Tribute to Steve Reiss: Innovator, Plantscaper, and Dear Friend
In February, our industry lost a dear friend, innovator and fellow plantscaper, Steve Reiss. Steve was the owner of Botanic Décor, Inc. and Leaf-Tek Products, both headquartered in California.
He was deeply involved with PIA, the California-based interiorscape trade association, and was a frequent exhibitor at the trade shows. He was well-known for his leaf shine products, especially Leaf-Tek and Silkbrite, and for his passion for the industry, seconded only by his love of surfing and skiing. He was known by his friends as “Surfer Dude” and was well-loved for his laid-back personality and lifestyle.
Steve founded Botanic Decors, Inc. in May of 1997. He studied ornamental horticulture at college and his first job after completing his studies was working as a landscaper maintaining the grounds around three commercial bank buildings. The banks owned all of their interior plants and they were in desperate need of attention. Steve was assigned the job of maintaining the indoor plants. After three or four months the plants were looking beautiful again and the employees in the bank were delighted to have healthy beautiful plants in their environment where they work.
A bank employee told Steve that her husband was an Optometrist and that his plants could use some help. The Optometrist became Botanic Decors first client. Steve has always had a passion for growing and caring for plants and the business grew from there. His wife, Barb Shope-Reiss, will carry on the businesses.
In 1989, Steve saw the need for unique products that would make plant maintenance easier and more efficient. He created Leaf-Tek Products Inc. in order to bring his own line of quality plant cleaning products to everyone that maintains plants. All of the Leaf-Tek products are non-toxic, biodegradable, environmentally safe and are fully guaranteed, in accordance with Steve’s philosophy.
Steve’s Business Philosophy
In his own words:
“We feel that all indoor spaces can benefit not only from the aesthetic beauty of plants but from the unique health benefits that plants provide. We want our clients to have beautiful attractive plants all the time.
We teach our employees that our clients have hired us because they want an indoor environment where their plants always look beautiful. It is our job to keep the plants looking healthy and attractive as long as possible. Due to light levels in buildings, plants have a time frame where they remain looking attractive. Our employees are trained and specialized in recognizing when a plant is beginning to decline. It can then be replaced before being noticeable to our clients.
Fast, efficient customer service is what we strive for. Keeping plants beautiful and our customers happy is what we are all about.”
I always enjoyed talking with Steve, hearing his stories and ideas. He was so Californian, a sweet guy with a great big heart. He will be deeply missed and his legacy of innovation for our industry will continue on. Long may you surf, my friend!
“Steve Reis was one of my best Plantscaper Buds and my trade show roommate for decades. To those who knew him well… He was affectionately known as Surfer Dude (and he often brought his surf board to the Conventions!) Besides running a successful plantscape company, he was also one of the top interior plantscape innovators. His products include many leaf cleaning and plant treatment products. He was also well known for his sub-irrigation innovation, what Barb Helfman coined “The Sipper,” which is still available from his company, now run by Barb Shope-Reiss.
Together we developed the Sipper Wick for ASI’s Simply Vertical and NextGen Living Wall Systems. I spoke with Steve shortly before his passing and he expressed his deep feeling for our Industry and gave his best wishes to all of us in the Plantscape World for continued growth and success. I miss him dearly.
Steve, may you Hang 10 on the Big Kahuna in the Sky!!!”
Bill Lyon, President of PLANT-TECH20 INC.
“DUUUDE!!! Always the first acknowledgement from Steve Reiss, a transplanted Long Island surfer, skier and boater. Steve moved to Ventura, CA in the early ’80’s, started taking classes horticulture classes at the local junior college, eventually starting an interior plant company, Botanical Décor.
I met Steve in 1987 through our participation in, at the time, the various California trade associations known at the time as NorCal Profession Plantscape Association (NCPPA which later became PIA, now part of AmericanHort.) Steve belonged to the SoCal association called the Professional Interior Plantscape Association (PIPA, which also later became part of PIA.)
At the time, I had started marketing my NoSweat! Waterproof Liners to the Interiorscape market and Steve had been doing the same with Leaftek and SilkBrite. As soon as we met, I knew I liked this guy and we remained friends until the end. My greatest memories of Steve are the ski trips we took over the past 28 years. Steve TAUGHT me how to ski! We also shared many great trips to Florida for TPIE and Las Vegas for PIA trade shows.
Steve was a solid friend, always busy “being Steve” looking for the best wave or the best powder. Now everyday will be “fresh powder” and the “the perfect wave”. I’ll miss Steve and look forward to seeing him again when it’s my turn.”
Peter Herrera, President of No Sweat! Liners
“Every six months or so my phone would ring and when I picked up I would hear “Doctor, Doctor I need some help with my computer imaging” and it would be Steve. It would usually take 30 seconds to solve his computer problem and then we would have our little chat about the state of the Interiorscape industry, our personal lives and any other subject that would come to mind. Steve was always pleasant and happy and loved his skiing. His manner of speaking always made me smile because it reflected his laid back view of life. I like many others in the industry will miss him!”
Joe Cialone, President of Tropical Computers
Portions of this article are from the Botanic Décor, Inc. and Leaf-Tek Products websites, used with permission.
Candle image by Shawn Carpenter