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We celebrate ‘Mom’ every day at Royer’s Flowers

Hannah “Mom” Royer and husband, Lester, the founders of Royer’s Flowers & Gifts.

Her friends called her “Hanny” or “Beckie” back in 1922 when Hannah Sherman of Myerstown, Lebanon County, was a senior at Elizabethtown College.

Born in 1901, Hannah was a member of the college’s Homerian Literary Society, participated in chorus and glee club, played tennis and baseball.

“What can be more pleasing than a young lady who is virtuous and adorned with womanly graces?” read the text beneath her senior photo in the Etonian yearbook. “She is always pleasant and scatters sunshine wherever she goes.”

Hannah was pursuing a two-year “pedagogical course” to become a teacher at a time when mandatory school attendance laws were driving demand for educators and providing a new career opportunity for women.

‘She will bring joy’

“We predict for her a successful future, for we know that her whole heart will be in her work, whatever it may be,” the yearbook concluded, “and she will bring joy into the lives of the friends she meets.”

Hannah would become a first-grade teacher, marry classmate Lester Royer of Black Rock, Md., and raise a family. She would assume a new nickname, “Mom,” and prove the Etonian remarkably prescient.

But teaching wasn’t her true calling. Hannah, whose remarkable life would see her to age 96, would put her whole heart into the floral business. Her enduring legacy is Royer’s Flowers & Gifts, which has become one of the most successful flower shops in American history.

Hannah and Lester, a high school biology teacher, married in 1925 and had their first child in 1929, the year of the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression. By 1937, they had three children and were living on Lester’s salary alone.

Both Hannah and Lester, known as “Pop,” had grown up on farms. At their Lebanon home, they grew enough produce to help feed their family and sell some to neighbors for additional income.

Their son Ken, in his book “Retailing Flowers Profitably,” said Hannah “expanded our crop selection to include African violets, which she grew on her windowsills.

“The violets were sold at first by our next-door neighbor, who worked in a garment factory in Lebanon … . The addition of violets made our business a year-round enterprise rather than a summer-only produce business.”

Patient and persistent

Ken, who would follow his parents into the family floral business, noted that his mother started selling flowers at local farmers markets, refusing to let the initially tepid response wilt her will. Hannah, whom Ken described as patient and persistent, kept going back until business picked up.

“I have often reflected on this sequence and decided that my mother’s decision to go back after that first dismal experience was probably the most important event in the development of the business we now enjoy,” Ken wrote.

By 1945, having fielded requests for cut flowers, Mom Royer concluded that she needed training in floral arranging. Off she went to a two-week course in Gloucester, Mass.

Upon her return, the family converted the two-car garage behind its house into the South Side Flower Shop. The store operated from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, but after-hours customers could summon Hannah with a bell that rang in the family home.

Lester ultimately would join the business full-time, operating the greenhouses while Hannah ran the retail store.

Lester was a lay minister in their church, which Ken said was “always his first love. Business was not a source of inspiration or an emotional stimulation to him. Mom was the driving force behind the business.”

Hannah and Lester sold the business, renamed Royer’s Flowers, to their sons Ken and Glenn in the 1950s. With 16 stores in south-central and eastern Pennsylvania and three location in the Columbus, Ohio, area, the business remains under family ownership.

Ken’s sons Greg, who is chairman, and Tom, president and CEO, represent the third generation. They were later joined by Greg’s sons Andrew and Geoff, who serve as vice presidents. More of the fourth generation is waiting in the wings as cousins Tommy Royer and Evan Royer are pursuing business degrees in college with plans of joining the family business.

To put that into perspective, according to the Conway Center for Family Business in Ohio, only 3 percent of family businesses operate at the fourth-generation level and beyond.

Mother’s Day comes but once a year, but every day that Royer’s Flowers & Gifts operates is a celebration of the legacy of Hannah “Mom” Royer.

M is for Mother’s Day and a morning on abc27

Karissa Shatzer of abc27 is live with Barry Spengler, Royer's vice president of operations, at our Camp Hill store.
Karissa Shatzer of abc27 is live with Barry Spengler, Royer’s vice president of operations.

Having completed three live segments and starting her fourth, abc27’s Karissa Shatzer knew a lot more about Mother’s Day flower options than when she began.
What she didn’t know was which one(s) she liked best.
“Well, after this, it might be even harder to choose because there’s so much here,” she told viewers.
Shatzer interviewed Barry Spengler, Royer’s vice president of operations, at our Camp Hill store on May 4, 2015.
Among the options Barry offered:

  • Silk arrangements, which are good for people who suffer from allergies;
  • Cut-flower arrangement, already made, for $15 to $30;
  • Dendrobium orchids, which are popular for proms, too;
  • Rose bunch, which Mom can design and arrange;
  • Gerbera daisies.

“That’s a really popular flower,” Barry said. “We sell an awful lot of Gerbera daisies.”
You can see more suggestions by watching the entire segment: