“The origin story of Reed Smythe is very sweet because it was founded in friendship,” Keith Smythe Meacham explains to AD PRO. Reed Smythe & Company, founded in 2018, is an online shop trading in artisanal home goods produced by craftspeople and artists scattered across the United States. It was founded by Meacham, an entrepreneur with a background in education technology, and celebrated journalist Julia Reed. “Julia and I grew up in the same town in the Mississippi Delta but 10 years apart, so we inhabited the same world,” adds Meacham. Reed passed away last month after a long battle with cancer, leaving a legacy as an “irreverent, expansive chronicler of politics, food, and Southern life,” as the New York Times put it.
Though both firmly rooted in the South, Reed and Meacham eventually ended up in New York—where their friendship fully bloomed. “Julia and I spent all these years in New York City together, entertaining, decorating, cooking, and just having such a great time doing it,” continues Meacham. “About six years ago, Julia came up with the idea of taking some of the beautiful things that we loved but couldn’t find in stores and [getting] artisans to remake them.” Reed had previously commissioned unique pieces as styling props for the decadent spreads featured in her books on food and Southern culture—everything from handblown glasses to cast-iron ornaments—so the pair channeled their know-how and connections into devising similar collections for the market.
Now, with the loss of Reed, Meacham plans to continue on in expanding the shop even without the outsize presence of her longtime friend. “Julia battled cancer for three-and-a-half years,” says Meacham. “And in that time, we had a lot of really thoughtful discussions about what Reed Smythe would look like. She wanted the company to carry on doing the kind of work we were already doing, but she wanted it to be fresh and new—to always be looking for new artisans to support and champion.”
Moving forward, Meacham has Reed Smythe’s next few seasons mapped out, with plans for new collections sourced from artisans across the South and further afield. “The company is going to continue as it was in her life as a representation of her perspective and her point of view, my point of view, and those two things coming together,” says Meacham. A woodworker in Charleston, South Carolina, is busy creating one-of-a-kind cutting boards from Magnolia wood, while Meacham and her team have also commissioned a series of woven river cane baskets from Choctaw artisans working in Mississippi.
If COVID-19 regulations allow, she hopes to hold pop-ups in Nashville closer to Christmas, as well as during the city’s Antiques and Garden Show. “We’re a hybrid online business; we love doing these happenings because it’s just so fun to let people touch and see these incredible pieces,” continues Meacham, who plans to grow Reed Smythe’s reach with Julia Reed’s infamous contralto voice always in the back of her head. “I just want to honor my friend and her incredible talent, and feel there is a sense of moving forward—and not always just looking back.”