Reed’s Flowers serves the community for more than 80 years
By Liesje Powers | Lariat Staff Writer
Downtown Waco is no stranger to history. Driving down one street can reveal dozens of shops, each with their own story.
Among these is Reed’s Flowers. The large sign spelling out R-E-E-D-S and old-timey mural that decorate the outside of the building easily distinguish it from other shops on Austin Avenue.
The building that people see is not the original Reed’s Flowers. The company began when Albert and Tom Reed migrated from London to America in the early 1900s. They worked in greenhouses for Waco’s Wolfe Florists and Harrick’s Hardware. Their work was interrupted by World War I, during which one of the brothers, Albert, served as a radio operator.
After the war, Albert and his wife, Blanche, opened up a small flower shop on Speight Avenue. The shop met an untimely end after the market crash in 1929. Not to be deterred by simple things like the economy, Albert borrowed $50 from his mother-in-law and built a greenhouse on the Old Dallas Highway.
The next year, Reed opened up a second shop on Austin Avenue with a loaned refrigerator and a rent-free building given to him by the Waco Lion Founders Club. The shop could not always supply the public with shipped-in flowers, but it was always stocked with roses and marigolds grown in their own greenhouses.
The public loved the service and quality of the shop, and Reed’s grew even through the Depression. After World War II, their largest competitor, Wolfe Florists, moved to South 12th Street.
Wolfe Florists is a multigenerational flower shop as well, but has remained at their newer location for nearly 22 years now.
A decade after the competitor’s move, Reed’s moved down the street to its current location, 1029 Austin Ave. Albert and Blanche both passed away in 1990, leaving their son Harry the shop. Harry sold the greenhouses in 2000 but continued to run the shop downtown.
Now his daughter, Debbie Reed, runs the shop. She began working there at an early age.
“I’ve worked here since I was 15 years old on and off. As soon as I could drive, that’s what I would do. I would come to work right after school–just a couple hours a day,” Debbie Reed said. “When you’re young, you’re playing around more than anything, but I didn’t really start running things until the last five years or so.”
Debbie Reed attributes most of the shop’s success to her father, who took over the store as a young man.
“Daddy’s really the owner; I’m just the boss’s daughter. That’s what I always say,” Debbie Reed said.
The store is open every day but Sunday, but it tends to be an all-the-time job. Saturdays and Sundays are typically used for funeral services and church decorations. Reed’s Flowers supplies about 10 churches every week.
“Daddy used to come in on Sundays and do them early Sunday morning at about 6:30 in the morning,” Debbie Reed said. “I try to get it all done on Saturday so I can sleep in, but I don’t usually get to, which is fine.”
The store makes 30 to 40 deliveries on an average day. During busy seasons like Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, the order numbers rise considerably.
“Every day is a new day at a flower shop, and no two days are the same,” Debbie Reed said.
Debbie Reed remembers helping another local store when she was younger and being shocked by the small number of orders they had to fill.
“I was able to make all their deliveries within an hour. I was like, ‘Well, this is easier than I thought.’ When you’ve got to go four different directions and go all the way out to Lorena and China Springs and just all over the place, it takes more than one person [at Reed’s],” Debbie Reed said.
Kathy Burmeister is a driver for Reed’s and enjoys the lack of consistency that comes with her job.
“It’s fun, and you get to see a lot of different places in Waco that you would never see and houses. You get to meet people that you’d never get to meet otherwise. People always say, ‘Oh you must have such a wonderful job,’ and it’s true,” Burmeister said.
Michelle Finley is a designer at Reed’s, but she began as a driver at another shop. She became a designer out of necessity when workers walked out on the job.
“I said ‘Well, if you don’t mind showing me, I’ll be glad to learn,’ and I stayed there with him and started learning and [he decided] to pull me in as a designer,” Finley said.
She typically designs in a modern style while following the store’s more traditional feel.
“[I enjoy] the creativity. Just the opportunity to kind of do different and be different,” Finley said.
Leslie-Anne Grubbs, another designer, also discovered her talent by chance.
“I just walked in and could do it,” Grubbs said. “I’ve always been artistic, and I went to art school. Now I’m in vet tech school, and I do this part time.”
In Waco, Reed’s Flowers has been named top flower shop by the Wacoan for the past three years.
The shop has been awarded as one of the top 500 of the Florists’ Transworld Delivery (FTD) for decades. Albert, Harry and brother Tom were all presidents of the group as well.
Besides regularly supplying flowers for graduations, Reed’s Flowers has a strong connection to Baylor. Harry, Debbie Reed’s father, was a graduate of Baylor and a member of the notorious NozeBrothers. She fondly remembers when he marched in the Homecoming Parade with the group.
Debbie Reed mentioned going to many other events, both at Baylor and locally. She said she think of her father as a celebrity in Waco.
“Everybody knows Harry, but after 94 years I’d expect so,” Debbie Reed said.
Reed’s Flowers is strictly retail and works through the wire services, which connects the business directly to buyers. They are now moving toward the digital age but remain in direct contact with those hoping to purchase from them.
“All of these call centers in the phonebook that say they’re in town, they call us to do their flowers, then they sell it for one price and give us about half of what they get for it,” Debbie Reed said. “Then people get upset with us because they don’t think it’s worth the money they spent, but they didn’t order from us.”
Because of wholesale pricing, Debbie Reed finds it important to be a local shop. However, it may not remain in the family for much longer. She doesn’t see her children following her in the flower shop business.
“They know how much time I’m here, and they don’t want to have to spend as much time here as I do. They’re kids, and they want to play video games,” Debbie Reed said.
The thought of not having the flower shop being in the family is a sad thought for her, mostly because of the hard work the Reed’s have done to grow a strong position in town with their family name.
“I would hate for someone to dirty his reputation because Daddy’s got such a great reputation. I would hate for someone to soil that. My goal is to make it at least 100 years. That’s just 15 more,” Debbie Reed said.