Kristin Metzen toiled away for over 14 years at a 9 to 5 job, feeling unfulfilled, overworked, and uninspired. During that time she began to experience anxiety and depression. As part of her treatment, Metzen looked to flora and fauna to find comfort and relief; and the passion for plants that developed inspired her to create Life is Succulent located at 1249 Eggert Road near Main Street, which opened on April 21st.
At first look, this small, discreet building appears to be home to a quaint plant shop, but the 800 square foot space is so much more. To describe it as a unique boutique would be an injustice, for the bohemian energy is palpable the minute you enter.
When I walked in the door, the luscious aroma of Mother Nature sent my endorphins into a tailspin, as my eyes took in the spectacular array of foliage displayed throughout the retail space. From hearty, easy to grow Snake Plants and Jades to exotic Begonias and Pregnant Onions, this little shop has something for everyone, and Metzen is more than happy to give advice on each one of her little babies.
Tiny succulents in tiny pots soak in the sunlight from their spot on the sills of the westward facing front windows. Burro’s Tail, Stapelia, Bear Paws, Tiger Tooth Aloe, String of Pearls, and Drunkard’s Dream are all on display with lots of little friends. Larger plants including Money Trees and Philodendron sit on tables, stands, and shelves while combination plantings hang on the walls, all making the space feel truly alive, a plant lover’s mecca.
But this is just where things begin. Metzen’s philosophy of upcyling and repurposing is felt throughout the store. It’s not just the plants that are for sale – everything in Life is Succulent is. Tables, shelves, cabinets, pots are all available through consignment from local clients, thus things are constantly changing while new plants arrive weekly. If you spot a cute wicker chair with a Peperomia plant perched on its seat that you think might look great in your apartment, both could be yours. Likewise, scattered throughout are a variety of artisan goods made both locally and in the US. Metzen hopes that as more people become aware of her shop, she will stock more and more locally made crafts and goods.
Jen Stockman, owner of Jen Stockman Designs, was one of the first local artisan’s whose wares were offered at Life is Succulent. Stockman approached Metzen to sell her handmade cloth napkins, an idea she had when her daughter was home sick. To pass the time she and her daughter found leftover scraps of fabric, and together they sewed napkins for their family table. After a post on Facebook, demand came pouring in. Stockman knew that she could make this to be more than about napkins.
Stockman explains, “I was inspired by the colorful fabrics I had seen at the West Side Bazaar, I actually began making some napkins from the skirts I bought there. I took it one step further and thought to bring interesting textiles from around the world to the sacred dinner table, in hopes to create conversations of women empowerment and global awareness.”
Stockman turned to suppliers from India, Ghana, and Myanmar for fabric, and reached out to Dawne Hoeg at Stitch Buffalo to employ Hkoung Lung, a Burmese refugee, to help sew the napkins and label with the words “Wabi Sabi” a term Stockman came across which means, “finding beauty in imperfection,” and fits Stockman’s design mission to repurpose things that others no longer want.
This creative and progressive idea was perfectly inline with Metzen’s vision of her store and it was a no-brainer for her to display and promote Stockman’s napkins. Moreover, it’s this idea of a women’s consortium of sorts that Metzen is striving for.
To that end, Metzen utilizes a room that sits just off of the retail area as a multi-use studio space where she will hold workshops in plant care, plant arranging, and pot painting. Yoga classes will be taught by Holliann Schrantz and Shaylen McCoy and are already scheduled. As an animal advocate who owns at least one “foster failure,” Metzen is planning to hold animal adoption parties in the studio through Buffalo Underdog Rescue from where she adopted her one-eyed pooch Popeye.
The studio space, though small, can comfortably accommodate up to 20 people and has a light natural aura about it with a living wall of plants, and a garage door that can be kept open in warm weather. With WIFI available, the space is also suited to rent to the public for special events. An outdoor garden and patio area will be available to clients as well.
The building and its large parking lot are owned by John Feldemacher who also owns the residential property next door. After the survey company who formerly leased the space closed, there was a lot of interest in the building. Feldemacher was approached by many people who wanted to open a variety of businesses, but he wanted the space to be something different, he didn’t want to see yet another hair salon opening in the area.When approached by Metzen’s creative enthusiasm he knew he had the right tenant for his little building.
Feldemacher stresses that the building is a work in progress, and he is optimistic about working with Metzen and all her creativity and youthful exuberance to allow its development to organically evolve, like considering a public art mural project on the Southern facing exterior wall of the building, subject to town approval.
Feldemacher stresses that the building is a work in progress.
When Metzen asked Feldemacher about using the parking lot for outdoor summer fairs to include a farmers market and local artisan vendor booths he was all in. But Metzen’s aspirations did not stop there. The residential property next door is in the process of being renovated. To build upon her vision of a women’s consortium, Metzen has plans to lease the house from Feldemacher, pending town approval, and rent rooms to artisans for work and/or display space, creating a communal artist building and sanctuary.
Stockman could not be more thrilled with this idea. Jen Stockman Designs primary focus is reupholstery of worn out, unwanted, tossed-to-the-curb furniture. She would love to have space to work and display her labors, as most certainly would other like-minded entrepreneurs who may have never thought they could obtain a brick and mortar space for themselves.
Though this might seem like a lot for one business to tackle, it just makes sense once you walk in the door. You truly have to experience this special spot to understand it. Metzen’s imagination and vision seem endless, and local residents could not be more thrilled. While interviewing Metzen for this piece, neighbor after neighbor walked in, excited to see what is happening in their neighborhood and looking forward to the future.
Take a peek and see for yourself. Hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday, noon – 7:00 p.m. You will probably be invited to stay a while, so don’t be surprised if you do so in this alluring little shop that gives you pause to appreciate the simpler, more succulent things in life. Follow Life is Succulent’s evolution on Facebook and Instagram.
P.S. Stitch Buffalo is a non-for-profit whose mission is “To advance social justice for refugee women in Buffalo, New York by creating opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and economic empowerment through textile arts.” Each week a growing group gathers to weave and embroider. It is a time of laughter, socialization, curiosity and learning. Colors and patterns are chosen, beads are strung, and women on the edge of society redefine their identity while building bridges of confidence and community.
If you would like to support this great organization, please mark your calendars for their pop-up event “Second Stitch” on July 13th, 9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., at 1215 Niagara Street. This event is an opportunity to repurpose donated materials that cannot be used at Stitch Buffalo with the hope to bring these materials to life in individualized creations. All proceeds go directly to sustaining Stitch Buffalo programming.