A new store in downtown Lansing wants to help residents add some green to their homes and offices.
Plant lover Faun Donald and boyfriend Luke Trusnovec opened the doors to Neva Lee earlier this month. Located at 123 E. Kalamazoo St., the store sells almost exclusively houseplants and their necessary accessories.
Donald, who has worked in nurseries, greenhouses and florists since graduating from high school, said there are many stores in the area that specialize in outdoor plants with a few species. indoor mixes, but none focus exclusively on houseplants.
“Tthere isn’t another plant store near here that is specific to houseplants, ”said Donald.
After growing several species in their garden, the owners moved them to a 630 square foot space across from Kalamazoo Street from the CATA Transportation Hub. On July 8, they opened their shop, named after Donald’s great aunt Neva, who died last year.
Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, the store was already attracting customers from its first two weeks of activity.
Robin Spinner, who visited the store on one of its first days of opening, admired the foliage in the store windows.
“I loved the large windows and the handwriting on the front,” she said. “For someone like me who loves plants, seeing them through the window was cool. Then you come in and see that greenery, it was a cool experience to walk in.”
For customers like Spinner, who estimates they have around 300 houseplants between their home and their pottery studio, Neva Lee’s is meeting a serious demand. Most of her houseplants are small, with as few as four leaves in a three-inch pot – the type of starters that Neva Lee has a lot in stock.
The couple said they were touched by customers browsing the store on opening weekend despite little publicity or social media. Donald believes it was thanks to the passionate community of gardeners in Lansing.
Mike Rizzo, who grows plants professionally, said the hobby exploded when the pandemic hit. Now that the dust is settling, there is a new generation of plant enthusiasts buying them left and right.
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Neva Lee is aimed at both novices and experienced plant enthusiasts. Donald keeps prices reasonable so as not to take anyone away from the hobby.
Spinner said it was a noble commercial gesture. Houseplants are increasingly scarce due to the recent increase in demand, with some species becoming particularly difficult to find.
“One of the things that impressed me is that even if the supply doesn’t meet the demand, the prices are right,” she said. “They don’t give it away, but it’s the fair market price. People are charging outrageous prices.”
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Neva Lee’s also sells plant-inspired items such as original artwork, jewelry, home decor, and pottery.
“I wanted to carry stuff that I liked,” Donald said, “and I also wanted to have a way to support independent businesses because I had to travel and sell my own art – yarn and stuff.”
For inexperienced plant enthusiasts, Donald maintains his recommendations for low-maintenance species like philodendrons and sansevierias.
“I don’t want to give you a finicky plant, and you don’t know it and you end up not liking plants because it wasn’t easy for you,” she said.
But the store is not just for beginners. Rizzo noted that some of the offerings are rare species that he hasn’t seen in other stores.
When Donald and Trusnovec aren’t in their store, they load their classic van with plants and venture out to festivals or outdoor gatherings to sell their stock.
“It fills a need in the community for people to find plants that (won’t) be at your local Walmart or anywhere you might shop,” Spinner said. “They have little more than a specialized selection of crowd pleasing herbs.”