Caity Torres, owner of the online plant shop Cultivar, stands facing the green canopy in front of Kofenya, watching customers browse over the black-draped tables. Dozens of plants decorate the small tent: polka dot, ornata, monstera, snake and heartleaf plants just to name a few.
The Cincinnati-based business — which Torres and her partner launched at the end of 2019 — offers a variety of houseplants to its customers. While some of the plants are sourced from growers in Florida and California, others are propagated or grown from seedlings.
Although the onset of the pandemic affected the company’s initial launch, Torres says Cultivar has remained successful as an online shop.
“When COVID hit, it was a little scary because, obviously, nobody knew what was going to happen, and it probably wasn’t the best time to start a business,” Torres said. “But everything’s been going great so far, and it’s just been booming.”
In addition to selling through Instagram, Cultivar recently started selling plants inside several cafes and markets around the Cincinnati area. The business has also held several pop-up shops at local establishments, including Kofenya.
“I personally love the pop-ups because there’s that face-to-face interaction with customers rather than through our mobile phones,” Torres said.
So far, Cultivar has had four pop-up shops at Kofenya. Torres said she originally reached out to the cafe after scouting locations without any local plant shops where she could “share the plant happiness.”
“I absolutely love coffee, so tying my love for plants and my love for coffee together has always been fun,” Torres said.
Junior political science major Connor Manos has purchased from the company twice. During Cultivar’s most recent visit on Saturday, May 1, Manos bought two smaller plants, adding to her collection of eight.
“I had never heard of them until a couple weeks ago,” Manos said. “I saw them on Kofenya’s Instagram, so [I thought] I might as well [make a purchase]. It’s a small business, so I wanted to support it rather than going to Lowe’s or something.”
Torres said she also enjoys helping customers in person during these face-to-face interactions, including helping them find their “wishlist plant.”
“Everybody is so happy,” Torres said. “It is the most heartwarming feeling to interact with someone who’s been looking for a plant and we have it and they get it. It’s such a great feeling.”
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Sophomore public health and premedical studies double major Hailey Catino purchased six plants during Cultivar’s recent visit, including three for her mother and sister. Although she grew up taking care of plants with her grandpa, she said the Cultivar staff helped answer any questions about caring for and maintaining plants.
“It was awesome,” Catino said. “They’re super nice here, and they’ve been really helpful about how to take care of things.”
After Cultivar’s first visit to Kofenya in August and September 2020, Torres said she hoped to return to the cafe because of the positive experience with the employees.
“We loved — loved, loved, loved — the Kofenya staff and just the atmosphere of being up in Oxford,” Torres said. “It was just so much fun. We were kind of itching to get back there.”
Kofenya employee Mikah Pransky said she and the Kofenya staff also look forward to Cultivar’s visits. Even though Saturdays are their busiest day, they will often take a break to buy a plant.
“[For] Kofenya employees, it’s their highlight of the week,” Pranksy said. “We love it so much. We love going out there and buying plants from them.”
Although Cultivar has not announced its next pop-up shop at Kofenya, several customers, including Catino, plan on returning.
“I follow them on Instagram, so hopefully I’ll be able to come back whenever they’re back in town,” Catino said.
In the next coming months, Torres plans on creating a website to expand her consumer base and ship plants around the country. She also hopes to open a storefront in the next year.
Regardless, Torres’ goal remains the same: to spread the love of plants and cultivate happiness.
“I think that’s the most fulfilling thing: creating the relationships that we have and bringing happiness to other people through plants,” Torres said. “It’s been incredible.”