Photography by Sylvia Elzafon.

When she was younger, Jodi McShan thought she wouldn’t ever come back to run McShan Florist, Inc., an East Dallas institution since 1948. 

Growing up, she spent almost every day before and after school helping at the florist shop on Garland Road. She learned the full range of skills needed to work there — tying bows, making boxes, processing flowers, selling and designing among them. Her favorite task was making basket gardens. Popular in the late 1980s, these gifts had a variety of small green or blooming plants, plus a scene with people or animals. 

Eventually she realized the craziness around holidays and milestone occasions is just business, and “it’s not so bad.” 

She majored in psychology and Spanish at Vanderbilt University and then received a law degree from the University of San Diego and a master of laws degree from the University of London. Part of the deal was that she had to work for someone else before coming back to the florist shop. So she worked at a firm for a couple years before starting her own family law firm and hiring two associates to help handle the case load. 

“Sleep is very overrated,” she says. 

Wanting to be around familiar faces, she returned to McShan Florist, the third generation of her family to manage the company. 

“It’s family,” she says. “Everyone here, they rely on each other.” Most employees work at McShan Florist for decades, so some of the people there during McShan’s childhood are just now retiring. 

In a typical day, she responds to a constant barrage of emails and phone calls. Since she also does the shop’s purchasing, she has to know about upcoming events.

Over the years, McShan Florist has handled countless notable events in Dallas. In its early years, it did landscaping for the newly built Casa View homes, for around $12 per home. Lee McShan, the founder, became a member and president of the Dallas ISD Board of Education, and there’s an elementary school named after him in Lake Highlands. 

The company has provided flowers for every presidential visit to Dallas since the 1950s. It also won the contract for the Fete de Fleurs at Neiman Marcus. A few years ago, McShan Florist did the wedding flowers for TV’s Married at First Sight. Earlier this year, it was the florist for the Junior League of Dallas’ centennial gala. 

Everyday arrangements and gifts — get well, happy birthday, congratulations — are the bulk of the store’s business. It can accommodate all kinds of styles to satisfy a range of customers’ desires, but it’s known for traditional pieces with a contemporary flair. Holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are so busy, the shop has to stop taking orders. But holidays aren’t as profitable because the cost of goods increases.

The shop also handles weddings — everything from a few bouquets to a complete package with decorated archways and enough floral arrangements to fill a venue. 

McShan’s father, Bruce McShan, implemented a computer system for the store in the mid-1990s, and that transformed the sales side, reducing the need for a bunch of people to take orders over the phone. It also streamlined the delivery process, helping drivers take the most efficient routes.

Decades ago, customers didn’t stop by grocery stores to pick up flowers on their way home; now they do. In response, McShan has seen an uptick in orders for events and special occasions, as well as surprise and business deliveries.

The business has added warehouses over time and now employs around 65 people. McShan Florist has as many loyal customers as it does employees. One lesson McShan learned growing up in the shop was the importance of understanding how people’s history — their experiences and past decisions — can affect their current situations.

“Growing up with such a diverse group of people, you find interesting things about everybody, whether it’s where they grew up, their family background, how they approach different problems or issues,” she says. “And it really helps understand how a variety of people think and how they would process information. It’s not necessarily how I would.”

Right before the pandemic, a family brought in two homecoming mums McShan Florist made for the grandmother and her daughter, wanting the shop to create a third for the granddaughter.

“The customer is right,” McShan says. “And it’s making sure that the customer is happy and doing whatever you can to achieve that.”