate ways. Tom will fly to Miami for another inspection of the Valentine’s Day shipments, ensuring the highest quality before the flowers are packed on our truck for delivery to our Lebanon distribution center.

Geoff is headed back to Pennsylvania, arriving in Lebanon in time for the start of Valentine’s Day production Saturday in our central design department.

There, teams of Royer’s employees will handcraft thousands of holiday arrangements using the roses, carnations and other Colombian-grown flowers that Geoff and Tom saw firsthand only days earlier.

Postcard from South America: Day 2

We started Tom Royer and nephew Geoff Royer’s trip to Colombia, South America, in the city of Medellin. Day 2 found them some 335 miles southwest in Bogota, the nation’s capital.

Bogota sits in the center of Colombia, on a high-altitude plateau that provides year-round steady temperatures that help make it one of the world’s great flower-growing regions.

Tom and Geoff visited two more farms. The first was Elite, one of the largest growers in Bogota and our source mainly for roses and alstroemeria (lilies).

“Today was an inspection day,” Geoff said. “We examined some of our roses and discussed the cut point of the flowers.”

The cut point is, as the term suggests, the stage in the flower’s life cycle at which it is cut from the plant. There is an art to this, as we have to factor in the amount of time from farm, through customs in Miami, to our distribution center, to our stores and, finally, to our customers.

“Roses cut too open will blow open more quickly and not last as long,” Geoff said. “Roses cut too tight may not open at all. We are very critical of this part of the process and work with the growers to ensure that they have our cut points correct so we can provide the best possible product to our customers.”

While Elite has machines to help newer employees with grading the roses for head size and length, all of Royer’s roses are hand-graded by Elite’s experienced crews to ensure the best quality.

From Elite, Tom and Geoff visited the Geoflora farm, a carnation grower whose quality, Geoff said, is second to none. Besides inspecting the mini-carnations and carnations that Geoflora is growing for us for Valentine’s Day, they got a glimpse at some of the new products the farm is developing with its breeder.

“They have developed a carnation head size that is almost in a class of its own,” Geoff said.

 

 

Drivers wanted: earn up up to $100 per day making Valentine’s Day deliveries

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You could be Cupid’s wingman for a day or two.

Royer’s is seeking independent drivers to help with Valentine’s Day deliveries on Feb. 13 and 14, with the potential to earn as much as $100 per day.

Candidates must have:

  • Your own appropriate vehicle, such as a van, station wagon or hatchback
  • A valid driver license
  • Proof of car insurance
  • Familiarity with the local area

For more information, call or stop by your nearest Royer’s store and ask for the delivery room manager.

Postcard from South America: Medellin flower farms

While they’re getting ready to play a big football game in Houston, Royer’s is gearing up for its version of the Super Bowl with our annual pre-Valentine’s Day trip to South America.

Tom Royer, our senior vice president and chief operating officer, has been making the trip for decades. In recent years, he has been joined by his nephew, Geoffrey Royer, who is a Royer’s area manager.

Their trek allows them to ensure that the roses and other Valentine’s Day flowers growing specifically for our customers are of the highest quality.

Day 1 found Tom and Geoff at the Liberty and Mira Monte farms in Medellin, Colombia, from which Royer’s mainly purchases daisies and cushion poms.

“The thing I took from today was how very technical it all is and the precision and detail needed to make it all work correctly,” Geoff said.

Conversation at both farms turned to propagation, or the process from seed to mother plants from which cuttings are taken. The cuttings beget plugs that are planted into vast beds and become the flowers we buy.

Planting for Mother’s Day

Geoff noted that while we’re focused on Valentine’s Day, the farms are planting for Mother’s Day.

“Planting any later than the next week or so could cause the crop to be too late for Mother’s Day,” Geoff said.

He noted the multiple variables that play roles in how flowers develop, from minerals such as phosphorus and potassium to sunlight and temperature.

Whatever their current products, the farms aren’t resting on their laurels. They work with breeders to create the varieties of flowers that Royer’s and other florists purchase.

“It’s not a simple process,” Geoff said. “Hundreds of thousands of seeds are gone through and test to see which ones produce plants and products that could be valued in the marketplace.

“They are then propagated and tested over time to see if they have issues with disease or how well they produce. If they have a winner, it takes time to then create enough cuttings to have a large enough production to make an impact.”