From the brim of his hat to the soles of his boots, florist Bruce McShan is Western to the core.
Sitting at the helm of the world’s largest single location floral shop is a man you’d never peg as a florist. A veterinarian or horse trainer, sure, but never a florist.
Bruce McShan—owner of the popular Dallas-area McShan Florist—knows enough about flowers and business to drive and shape an industry. He’s tall, rugged and wears his trademark cowboy hat and boots every day. He speaks with the comfortable slow drawl of a true Texan and looks like he’d be more comfortable as an extra on an Old West movie set than he does holed up in a business conference room. And, while he can talk horses and training techniques comfortably, he’s just as adept at speaking about importing flowers from South America or telling you why he converted his entire fleet of delivery vehicles to clean-burning natural gas. Don’t let the well-worn leather boots and aw-shucks attitude fool you. Bruce might be an award-winning florist by training, but he is first and foremost a cowboy at heart.
McShan Florist spans 27,000 square feet and is located in the same spot where Bruce’s father, Lee A. McShan Jr., founded the family business 65 years ago. The neighborhood has changed, the building has expanded many times, and production has been streamlined and automated, but the heart of the business never changed: live by the golden rule, and take care of the customer to make them feel special by giving them quality, style and service every time.
“My dad worked in a floral shop making 25 cents an hour when he was a young man,” Bruce said. “After he got out of the Navy during World War II, he was transferred back to Dallas. He found this location for sale, and he and my mom opened the business three weeks before I was born. It was just a small building in the middle of cow pastures. There were horses in the pasture behind the store. We lived in the city and coming to the store was like coming to the country because there were horses there.”
Spend any time with Bruce and one thing quickly becomes obvious: the boots, cowboy hat and Western flair are not merely a publicity stunt, but a way of life he can’t shake. A saddle sits on the floor of his office and a bridle hangs from the coat rack in the corner, while a few pairs of well-worn boots line the walls.
While some would be impressed with his collection of authentic Native American artifacts and art that adorns the office, perhaps the most telling mementos are the tattered rodeo photographs taken by Bruce himself. Many are black-and-white, and all depict rough stock and bull riding competitions from rodeos like the West of the Pecos Rodeo in Pecos, Texas, the Southwestern Exposition and Stock Show in Fort Worth, Texas, and the granddaddy of them all: Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming. These aren’t just snapshots taken from the cheap seats. No, these are live-action, down-and-dirty arena-floor pictures.
One favorite image shows eight-time World Champion Bull Rider Don Gay hanging on for dear life to a nearly vertical 2,000-pound bucking bull—for years, the memorable image was used in Mesquite Rodeo Arena advertising. Another captures legendary bullfighter and rodeo clown Miles Hare performing the first-ever bull jump, taken during the 1979 Fort Worth Stock Show. And, if you’ve ever scooted a boot at the legendary Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth’s Stockyards, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Bruce’s photographs on permanent display.
“I was young and eager and was a completely self-taught photographer,” Bruce explained. “Back then, you just picked something up and learned as you went along. When I started, the rodeos didn’t have contracts with people to take pictures, so if you showed up and shot, you could work as the event’s photographer. This was a long time ago; we’re talking ’71 to around ’84.
“I had graduated from Stephen F. Austin University, and a buddy of mine was the rodeo secretary over at Fort Worth, so I had a way to get in. I would work at the floral shop until about 10 or 11, drive over to shoot the afternoon performance, come home and develop all the pictures in my dark room. Then, I’d get up the next morning and repeat it all again during the entire rodeo.”
Though Bruce downplays the significance of his involvement in the development of the sport, his photographs helped chronicle how the sport grew and changed over time.
“People like me just followed the cowboys as they made their way from one rodeo to the next. I’d set up and take my pictures and develop them and the cowboys would buy the ones they liked,” Bruce said. “It was a great, fun time in my life, and I loved every bit of it. Things changed as the years went on; rodeo is a lot different now than it was then.”