Interview with a Florist; Part 9 With Herb Roth

 Herb Rothe; Rothe Florists, 7148 Germantown Avenue, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, PA

At the risk of repeating myself, I became aware of Herb because of social media. I'm not exactly sure when we started conversing via Facebook but the story that tells you about how wonderful and giving Herb is, is that during Covid when I desperately needed Easter Lilies to fill a large order, Herb spared us some of his prized plants at cost! Herb is a 4th generation florist which I think is so cool and he has the sweetest wife - Cheryl. I adore being Facebook friends with her also!!  I think when you read his answers to my questions, you will see that he is a very smart business man! I hope you enjoy his story!! 

How did you happen to get into the flower business?

Well, I was born into it - literally!  Being the 4th generation owner, I had it in my blood I suppose…I
mean, at 5 or 6 years old, I can remember weeding under the carnation benches in the back greenhouses (when we used to grow most of the flowers we sold).  My brothers and I were small enough to go under them!   Originally in high school, I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic!  But, as reality set in, I decided to continue on the family business.  I majored in Horticulture at Penn State, carrying on the tradition as my father was a Penn State grad in Hort.  In fact, my first interview up there when I was applying was with a professor my father had back in college.  The rest is history!

What part of the business is the most valuable financially?

Without a doubt, our Greenhouse business is the most valuable and profitable.  We have a large aluminum greenhouse, built by my grandfather back in 1956.  Up until two years ago, it was all-glass - but with age, it was time to install a much more efficient LEXAN covering.  Each year it houses hundreds of Poinsettias, Easter Lilies and Hardy Mums - along with a wide assortment of house plants and seasonal flowering plants.  While it is an expensive part of the property to operate, we do well with it as we move so many plants.

What part of the business is the least valuable financially?

 I would say there is no REAL part that is not valuable.  We have really tried to run this place efficiently.  However, I would say that delivery is the costliest to operate and is not the most profitable aspect of the business.  With the rising costs of fuel, insurance, and the vehicles themselves, offering delivery has become a challenge - but one we must handle.  Given our situation, which cannot be unique to us alone, I just cannot seem to understand how some florists under charge for their delivery!  Also, the.COM’s of the world do not compensate the retail florists for delivery (no matter what they say), and are on thin ice when it comes to getting their orders filled.  Will leave it at that…

If you could go back to the beginning, what words of advice would you give yourself? What do you wish you knew then that you know now? 

This is easy - to take MORE business courses while in college, learn SOLID accounting practice, and get yourself a SOLID accountant.  Also, avoid debt at ALL costs.  Credit lines and such are great but can be traps to a novice business owner if you’re not careful!

If you could change any aspect of your business, what would you change?

Another easy one…to limit the business to just ONE cost-effective wire service and use the service for what I really need - seamless transmission of orders out of state.   Currently, we are tied to our wire services by the technology we use.  That will be changing soon enough, but the hidden fees are HUGE when you break down the actual cost of having them.  Discounted orders will sink you - plain and simple.  We have worked to build our biz on LOCAL business the past 10 years, and it is working very well.   Wire services do have a value - if you get a lot of wire out business!  But using them as a primary source of revenue is NOT a good idea.

Thinking about your business, what are you the most proud of?

Our family heritage.  We are a 115-year-old company, family owned for 4 generations.  We have a strong presence in the community, and love to offer our products with family service and style!