The late automobile dealer Dan McKenzie once said that if you loved whatever you did to make a living, you would never have to work a day in your life!
A living example of this philosophy couldn’t be more exact in its application with Bruce and JoAnne Byrd who live and “work” in the Hickory Hammock-Ward Basin area on B. Lowery Road. The pair takes old, worn out golf cart tires and transforms them into beautiful, functional flower pots that are seemingly, becoming the rage all over the country.
The “manufacturing” process, although a tough job in itself, is a delicate and sensitive, two-ended operation the Byrds share. Then when it comes to the sales or marketing end of the operation Bruce and JoAnne once again shoulder it as a team.
Although both are business and industrial professionals, the Byrds have for many years “dabbled” in creative, recreational projects to their liking. Bruce as a printing plant operator and JoAnne as a graphic designer found extracurricular activities working with their hands “making things” was a great stress reliever and, quite frankly, enjoyable (and also profitable).
JoAnne, who has a B.S degree in social rehabilitation service and art from Troy State University, fashioned trinkets such as crosses, wind chimes, and other custom decorative items with beads and such that were winners at yard sales and flea markets. In fact they were successful enough to sustain them during the ensuing months. Bruce, on the other hand, obtained an AA degree from Okaloosa Walton Community College, which proved to be valuable to him while working in infrastructure roles with people in the flea markets and retail and direct sales business.
Married in 1975, they raised three children: Reuben, Hannah, and Michael, and there are now four grandchildren
Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was a tragic event for most everyone locally but was especially cruel to the Byrds whose home was virtually destroyed by flooding. As a result they decided to move out of the city, a move that eliminated the flooding problem and at the same time furnish them more room to devote to their hobbies.
One day Bruce decided to make a flowerpot or two out of some abandoned golf- cartwheels, a task that that he had learned from his grandfather when he was a youngster. So at the next flea market when they set up their booth, Bruce introduced his flowerpot to a public that appeared to be ready! And from then on sales from the unusual flowerpots were phenomenal.
As they progressed with their retail trade, about two years ago, they decided to commit themselves exclusively to the “manufacture” of the flowerpots made from the discarded golf cartwheels. Their work, the Byrds, realized was a two-fold mission. They were making a living and at the same time recycling a product that was useless otherwise and were destined only to be discarded at a landfill.
Today the Byrds have declared their mission a success. The have a website which serves as a “store,” and they continue to sell the flowerpots all over the country. Displayed at flea markets and other outdoor events, the flowerpots are being introduced to more and more people. The website (www.yardenartplus.com) is one of their most valuable assets.
“We sell mainly at outdoor art shows in the spring and fall,” JoAnn said. “We sell from our home and usually have our pots and other yard art available for sale and can take order. We also sell from the web, so feel free to call us t0 make an order.”
As the Byrds go about their tasks making a living while enjoying their work, they have never forsaken their spiritual values. “The Lord gave us the gift of creativity,” JoAnne said. “It is our responsibility to use it wisely and to glorify God. And by doing this He blesses us.”
The Byrds say that although their work gets tiring sometimes, they know that success depends on their energy and enthusiasm, and they keep going. “Don’t let anyone fool you,” JoAnne said. “What we do is hard work.” To know their wares are selling makes them proud. Their flowerpots have been shipped to many other states as well as sold locally.