When I last caught up with Johanna C. Dominguez, owner of one of Elmwood Avenue’s newest businesses, Put A Plant On It, the pandemic lockdown was still relatively new. At the time, Johanna was faced with the proposition of opening a retail business that greatly depended on walk-in traffic. At the same time, she was already getting inventive with ways that she could pivot and adjust to the COVID regulations, while allowing her customers safely shop for plants. Obviously, 10 months later, there have been some interesting undertakings at the shop.
“It’s been going great,” said Johanna. “Weird too. But I was fortunate that I opened up knowing that there was a pandemic, which made it easier to make different plans for different pandemic color codes (yellow, orange, etc.) We have always limited the number of people in the shop to 10, including employees. I was worried during Small Business Saturday, because customers started lining up at our door 2 1/2 hours before we even opened. The line stretched around the building, and there was a line until 4pm.”
Johanna attributes the Small Business Saturday ‘craziness’ to the devout shoppers that want to support small, local businesses, but she also told me that people were very excited about a special pop-up that she held on that day – a rare plant release.
“People are going crazy for house plants right now,” Johanna explained. “Because of the pandemic, there is not enough supply to meet the demand. Unlike sewing more clothing when demand is high, you can’t grow plants faster – they grow at their own speed.”
Unlike sewing more clothing when demand is high, you can’t grow plants faster – they grow at their own speed.
As for the ‘rare’ aspect, Johanna told me to do a couple of Google searches online for two plants – the pink princess philodendron, and the albo monstera. It turns out that these rare plants are so highly sought after that they reach into the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars range. “The ones that I get are mutations of plants,” she said. “They can’t be grown from seeds, only from cuttings, which makes them harder to find.”
Per the successful pop-ups, Johanna told me that she is currently working with 60 artists, and only 2 aren’t local. These artists either create items for plants, or their items have a plant on them… hence the store’s name, Put A Plant On It. “If that towel had a plant on it… I would sell it!” laughed Johanna, as she recalled how she came up with the name.
Aside from carrying a wide variety of house plants, customers have also come to love the interactive potting station. “People can bring their plants in here and pot them,” she told me. “Or they can come in, buy a pot and a plant, and put it all together. It worked great for the holidays… it’s super geeky-person exciting. People love playing around in the soil – I charge by pot size. I love seeing people so happy, including the artists. It’s what keeps me going – there’s a big psychological benefit being around plants (and art for that matter).”
For Johanna, her business is “all about the community.” She’s always trying to figure out ways to help people access plants, because she knows how important they can be to make a household a home. After all, home is where the heart is.
Johanna prides herself on sourcing plants from numerous greenhouses and nurseries throughout the country, although 80% come from this region. Her variety of plants is what makes her stand out, she says. She also grows her own rare plants, which means that there are always some “big” surprises in store for customers, as seen in the lead image – Johanna lovingly holds a giant air plant (tillandsia xerographica).
More than anything else, it’s nice seeing a plant shop back on Elmwood – a street that would not be the same without a resident green thumb planted firmly on the ground.
Carnivorous Plant Pop-up @ Put a Plant On It
We are super excited to have Jim Scott Straus come to the shop and have a pop-up of his carnivorous plants! Jim is one of the organizers of the WNY Carnivorous Plant Club. Jim has been collecting carnivorous plants since November of 2003. Before that, he was a gardener – fruits, vegetables, and basic flowers. He likes carnivorous plants because they are a bit out of the ordinary, and beautiful, in their own right. Sundews are mesmerizing when the sun shines on them. Many have pretty flowers, particularly the bladderworts and butterworts.
Jim will be at the shop from noon until things are sold out on Sunday, January 24th, with a weather date (if the weather is bad) on January 31st.
Put A Plant On It | 715 Elmwood Avenue | Buffalo NY 14222 | (716) 931-5092