After 45 years working at and managing Layser’s Flowers Garden Center and Gift Shop, Lu Layser is retiring June 1 – and, with her retirement, the business is shifting its focus.

The Garden Center and Retail shop at 501 Washington Ave., Myerstown, will close on June 1, but the company’s wholesale operation will continue to operate.

A 73-year-old family business, Layser’s Flowers has its roots in a flower stand at a farmer’s market. From there it blossomed and has long operated out of two locations – the retail center and greenhouse space on Washington Avenue, and a site about a mile away on North Locust Street containing mostly greenhouses.

The Washington Avenue real estate will be auctioned June 19 by L&H Auctioneers. “It was always a challenge to shuttle plants back and forth,” Lu said.

She will celebrate her 67th birthday in June and decided it was time to retire. “I’ve been here five decades and brought my children to work with me, so they grew up here. I am happy about retiring, but sad about closing. I will miss our customers and staff – they’re great. Everyone has been so supportive and loving since we announced the changes earlier this year,” she said.

Her husband Steve and son Chris and other family members have worked by her side. “We’ve always had both a retail and wholesale operation; about 90% of our business is on the wholesale side,” Lu said.

Wholesale customers include retailers such as grocery stores, landscapers and independent garden centers. Their customer base extends throughout central and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Chris Layser, who will be the fourth generation in the business, will head the wholesale operation. He said Layser’s has also worked with area schools and organizations on fundraising efforts.

Although Chris and his two siblings – a younger brother and an older sister – literally grew up in the business, he said his parents were supportive of them with regard to careers. “They encouraged us to follow our own path in life,” he explained.

His path back to the family business was a winding one. He was a mechanic and then a truck driver for another grower before joining Layser’s Flowers in 2020. He’s been learning the business cycle, which takes about a year.

“Everything is timed just right. We start growing poinsettias in June,” Lu said.

“We’ve already ordered bulbs for next year’s Easter flowers. You only get one chance at each thing every year whether it’s poinsettias or Easter flowers,” Chris added.

He said the greenhouses at the Washington Avenue location were built in the 1960s. The greenhouses on Locust Street are newer.

Layser’s has about 500,000 square-feet of greenhouse space, which is just shy of 12 acres under cover, he said. “We plan to move some of the greenhouses from the retail location to the wholesale location. We’ll sell those we don’t move. We should be able to use our space more efficiently, and eventually we’ll add some newer, more efficient greenhouses (at Locust Street).”

Lu said a number of the staff in the retail operation are older and some may decide to retire with her. “I’ve been really blessed with the staff we have – they’re close knit and enjoy the plants. They’ve also been supportive of me as I learn,” Chris said. He said Layser’s head grower Rick started with Layser’s when he was a teen and is now 65 and has been sharing his knowledge of the operations.

While Lu is retiring from the retail aspect of the business, she still plans to lend a hand with the wholesale operation. “It won’t be as high pressure,” she said.

Layser’s retail garden center is located next to Layser’s Nursey Garden Center, which is operated by Chris Layser’s uncle and his family. “We want their business to continue to thrive and grow. The interest we’ve had in our retail location so far is from people who would not be competing with them,” Chris said.

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Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...