skip to main content

We celebrate ‘Mom’ every day at Connells Maple Lee

Hannah “Mom” Royer and husband, Lester, the founders of Connells Maple Lee’s sister company in Pennsylvania.

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

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 Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts and sister company Royer’s Flowers & Gifts in Pennsylvania, which together constitute 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 three stores in the Columbus area and 16 stores in south-central and eastern Pennsylvania, 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 Columbus, 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 Connells Maple Lee and Royer’s operate is a celebration of the legacy of Hannah “Mom” Royer.

Don’t let ‘DOGs’ take a bite out of your Mother’s Day order

Our Google search for “flowers, columbus, ohio” returned a couple of sponsored links from what appear to be local florists.
On one website, there’s this message: “Columbus, Ohio Flower Delivery by our local florist to Columbus TODAY!”
What might not be clear is that the owner of that website is in Michigan.

‘Deceptive order gatherer’

The company is what is known in the floral industry as an “order gatherer,” or sometimes derided as a “deceptive order gatherer,” or DOG, as described in a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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.

An order gatherer will entice you with deals that look great but, upon closer inspection, probably aren’t.
In almost all cases, 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.

We’ll handle your long-distance Mother’s Day order

Flowers are a time-honored way of letting mom know just how much you love her. But sending flowers long distance can be confusing and sometimes disappointing, especially if you are not familiar with the process and some of the pitfalls.
The Internet has given rise to thousands of flower-delivery options. But how do you know you’re really getting a good price and high-quality service? And will the flowers arrive on time?
That great price might not be so great
Many websites touting great prices show you a gorgeous arrangement – only to deliver a bunch of flowers in a box that mom still has to put in a vase. In many cases, what is delivered is similar to what you’ll find in a grocery store or at a street vendor. It might be a nice bouquet but not arranged in a container; often, the container costs extra.
After adding extra charges such as service and delivery fees, the great price that first got your attention might not be any better than what a local florist would charge.
Beware of unscrupulous companies
Perhaps you know of a florist where mom lives. But be careful if you use a search engine to find contact information for that florist. Many unscrupulous companies make themselves appear to be local florists – maybe the one that you’re familiar with – by using a similar name or even a local phone number (that ultimately rings to another state).
These companies tend to charge high service and delivery fees, only to hand off the delivery to someone else. They charge you fees that they didn’t earn, and you don’t get what you paid for.
Call early – and call Connells Maple Lee
You can avoid these hassles and ensure the best results by placing your order early – and by calling us when you do.
We’re proud to be your local florist, but we also are one of the largest senders of long-distance orders in the country. Other florists want to keep us happy because they want to continue receiving our business. We also foster our relationships with them through our regular participation in national florist meetings.
In short, we can resolve the rare problem when it occurs. What’s more, we have strong ties to FTD and Teleflora, the two largest wire services that florists use to transmit their orders, and they will step in if necessary to make sure that problems are addressed to our customers’ satisfaction.
Sending flowers long distance can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Just call us, and we’ll make the process easy. We’ll handle your out-of-town order with the same care and attention it would receive if we were delivering it ourselves.