A love letter to Reid’s Seeds

The Reynoldstown Rangers are the keepers of these cosmos

A love letter to Reid's Seeds
Reynoldstown Ranger John Bluhm gathers seeds behind the former Reid’s Body Shop.

Photograph courtesy of John Gibson

Here’s how our neighborhoods change: little by little, then all at once. When Reid’s Body Shop on Memorial Drive closed in 2022, Reynoldstown suddenly felt different. Nobody who brought in a fender bender ever got treated halfway by Doug Reid and his son Robbie. Over 68 years, the Reids cared for our cars like they were their own. In their kingdom—a scruffy city block wrapped in chain link and barbed wire, half full of junkers and clunkers—folks got a square deal.

Robbie credits his parents for that “square deal” mentality, and his mother, Betty’s, love of wildflowers for Reid’s Body Shop’s visual signature. Every summer, for as long as anyone could remember, thousands of brilliant orange flowers took over that entire chain-link fence: perhaps the finest swath of cosmos in all of Atlanta. Swarming with bees and butterflies, they were Betty Reid’s reminder of her country childhood. When she retired, the Reids’ employee and friend, Timmy Adams, and his wife, Debbie, nurtured the wild garden, season after season. Walking out the front door of Home Grown restaurant any summer morning, belly full of Comfy Chicken Biscuit, you’d look off to your right and there they’d be, glowing in the slant morning sun. Sublime.

I’m not mad that Reid’s closed. They had a great run, went out on their own terms. Nothing lasts forever. And it’s super that our neighborhood is getting denser. I love having all the new neighbors. This is how cities work best. But are there ways to keep the past alive, even as you move into the future? What makes a place a place?

Reynoldstown has long grappled with questions like these. Our household count has tripled in just 20 years, yet essential, ineffable things remain. The smell of sidewalk barbecue from Franklin and Williams. The rattle and clatter of Hulsey Yard. Gathering under the mighty oak tree at ParkGrounds. Other neighborhoods have stone monuments and brick mansions. Reynoldstown has skinny streets and very nice weeds in chain-link fences. The markers still matter.

Now, though, with the bulldozers warming up, our very nice weeds­—that flash of orange saying you are here, and it is now—were at risk. That’s where the Reynoldstown Rangers came in. Born out of porch chats among neighbors, the Rangers are an engine that runs on curiosity, committed to mapping and marking our place, making neighbors out of strangers. The Rangers were ideal stewards for what we dubbed “Reid’s Seeds.” Month after month, long into fall, past a gate magically left standing open, Ranger volunteers harvested the spiky brown seed heads, dried them out, and packed them into mason jars. Then we waited.

On the first Saturday in spring, a few dozen neighbors gathered into teams and set out across the neighborhood, seeds and trowels in hand. The Rangers had mapped out 30 sites where the cosmos might thrive: marginal soil, all-day sun, unlikely to be mowed. Cosmos aren’t natives, but they are good neighbors, thriving in tough spots, pollinating like crazy, reseeding tidily. Lots of the teams were headed by moms, kids in tow. Like Betty Reid, these moms were passing along their love of wildflowers. Their Reynoldstown kids will grow up in a place where a flash of orange assures them that it is summer, and they are home.

John Gibson is one of the founders of the Reynoldstown Rangers. More about them and Reid’s Seeds can be found at reynoldstownrangers.com.

This article appears in our June 2024 issue.