Plasterer’s Florist closes after 110 years in Chambersburg, auction planned

19 March 2024- A business that has brought comfort, smiles and many memories to those in the Franklin County area for more than 110 years will close its doors with an April auction.

Plasterer’s Florists and Greenhouse, a 110-year-old institution in the Chambersburg area, has sold its property and will sell the remaining contents of the business in an April 20 auction at the Lincoln Way florist.

The auction will include floral supplies, greeting cards, floral equipment, wedding display accessories, storage cupboards, tables, office supplies and equipment, refrigeration units, shelving, Troy-Bilt sickle bar mower, Meyers snowplow, 2002 Ford Econoline van, Ford minivan and more.

Greg Plasterer holds the original artist’s rendering of Plasterer’s Florist & Greenhouses. The contents of the business will be sold April 20. 

“We’re selling it all—from floor to ceiling—the displays, fixtures, everything,” said Greg Plasterer, owner.

It’s a unique chance to get a piece of history at auction.

“This auction being held in the spring not only offers the opportunity for folks to participate in the closure of a business that was a floral institution in the community, but also a great chance to purchase spring gardening pots and other accessories,” said John F. Kohler Jr., auctioneer at Gateway Gallery Auction.

Rooted in Chambersburg History

Plasterer’s Florist Plasterer’s Florist was founded by Greg’s grandfather, Hiram, in 1914 at its current site.

“It was my great-grandparents’ farm,” Plasterer said. “They bought it from George Messersmith’s estate. Messersmith’s Woods was where Gen. Lee had his headquarters before they marched to Gettysburg, so there’s a lot of history here.”

When his great-grandparents, George and Mary Plasterer, bought the farm in 1884, Lincoln Way was just a dirt road. 

Over the years, as the Plasterer family grew, so did the community.

In the early 1900s, Greg’s grandfather, Hiram, was working in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh as a florist at the Phipps Conservatory. His first wife died of Tuberculosis, so Hiram returned home to Chambersburg, where his father had been selling off building lots after the trolley between Chambersburg and Caledonia started running.

“My great-grandfather sold 40-foot wide by 250-foot deep lots back in 1910,” Plasterer explained. “My grandfather came back around 1914 and asked his dad if he could buy a couple acres from the farm, so he bought here and put up greenhouses.”

The next generation, including Greg’s dad, Herbert, and his uncle, Lowell, joined the greenhouse business until 1941, when they were called to the South Pacific, and Elsie Ott ran the business until the brothers returned home from war.

Eventually, Lowell, sold his part of the business to Herb, and Greg and his dad ran the business until Herbert’s death in 2016.

It wasn’t Greg’s dream to go into the family business. He earned a degree in history from Gettysburg College and planned to teach school.

That was right around the time his uncle decided to get out of the business.

“My dad never made me work, but I was always around it,” Plasterer said. “Over holidays, I rode with a driver and helped deliver.”

But Greg saw potential in the floral industry and joined his father to learn the business.

“I planted in greenhouses, did office work, designing—anything that needed done. I had to learn it all,” Plasterer recalled. “I always liked the greenhouses better. The plants didn’t talk back to you and complain about something. You were just with nature.”

The Most Famous Flower in Chambersburg

One of the most recognizable flowers ever affiliated with the Chambersburg florist is the neon blinking rose sign. 

“In 1960 when we opened our new shop along Lincoln Way East, local sign artist Harry “Rip” Rossman designed and built our sign with a neon blinking rose,” Plasterer recalled. 

That was back when the shop was part of Guilford Township. But while the store location never changed, the borough line did—and it almost meant an end for the neon sign.

“When the borough annexed us, there was an ordinance against blinking signs but they graciously grandfathered us to allow it,” Plasterer explained.
Good thing, because Plasterer’s made the sign a beacon for the store.

“At WCHA, Ted “The Bear” Foreman was a DJ. We advertised with him and he coined the phrase that became our slogan for the next 60+ years, ‘At the sign of the blinking red rose,’” Plasterer recalled.

The Bloom is Off the Rose

Greg—the third generation of florists—and his wife, Patti, a retired nurse, have been running the business since 2016, but have decided now it’s time to make the final deliveries.

“They say three generations is about how long a family business goes,” Plasterer said. “Our kids are not interested, and I don’t blame them. Retail is tough. Online is a real killer.”

The Greenhouse part of the property was sold to Grayce Gardens a few years back and when the “for sale” signs were placed on the property, many folks assumed the family business had closed.

But that wasn’t so and the florist has continued operations in the front main building.

Greg said he’s seen a lot of changes in the business and the community over the years.

“The use of flowers has gone down,” he admitted. “We used to do 300-400 corsages for proms. Easter was the biggest holiday—at one time, we had eight people in the basement just making corsages.”

The florist also used to grow all their flowers, but competition from other countries withered that resource.

Funerals are another event that used to sustain the floral business but has since nearly dried up.

“My grandfather used a horse and wagon (bought from P. Nicklas & Sons) and he would deliver. Back then, people had funerals in their houses and he’d deliver palms for the funeral,” Plasterer explained.

As horse and wagon turned to gas-powered vehicles, funerals were still a big part of the business.

“We had 20 to 30 pieces of work at most funerals until modern obituaries changed that,” Plasterer. “We argued with the newspapers and asked them why they had to include the statement, ‘in lieu of flowers ….’ Couldn’t they just say, ‘donate to your favorite charity’? That ‘in lieu of flowers’ was a killer,” Plasterer said.

Greg and Patti agree there’s not much more they can do to grow the business and have chosen to go the way of their former competitors—Byer Brothers, Foltz, Dunkinson’s and Sprenkle & Hoke.

“We’re the last one standing from that era,” Plasterer said. “I feel bad, but It’s nothing I’ve done. It’s the way it is. Society has changed.”

Tending Greener Pastures

The Plasterers said they are grateful for the many blessings of their staff and the folks who have pitched in over the years.

“Most of our employees have worked here 30 or 40 years,” Plasterer said.

They said they are grateful for the ongoing support of the community.

“The community over the years has really been good to us,” Plasterer said. “We’ve gotten a lot of nice comments from people and we certainly do appreciate it.”

Meanwhile, Greg and Patti are looking forward to retirement.

“We are both looking forward to retiring, but it will be different,” Plasterer admitted. “There’s lots of things to do. We have a farm and I can always putter with stuff.”

Plasterer’s Florist and Greenhouse will remain open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon for the next few weeks.

The public auction will be offered by Gateway Gallery Auction on Saturday, April 20, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the flower shop at 990 Lincoln Way East, Chambersburg. For more information, visit GatewayAuction.com.

Greg said the sound of the final gavel will be bittersweet.

“There’s not a lot of these kinds of businesses left. They’re gonna be gone,” he said. “I think I am gonna miss it when it’s all done.”

Article by Andrea Rose.