US (PA): Frey's greenhouse locations ready for all seasons

Sometimes the “green gene” in a farming family manifests itself in new and different ways, as is the case with the descendants of the late Harold and Ruth Frey, who bought a 90-acre farm in Lebanon County’s North Cornwall Township around 1950. Today, 26 of those acres belong to their grandson, Jerel Frey, who now operates Frey’s Greenhouse on that site, as well as at a location in Lancaster County.

With their sons, Dennis and Les, reaching adulthood, the Frey family decided to build their first greenhouse in the late 1970s, when their business model began to include growing produce, vegetable seedlings, and annual flowers. Eventually, Dennis Frey took on raising produce, while Les Frey became increasingly involved with the greenhouse operations.

By 2014, Jerel Frey had a “good problem”— the Frey’s Greenhouse location in Lebanon was running out of space. Their business was growing, but its sales areas were becoming overcrowded.

Until 2015, Frey’s Greenhouse in Lebanon operated only from early March until late June or early July. That changed when Jerel opened both the Lancaster and Lebanon locations for the holidays the same year, selling Christmas trees, wreaths, greens, poinsettias, seasonal plants, and a selection of holiday décor items.

During spring, Jerel spends most of his time at the Lebanon store, overseeing the greenhouses there. Those greenhouses provide 80 to 90% of Frey’s annuals, which make up the bulk of their business, as well as 50% of the perennials that Frey’s sells at their two locations. Some vegetables, herbs, and annual bedding plants are also raised by Jerel’s uncle, Dennis Frey. The remainder of their plant merchandise, especially for the fall and winter seasons, is purchased from several central Pennsylvania wholesalers.

The two Frey’s Greenhouse locations employ a total of up to 20 personnel during peak times. Jerel, who is based mainly at the Lancaster site during the autumn and winter business hours, works at both stores but employs a manager at each site to handle day-to-day operations. Virtually all of Frey’s sales are from retailing to the general public, as opposed to wholesaling to landscapers.

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