By: N. L. Preston
HOUSTON – According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, this year’s outlook is optimistic for the small business owner.
“2020 is off to an explosive start for the small business economy, with owners expecting increased sales, earnings, and higher wages for employees,” said NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. “Small businesses continue to build on the solid foundation of supportive federal tax policies and a deregulatory environment that allows owners to put an increased focus on operating and growing their businesses.”
But for one black Houston proprietor, the latter part of Dunkelberg’s statement, “increased focus on operating and growing their businesses” is becoming a challenge because he feels that the city he’s proudly supported over the years, is not supporting him.
Terence J. “Pokey” Reed has been serving the Greater Houston area for life as a proud citizen, and for the last 10 years as a business leader giving back. Even if you don’t know his name, chances are, you’ve seen him around town.
The Acres Home native is the owner of Vintage Carriage Co., LLC and his premier fleet of horse-drawn carriages has been a staple of the city, providing quality service and joy at festivals, during the holidays, leisurely weekends, etc.
His family owned and operated business (with wife Dr. Stacey Jones-Reed and son Terence Reed Jr.) has been “at your service,” never turning down an invitation to support the community and requests from elected officials, oftentimes for free.
“There is so much we do in the community with our carriages. We go on trail rides, we go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I was part of the city’s Christmas Lighting in 2016 or 2017, and I even give free rides and throw candy to kids at A.B. Anderson school in Acres Home. I’m also part of the Christmas Lighting in Sugar Land and River Oaks holiday activities,” said Reed. “I feel that my city is not standing behind me and I wrote several letters to them. I spoke to Mayor Sylvester Turner personally and he said some things that he was going to do, but no one has done anything. I am not slandering anyone; I just want your help.”
What is the help he’s asking for?
Simply, a business permit. Something he feels he rightfully deserves.
Reed contacted African-American News&Issues to share his plight in hopes of protecting the legacy he’s been working hard to build. He started his company 10 years ago with two carriages, and has now grown to 23 carriages and two horse-drawn hearses for funerals. He does not want his company left out of the expanding city developments, primarily in downtown Houston.
“They are building a greenspace downtown and everyone is talking about bringing in more bicycles, but they never mentioned my carriages, which have been some of the main attractions downtown and they are bringing a lot of tourists there,” Reed explained. “I’ve been trying to get my permit for eight years and I have certified letters to prove it. I’ve only gotten one response claiming they are working on it.”
To be clear, the city says a permit is not needed for Reed’s carriages at this time. Permits are not required for Texas public city streets. However, a permit may be necessary on private property including neighborhoods, public parks or reception venues.
Reed says not needing a permit in the city doesn’t make sense to him, especially since bike companies have been granted them.
“You gave the bicycle permits out before you gave the horse carriage permits, and we were here first. Texas is known for horses,” Reed said. “I built this business and without that permit, anybody, especially bigger companies, can come and push me out of the way.”
So, is Reed correct? Can the “big boys” come in and take over? And when there is a need for permits, will Reed’s company be grandfathered in?
“We know how that game goes. Blacks are last in and first out,” said AANI publisher Roy Douglas Malonson.
Reed also has other challenges. He says he’s facing attacks, some even racist, from animal rights activists. He provided AANI with multiple photos and videos proving the blatant racism and harassment he is experiencing.
“The animal rights groups have been marching against us and that’s their right, but it is not a march once you start calling people out of their names, using the N-Word and saying ‘You ain’t gonna’ make no money tonight N*****!’”
Reed says he’s written several letters to the city asking for help, but still, no response.
“Everything I do, I do it right. I have proper insurance, I’m licensed. I just had a $17,000 carriage at a community event with kids climbing all over it. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee told me she appreciates everything I do, but I am asking for her help too,” Reed said. “I’m not asking for a favor. I am asking for them to do what’s right. I don’t want to blast our mayor. I like Sylvester and all our city and congressional leaders; I just want them to hear me.”
Will Reed be heard? How will his business be affected? AANI will follow up and update on Reed’s progress.