Business woman keeps alive Black-owned florist shop started by her father in the 1940s

Desy Papper

Brazelton’s Floral has had its doors open for more than 75 years. When Alice Brazelton-Pittman’s father, Edgar Brazelton, opened the shop in the 1940s, it was one of the first Black-owned florist shops in Detroit. As a girl, Brazelton-Pittman worked in the shop alongside her father, brother and sisters. Her […]

Brazelton’s Floral has had its doors open for more than 75 years. When Alice Brazelton-Pittman’s father, Edgar Brazelton, opened the shop in the 1940s, it was one of the first Black-owned florist shops in Detroit.

As a girl, Brazelton-Pittman worked in the shop alongside her father, brother and sisters. Her responsibility was sweeping the floor, setting up the card arrangements, greeting customers, and watering the plants. She gravitated toward the business aspects, while her siblings were gifted in floral design. “I was proud to participate in the family’s business,” she said.

“I knew my father’s love for the community and the city,” Brazelton-Pittman said. He helped develop programs that supported the Black community, and he mentored many young, Black entrepreneurs, she said.

When Brazelton-Pittman’s father died, her sister ran the business, and then her brother took over. When her sister and brother died within a few months of each other in 2018, Brazelton-Pittman was at a crossroads. She and her husband worked in the ministry for decades, and she had been away from the business for 50 years. She had to decide whether to shutter the shop or keep it going.

Brazelton-Pittman spoke with her younger sister, who lives in a local nursing home, and she encouraged Brazelton-Pittman to keep the legacy going. So she stepped in.

“Running the business efficiently has definitely been a learning curve in this 21st century,” Brazelton-Pittman said. In spite of challenges she has faced, “it has been the words of my younger sister, my family, and my husband, and prayer that have kept me encouraged.”

Brazelton-Pittman has considered closing the shop, but every time she thought about it, someone from the community would come in and ask her to keep it open. “I always tell people, ‘If the lights are on and the door’s still open, I want you to know it’s a miracle,’ and that’s why I call it the miracle on West Grand Boulevard,” she said.

Brazelton-Pittman appreciates the support and encouragement she’s received from her family, loyal intergenerational customers, and neighbors in the community, including the James Cole funeral home, the Motown Museum, Henry Ford Hospital and the West Grand Boulevard Collaborative.

Brazelton-Pittman runs the business on what she calls the five Rs: reverence, respect, refrain, resilience and reward.

Reverence: “My reverence and faith in God give me the wisdom and the strength to continue the legacy,” she said.

Respect: This includes respect for employees and clients. “My dad always used to say, ‘Remember that your client is your bread and butter. If you don’t take care of your client, if you don’t take care of your business, your business can’t take care of you.'”

Refrain: It’s important to know when to pull back. “I can’t be a yes person to everything and everyone in every situation,” she said.

Resilience: Entrepreneurs need to be resilient. “On a day of sunshine or storm, you have to have resilience, and you have to know how to encourage yourself to keep going.”

Reward: “My reward is when customers call us back and say, ‘What a beautiful arrangement,’ especially for those that are in the season of mourning,” Brazelton said. “Many people say: Why send flowers to a funeral when they’re only going to throw them in the ground?” she said. But before they get to the ground, they are an expression of love for the deceased and support for the family, and they “give the family a little bit of joy,” she said.

Brazelton-Pittman thinks about the family legacy when she sits at her father’s old desk. She was considering replacing it, “because it shows its age,” she said. “But it is now my honor and privilege to sit at a desk that my father, brother and sister once sat at.”

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