Places in Time
Sweet smell of success: Waco institution Reed's Flowers
By Terri Jo Ryan, Waco Tribune-Herald
Feb. 13, 2006
Harry Reed, 83, has been helping people express their love, affection and respect with flowers since his boyhood, when he started potting plants in a greenhouse off Dallas Highway.
His uncle, Tom Reed, who started learning the flower trade from the Wolfe family of Waco in 1912, opened Reed's Flowers in 1930 at 1025 Austin Ave. It was located directly across the street from the Compton Funeral Home, a business that got its big start serving the families of those who died in the massive flu epidemic of 1918, Harry Reed said.
In the late 1950s, Reed's Flowers moved two doors down to 1029 Austin Ave., where it remains to this day.
"Wolfe's was our biggest competition," he recalled. The original Wolfe family operation lasted from 1892 until it sold the last of its greenhouses in August 1997 to Color Spot Nurseries Inc. of Fallbrook, Calif.
The fifth and sixth generation Wolfes, Tom J. Sr. and Tom J. Jr., are still floral men: Their business, founded in 1990 as Waco Wholesale Flower Market, changed its name to Wolfe Wholesale Florist around 2000.
"I remember Harry Reed's folks," Tom J. Wolfe Sr. said. "Our families did a lot of business together over the years."
In the late 1930s, in fact, Wolfe's Flowers was only a few blocks from Reed's, at 14th and Austin, but after World War II it moved its operations – including 15 acres of greenhouses – to 2901 S. 12th St.
Reed said his family's growing grounds in the glory days were out on South Third Street, and the greenhouse near Lacy-Lakeview. His father, Bert Reed, ran the greenhouse, while his mother, Blanche Reed, ran the flower shop in town. Both his parents died in 1990.
After the hard times of the Great Depression, he said – when at least they always had roses or marigolds growing, even when they couldn't always afford to ship in other flowers by train – the family business slowly gained strength.
At one point, he said, the Reeds had shops and greenhouses in Temple, Belton and Cameron.
They had to be clever with their limited resources, he recalled. During World War II, shortages mandated that they clean out and recycle quart oil cans by decorating them as make-do vases for floral displays.
Waco plays an important role in the history of the state's florist industry, Reed said. The Texas State Florists' Association was founded here in 1914, at the old hotel State House at Sixth Street and Franklin Avenue. The professional trade association for all branches of the floral industry – including retailers, wholesalers, growers and manufacturers of floral products and supplies – is now based in Austin.
This time of year, with Valentine's Day around the corner, soon to be followed by Easter and Mother's Day, make for long days and nights for Reed and his crew of 15.
"Valentine's Day has really come into its own only in the last 30 years," Harry Reed said. Nationwide advertising through trade associations and standardization of designs pushed the popularity of sharing sweet sentiments. The specialized vases for Valentine's Day available for more than 20 years, for example, have caught the public fancy, he added.
Mother's Day is still the No. 1 flower-giving occasion, Reed noted. "Everybody has a mother, and you better not forget."
Christmas, lasting for more than a month, is a strong sales season, he added, followed by Valentine's Day and Easter.
Reed served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1952. He spent all his service time in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma. A pilot, he stayed in the reserves. During the Korean War, he was recalled to Connally Air Base to train radar intercept pilots and B29 engineers.
Reed said his two siblings – 75-year-old James Reed of Rockport, Texas, a retired Army colonel; and 70-year-old Dorothy Campbell of suburban Cleveland, Ohio – have no interest in the Waco Shop.
And none of his children wish to follow him into petal-pushing, he added. So, around 2000, he sold the family greenhouses to Tim's Greenhouses of Waco.
For more information, contact: John Young • Waco Tribune-Herald •