Arts & Life

Plant shop Plantiitas in Long Beach reaches new audiences with an important message

Anthony Diaz and Kevin Alcaraz are the owners of a blooming plant store in Long Beach that officially opened their doors to the community on Oct. 24.

Kevin Alcaraz, right, assists customers on Oct. 31, 2020 in Long Beach, Calif. Pablo Unzueta/ Daily Forty-Niner

Plantiitas is a queer and Mexican-owned plant shop that is home to an abundant variety of houseplants, colorful pots with unique styles and customized hangers that dangle overhead. Each item inside the shop is thoughtfully positioned to welcome plant enthusiasts from all levels of expertise.

Before Plantiitas became its own name, the duo first began buying houseplants for their apartment in Long Beach.

This past April, Alcaraz made a macramé hanger for one of his houseplants and shared it on Facebook. That’s when one of their first requests for a customized hanger came in.

“From [Facebook], we got a really good response from people,” Alcaraz said. “Everybody wanted to buy our plants and we were taking really good care of them.”

In July, the duo decided to use an Instagram account to generate more interest. During the summer, Diaz and Alcaraz decided to have a pop-up shop from outside of their garage, located along a narrow alleyway.

From there, Plantiitas began to take its shape as a small, thriving business. They have generated nearly 6,000 followers on Instagram since their first pop-ups in the summer.

“Plant care and wanting to have plants around you isn’t anything new,” Diaz explained. “It’s only because of the pandemic that there has been a huge surge in popularity.”

Dialogues about mental health have emerged from the popularity of having and caring for indoor plants, according to Diaz. Their intent is to encourage people of color to speak about their mental health by becoming involved with plant care.

Diaz and Alcaraz are hoping to make plants accessible to the community, while also aiming to create a space that makes people feel at home.

Customers shopping inside Plantiitas in Long Beach, California, on Oct. 31, 2020. Pablo Unzueta/ Daily Forty-Niner

In Long Beach, where there are only a handful of local plant shops in the community, spaces like Plantiitas look to appeal to potential plant owners by doing social media outreach and hosting webinars.

Gage Holsay, a long-time Long Beach resident and carnivorous plant grower, believes that he has not seen a plant store in Long Beach quite like Plantiitas.

“It’s mostly supply chains like Home Depot and Armstrong Garden, things like that,” Holsay said. “It’s nice to have a small shop like this.”

Zander Garcia, a four-year business marketing major at Long Beach State, jokingly said that an ex-partner of his had inspired him to buy plants. Now, Garcia has over 200 plants.

“I had a lot of alone time, so it gave me time to take care of something,” Garcia said. “Plants are nice and they’re all different.”

“Para Todxs Sale El Sol,” which means that the sun rises for everyone, are painted on a mural by Katrina Vazquez. Oct. 31, 2020. Long Beach, California. Pablo Unzueta/ Daily Forty-Niner

One of the additions to the shop’s grand opening is a mural by Karina Vazquez, located on the back wall. Their motto, “Para Todxs Sale El Sol,” which means that the sun rises for everyone, is painted above a non-binary figure in the mural.

The time, energy and effort that is required for the Plantiitas shop is also split between the duo’s full-time jobs outside of the shop. Diaz is the founder and operator of Interpret That Inc., a Latinx American Sign Language interpreting service, and Alcaraz is a freelance makeup artist.

Gage Holsay, a long-time Long Beach resident who lives a block away from the store, shops for pottery at Plantiitas on Oct. 31, 2020, in Long Beach, California. Pablo Unzueta/ Daily Forty-Niner

In addition to Plantiitas’s efforts to address mental health, the shop has partnered with Students Run LA, an organization whose mission is to help at-risk secondary grade-school students from across 185 public schools in Los Angeles to prepare and train for the Los Angeles Marathon.

Starting on Nov. 21 through Nov. 22, Plantiitas will be donating 15% of all of their sales to this cause.

“I do own a few plants, I just started and I think this [shop] is great,” Joclyn Perez said, who was visiting from another city. “Plants just bring in this relaxing sense to people.”

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