I stopped at Euclid and Brush St. in Detroit to photograph the exterior of W.F. Reynolds Plumbing. Great light! I was preparing for an interview with owners Frank and Stephanie Reynolds later in the month.
I was standing on that corner framing up the shot when an SUV drove up. Out popped a woman who wanted to know what I was doing with that camera. Not an uncommon question. I explained about the upcoming interview with Frank and Stephanie, and quickly learned that the woman was a sister of Frank’s, Arneatha, who has lived in the family home, second house from corner on Euclid Street, since she was 14. The home was the base of the Reynolds Family Singers, a local gospel group well known in Detroit’s recent past. Frank played guitar.
This is the yard of Frank and Stephanie’s shop. Stephanie showed me pictures of the shop with earlier paint schemes.
The landscaped lot hosts an annual family cookout, locals welcomed.
When Stephanie was nine, her family moved to a three-plex unit opposite the store. “It was owned by Jews – great landlords.” She lived cattycorner from Frank’s family, but did not know him.
Stephanie and Frank’s marriage (1984) was the second for each. They merged their families of three children each in a seven-bedroom home down the street.
Frank always wanted to be plumber, following the career path of his father. Frank became a journeyman plumber through the UAW and Ford training programs. After the death of his father, Frank took over the business and left Ford.
Stephanie went to work early. She had a career with the phone company as it evolved. Her jobs included counting the coins from pay phones and training new workers.
Frank managed a successful business and took care of the daily goings-on of six children. “I had to get all the kids organized and out the door for school, pick them up for a doctor appointment, and be on call, while running plumbing jobs. I often took some of the children on the job. You would be surprised how much they learned about plumbing and customer service. Additionally, each child worked in the store as teenagers.”
Frank stills works in the shop. Stephanie, now retired, runs a makeshift day care in the back room. Twenty grandchildren and twelve great-grand kids means there are always family members in the store. Frank’s heart has slowed him down, but W. F. Reynolds is still the source for finding century-old parts and know-how on repairing century-old plumbing, radiators and faucets.
“I run a safe and honorable business. Handshake payments till payday is my agreement with a customer in need. I never bought parts that came through the door. I have never been robbed. The neighbors look after the store and me.”
“Trust where your charity goes. It will always repay you.”
Note addtional Detroit Dissolving Blog stories at: www.davidclementsproductions.com