Noah Gingrich went trick-or-treating with his young cousins on Halloween night.
By the next morning, temperatures having devilishly dipped into the 30s, he was placing a sleigh and two reindeer in front of Royer’s flagship store in Lebanon. It was the start of an eight-day process of decorating the company’s 16 stores in seven counties for the holiday season.
An employee in Royer’s Flowers wholesale department, Noah has been the lead holiday decorator for the past three years, readying store exteriors with toy soldier statues, wreaths and garlands, string lights on bushes and trees.
Two of those trees are mighty sycamores that flank the Lebanon store’s driveway. On the left side, staple gun in hand and ladder at the ready, Noah wound nine courses of lights around the trunk.
“And there’s one tree,” he pronounced as the final staple clicked into place.
Decking the halls is a decades-long tradition for family-owned Royer’s, now in the hands of its third and fourth generations. One of the latter is Geoff Royer, vice president of central operations, who oversaw the work in Lebanon and that afternoon at the Hershey store.
“It definitely dresses the stores up for the holidays,” Geoff said. “And nobody really does this any more to the scale that we do it, so it does make us stand out.”
It’s a significant undertaking, involving other members of the wholesale department and employees at every store.
Before Noah arrived, the stores were tasked with stripping old sets of string lights from garland, attaching new ones and generally fluffing greenery that has been in storage for the previous 11 months.
Brenda Yordy, a Lebanon driver, working at an outside table, used a pair of wire cutters to extract the lights.
“Easier than untangling them, right?” she said. Later, she was joined in the task by store manager Melissa Fahr.
It took two people to carry each of four sections of a metal bell arch from storage to the front of the Lebanon store, on South 12th Street.
“It’s a beast,” said chief operating officer Cheryl Brill.
In previous years, the arch spanned the doorway, attached to decorative wooden beams. This year, with the beams newly clad in metal, no one wanted to risk scratching them.
So, the team instead affixed the arch, with its bells of red, green and white, above the Royer’s sign to the left of the beams, securing it with hooks and wire to the red-brick building. They placed a trumpeting soldier statue beneath the arch.
Selfies in Hershey
By afternoon, Noah and Geoff were working their Christmas magic 12 miles west at the Hershey store, which enjoys a prominent corner spot on West Chocolate Avenue, downtown’s main thoroughfare.
Several stores have enough storage space to hang on to their large exterior decorations year-round. For those that don’t, such as Hershey, their larger pieces are kept at Royer’s headquarters in Lebanon and delivered to them by Noah in a box truck.
Hershey store manager Andrea Campbell and assistant manager Alexi Strine were excited about turning their store’s sleigh into a selfie station. They moved the sleigh closer to the front door than in past years to make it more accessible to customers.
To be sure, the holiday season requires weeks of hard work, store decorating being just the start. In the floral industry, Christmas sales are on a par with Valentine’s Day but spread out over a period that’s three times longer.
Poinsettias require prudent watering, low centerpieces with shallow water wells can be sloshy, and fresh evergreen branches can be sticky. And glitter is seemingly everywhere.
“But we’re making everyone really happy,” Andrea said. “We make so many people so happy.”
One customer has followed Andrea from her first stint in Hershey, to the Harrisburg East store, back to Hershey. Every Christmas, the woman brings in silver pedestal bowls to be filled with greens, berries and roses that she gifts to family members.
“There’s a lot of sentimental things that are happening,” Andrea said. “Then you really feel like you are part of this super-special moment for this family. And I think that’s cool.”