Trendy LA-Based ‘Cactus Store’ Now Selling out of Essex Street Greenhouse
The seven-years-dormant lot at 5 Essex Street is now a temporary open-air Cactus market. The store launched last Thursday evening with an invite-only party, but opened to the public on Saturday during the torrential downpours.
News of this retail endeavor – The Cactus Store – was shrouded in secrecy for weeks, until we first broke the story last Monday. The dormant lot was landscaped, beautified, and primed for foot traffic within a short time.
(The former tenement that stood at 5 Essex Street came down seven years ago, a few years before DLJ Partners, which also owns the Jarmulowsky Bank, purchased the property and its neighbor for $3.5 million.)
The Cactus Store is a product of Echo Park, in Southern California, founded in 2014 by Carlos Morera, Jeff Kaplon, and Max Martin. Their namesake products are often uprooted from the wild (i.e. backyards). What you see on display at 5 Essex Street was apparently driven across the country in order to prevent damage during transit.
“We treat it a little more like a really special antique store,” Martin told GQ in a recent puff piece on the new pop-up. “We’re always on the hunt. The ‘perfect plants’ are usually uninteresting to us. We like ones that feel like they grew in nature and have character and are sculptural in a way that’s not in line with most people’s idea of a cactus.”
The new structure situated in the rear of the lot is actually a steel greenhouse designed by Kaplon.
The New York store is actually a greenhouse, designed by Jeff and built from steel, in a lot that has been empty and overgrown for nine years. Coming to New York wasn’t part of a strategic plan, but the opportunity to occupy the space for the summer arose, and the timing was right. “We have created this strange notoriety from the store in L.A. which has been really amazing and a little bizarre to us,” says Kaplon.
But scaling up too quickly isn’t an option for their operation. The plants are hard to find and grow extremely slowly. “What we’re trying to do is sort of a tricky thing,” Morera says. “Even though popularity is increasing, you can’t just increase your production. If we are going to scale up and we want it to have the same quality then we have to find more backyards to buy the stuff from, and we have to find these other weird sources. It’s a slower process but that’s part of the store’s mission.”
You know who probably is not happy with the Cactus Store is Joy’s Flower Pot around the corner on Hester Street. Her selection of cacti and succulents is pretty good.
The Cactus Store is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11am to 7pm.