The Plant Foundry Celebrates Its Grand Opening
By Brianna Nathan
It’s no secret that Oak Park is seeing an influx of new businesses. Among the newcomers is The Plant Foundry, which opened over the summer in North Oak Park. The Plant Foundry sells a variety of items, including plants from Sweetwater Nursery and Annie’s Rare, Unusual & Heirloom Plants; artisan chicken coops from Two Flew the Coop; local honey from Arden Hills Gold; and biodegradable pots from EcoForms.
They’ll also help get you ready for the holidays, with trees, garland, wreaths, and poinsettias – not to mention gifts, ornaments, and everything you’ll need to have the most festive house on the block. The best part? They’ve teamed up with Edible Pedal to deliver to Oak Park, Midtown, Curtis Park, Tahoe Park, and East Sac – just give them a call, let them know what kind of tree you’d like and you’ll have it within two days!
I sat down with Angela Pratt, the owner-operator of the Plant Foundry, and got the scoop on their grand opening celebration, scheduled for this Saturday. Spoiler alert: South will host a biscuit bar at the bash! Get your Christmas tree, grab a snack, and listen to great music as you get to know the newest member of a booming part of town.
I’ve always loved flowers and plants in general. Back in the early 80’s, my first real job was with Relles Florist. I loved working there… the smell of fresh-cut flowers in the walk-in, the emotional aspect of being there for customers on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, birthdays, and in times of loss. It was there that I learned to make bud vases, floral arrangements, dish gardens, and to really dress up a gift with extra special touches. I’m a romantic at heart, so I’m all for saying it with flowers, and a nice enclosure card.
Everywhere I’ve lived, whether it was an apartment or house, I always grew houseplants and gardened where I could – mostly in pots, as a renter. When I bought my first house, it was so exciting to be able to plant in the ground and literally put down roots.
What’s your favorite part of working in nurseries?
My favorite part of the nursery business is being around a never-ending supply of beautiful plants and the wildlife they attract, and sharing my love and knowledge of plants. Being surrounded by plants creates such a happy, calming vibe. I’m also a foodie, so I’m a bit of an edibles pusher. Whether it’s citrus, herbs, veggies or fruit trees, I want you to grow your own. I made stuffing this Thanksgiving using sage, oregano and rosemary growing in my front yard instead of having to buy those expensive bundled herbs in the grocery store. I also want to preach the gospel of compost. All those wilted veggies in your crisper bin, banana peels, coffee grounds and eggshells you’re throwing in the garbage can be turned into worm compost for the garden. What ails many plants can be solved by compost.
What have been the biggest successes and hurdles over the first few months of being open?
On a personal level, seeing hummingbirds, bees and butterflies buzzing around our nursery, where once there was only blazing asphalt and tires, is very rewarding. It also feels great to hear, “We’re so glad you’re here!” or “This place is really wonderful!” We’ve had some really encouraging weekend days that give me a taste of how busy our first spring season will be. The biggest hurdles have been making tenant improvements to a 1960s garage on a tight start-up budget and launching in summer. The first year can make or break you. There’s so much I want to do, but it takes time to grow the business; I have to pace myself. Plus, I’m leasing, so I have to think about how much I want to invest in a place I don’t own. For now, I’m just focused on overcoming learning curves and growing the business. Never a dull moment these days.
Did anything about being a business owner surprise you?
I knew this would be a lot of work, but I didn’t really anticipate how much of a rollercoaster ride it is at times— like when our 300 Silvertip Christmas trees were zeroed out because of California’s ongoing drought. Or when the pallet jack I ordered went missing. Or that I would spend my two “days off” per week working from home. Let me just say I miss my down time, being able to sit down for lunch, my yoga mat, and even my spin bike. Life is all about balance and my goal is to achieve the right mix of work and down time. My goal is to create a workplace where no one is irreplaceable… even me. I want employees to be cross-trained so we are able to fill in for each other. I want the place to keep humming along, whether I’m there or not.
What are your favorite drought-resistant plants?
It’s a long list, but some of my favorite drought-resistant plants include: rosemary, lavender, Uruguayan Firecracker (Dicliptera suberecta), Gomphrena decumbens, Echium wildprettii, purple hopseeds, succulents and California natives and wildflowers. We live in a Mediterranean climate region, so I’ve learned to embrace the beauty and ease of growing drought-tolerant plants. Northern California has such an incredible landscape. When I travel to the Pacific Northwest I feel like I’m in a forest. When I travel to southern California, I feel like I’m in a desert. The northern California plant palette feels just right to me. The only region that makes me a bit envious is the coast. Their plants exist in a perpetual springtime and the colors don’t fade like they do here in summer. We have better luck with citrus and tomatoes, though.
Your grand opening is this Saturday. What can people expect?
On Saturday, we’re open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and hope to sell lots of Christmas trees so we have room for the big crowd we’re expecting at night. From 1-3 p.m., our growers from Blooms, Monterey Bay Nursery, and High Ranch Nursery will have sample tables set up showcasing their favorite offerings. Our chicken experts from Two Flew the Coop, who supply our whimsical coops, will bring a couple of their specialty hens and they’ll have supplies for sale. Additionally, Scott Thompson from Oak Park Soil will be doing backyard composting demos. We’ve also teamed up with Edible Pedal for bike delivery of Christmas trees and garden supplies to surrounding neighborhoods.
At 5, the Grand Opening party begins. We’ll have a complimentary sweet and savory Biscuit Bar from popular local restaurant South, live local blues music by Jimmy Pailer & Friends, and craft brews on tap from nearby Oak Park Brewing Company, Rubicon and New Helvetia Brewing Co., served up by Beers in Sac. We’ll also have red and white wine, and waters. Beer and wine are $3 per drink. For added fun, we’ll have a horticultural holiday photo booth, so you can take goofy pictures with your friends. There’s also a free raffle, with 3 Plant Foundry gift baskets being raffled off at the end of the evening (shortly before 8 p.m.). This a great chance for us to celebrate finally being fully open, in what happens to be a beautiful holiday setting, and a chance for people to gather and mingle and just have a good time.