Albert Harry Reed, “Harry” to the thousands who knew him as longtime owner of Reed’s Flowers on Austin Avenue, made it through one last Valentine’s Day rush.
He died Saturday morning at age 97, nearly nine decades after his parents began the floral business that his daughter, Debbie, now oversees.
Colleagues and friends on Monday remembered Reed for his attention to detail — “the more detailed, the more time-consuming, the better he liked it,” said a staffer — his passion for treating customers like royalty, and his willingness to accommodate employees, especially those with children. Many a little one spent the day with mom fetching plants at Reed’s Flowers.
“He gave me a summer job when I was 16,” said Hatch Bailey, 58, recalling when he was a student at Vanguard Prep in Waco. He is now president and funeral director in charge at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey.
“I did whatever he asked me to do, and I learned quite an appreciation for what he did. He was very hardworking. Whatever it took, from delivering flowers to arranging them, he made sure it got done. He had a lot of help, but it all started with Harry.”
Regulars who trusted their floral deliveries to Harry Reed probably numbered in the thousands, said Jaquita Fleming, who for 27 years has worked at Reed’s Flowers on Austin Avenue, known for its green-and-gold signage.
“He was amazing,” said Fleming. “That’s what we’ve been saying the past couple of days: He made it through one more Valentine’s Day,” traditionally the busiest day of the year for florists, rivaled only by Mother’s Day. As usual, Reed’s Flowers added contract labor for the occasion, meaning nine drivers delivered 377 arrangements to locales from China Spring to Lorena.
Though the industry is becoming more competitive, Reed’s Flowers relied upon decades of good will and satisfied customers to remain afloat and blossom in the changing marketplace, said general manager Julie Schronk.
“We let the name speak for itself, as we do have a large clientele,” said Schronk. “There are customers who have been with Mr. Reed since the day he opened. Older customers are passing away, but we continue to market to the younger generation, to Baylor University students. They have parents and grandparents who used Reed’s for ages, and the tradition continues.”
Schronk said Reed kept staffers entertained with his amazing stories.
“He loved to travel, visited Europe and tropical places, went to France with Debbie, his daughter,” she said. “He also talked about his family. He would say of his father, ‘He was alive when the Berlin Wall was built and alive when it was torn down.’”
Harry Reed took over floral operations from his parents, Bert and Blanche Reed, and his uncle, Tom Reed. It was Tom Reed who opened Reed’s Flowers at 1025 Austin Ave. in 1930 and kept it going through the Great Depression. Tom Reed had learned the flower trade in 1912 from the Wolfe family, an iconic presence in the industry dating to 1892.
“The Reeds are a good family, good friends, hard-working and down-to-earth,” said Tom J. Wolfe, commenting on the passing of Harry Reed. Wolfe said he and his son will serve as pallbearers at the funeral service.
Reed served as president of the Texas Floral Association in 1962, a post occupied today by Wolfe, whose family founded the organization.
Wolfe said brick-and-mortar floral shops are becoming endangered, many threatened by online delivery services. He said the enterprise functions as a rose importer, securing product from 13 countries, including Ecuador, and delivering to establishments within a 90-mile radius of Waco.
He said the demise of longtime Waco floral shops such as Crozier’s and Blanton’s is an indication of how challenging the industry has become. Yet Reed’s Flowers continues to make its presence felt.
After graduating from La Vega High School, but before entering the flower business, Reed entered a program to train civilian pilots. He later joined the U.S. Air Force, where again he supplied flying lessons. After the war, he flew B-25s at Connally Air Force Base, teaching radar interception tactics to pilots. He remained in the Air Force Reserves for 10 years.
Reed was a member of Rotary International and was in Waco Commandery No. 10 Knights Templar. He was a Shriner and a past president of the Heart of Texas Lions Club, according to information his family provided.
Services will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Wilkirson-Hatch-Bailey.
Reed’s Flowers will close during the service Wednesday, but open for business later in the day “because that’s how Harry would have wanted it,” said Schronk, who oversees day-to-day operations under Debbie Reed’s ownership.
Reed is survived by his former wife, Suzy; daughters, Debbie Reed and Annetta McLaughlin and husband, James; and son, Albert “Snapper” Harry Reed Jr., and wife, Terry. He also is survived by five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; a sister and a brother, according to Wilkirson-Hatch.