Recently, I was searching the City of Edmonton Archives online catalogue for anything related to tea. I found many pictures of tea parties and was struck by the fancy cups and saucers. This led me to Reed’s China and Gifts and inspired me to write another post in my series on Edmonton family businesses. For years Reed’s was the go-to place for Edmontonians looking for beautiful china.
In 1905, William Henry Reed and his brother-in-law Russell Clarke opened Reed’s Tea and Bazaar at the corner of Jasper and 102 Street (where the Enbridge Tower is today). Reed had been in the tea trade in Ontario and, after weeks of testing to find the best blend for Edmonton’s water, he made his own special tea to sell in the store. The blend was a success and soon Reed’s could boast they supplied tea to Lieutenant Governor Bulyea and Government House.
Reed’s had many Edmonton firsts. They had the first hand cranked coffee roaster and the first bridal registry. They were the first to have a store Santa, who drove through the streets in a sleigh handing out gifts. They were also the first store in Edmonton to stock toys year round and not just at Christmas.
The business was almost destroyed by fire on January 11, 1913. Extremely cold temperatures led to a rash of fires from overburdened stoves. Most were swiftly put out but the fire at Reed’s burned out of control. The heat was so intense it cracked windows across the street. The firemen were helpless because the water supply was cut off when a pump at the powerhouse broke down. Fortunately, although Reed’s was a write-off, the water was restored in time to save the neighbouring buildings.
Reed’s losses were high but it could have been worse. They had opened a second location and were having a moving sale because their building was slated for demolition to make way for the Pantages Theatre. They didn’t lose as much as they might have because they had stock at the second store.
In the early years they moved several times and had different names like Reed’s Bazaar and Reed’s Fair. In 1927, reflecting Edmonton’s growth and changing population, they dropped the homestead supplies and opened a new store called Reed’s China and Gifts. They carried patterns by all the major china suppliers but also made personalized monogrammed sets.
Shortly after WWII, William Reed retired and Russell Clarke and his son Robert took over. Three generations of Clarke’s ran the business until the last three stores were sold in 1990. At their height there was a Reed’s in all the major shopping centres in Edmonton and stores in Calgary and Lethbridge as well.
For years Reed’s were known for home delivery and for their distinctive blue boxes with a gold or silver crest. They commissioned special designs and commemorative pieces and created the popular Royal Doulton Prince Charles stemware pattern but didn’t register the trademark. Today, the first store is recreated in Fort Edmonton Park’s 1905 Street as Reed’s Bazaar and Reed’s Tea Room.
Do you have any memories of Reed’s China and Gifts? Please share them in the comments! Also, I’m not sure when the last store closed, please comment if you know.