No matter the color of your thumb, Paradise Garden Club has something for all its plant fans, said Jessica Teliczan.
Housed in an airy warehouse in Crossroads, the plant nursery and community space has become a bustling spot for greenery collectors and enthusiasts. Customers can shop in store, order shippable plants online, hire the team for design and maintenance services, sign up for classes, bring their kids to programs, and ask as many questions about plants as they need, she described.
“People respond to people who care about them,” said Teliczan, one of the owners of Paradise. “We care about the plants and we love them, but they are everything that branches and bridges us to the community, which is really what we’re about.”
The idea for Paradise grew out of a love for tropical plants and making them accessible in the Heartland. Teliczan and her husband, Matt Lett, moved to San Diego in 2017 right after getting married. They were inspired by the succulents and landscapes out West and in Mexico, specifically Oaxaca, and the people who were so willing to share their knowledge about how they grow.
Both from agriculture communities — Lett from Salina, Kansas, and Teliczan from Holt, Missouri — expanding their interest in plants felt like a return to their roots.
“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to really explore outside of the Midwest or don’t have the natural curiosity to go do that, so we want to bring a little bit of that back for the people who aren’t able,” Teliczan said.
The business was first called Plant KC and opened in Westport in early 2019, but the duo renamed it later that year to Paradise Garden Club, moved to Locust Street, and added more members to their team. Opening day was Black Friday, just a few months before Coronavirus lockdowns began.
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Of all the businesses to bloom during the pandemic, the plant market was a favorable one. The National Gardening Association reported that in the three years pre-pandemic to today, houseplant sales increased 50 percent to $1.7 billion. And plant sales soared even higher as people used them to decorate their quarantine spaces and boost their mental health.
Essentially, studies show that plants make people happy. Physicians and even NASA have researched the phenomena. Teliczan said she often talks to her team and customers about biophilia, or the human instinct to connect with nature and other living things.
“It helps me mentally to be like, the world might be on fire, but this plant is doing great,” she said.
During lockdown, Paradise pivoted from its in-store presence to shippable plants and experiences — like a DIY version of the nursery’s Planting 101 Class in the Snake Plant Activity Kit — that they could mail or hand-deliver out of their company vehicle. It was their creative way of giving the community a dose of Paradise while they were confined to their homes.
“We wanted to offer what we knew people were looking for in an accessible way, not only being shippable but also affordable,” Teliczan said. “We never want to price out the community that we’re living in.”
Now that people are more out and about, the Paradise team has been able to meet those customers in person, either in the store or at pop-up events around the city.
Click here to shop Paradise Garden Club online.
A few weeks ago, Paradise held a ribbon cutting with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City. For Teliczan, it’s important that they’re honoring and involving the Hispanic and American communities and cultures that greatly influenced the business.
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As part of their effort to expand mentorship and employment opportunities, Paradise hosts and participates in a number of community programs. The Paradise Kids Club or STEAM Program welcomes kids every Friday for educational demos or even private classes. And Paradise partners with — and donates its nutrient-rich soil to — local farmers and refugee programs like Roots for Refugees.
Some of the business’s other services include designing installations and landscape solutions for private and corporate clients, routinely caring for plants in homes and businesses across the city, offering rentals to prospective plant parents, and consulting with people to create a greenspace of their dreams.
In the warehouse, any floorspace not taken up by cacti, leafy trees, and planters transforms as needed into a farmer’s market, meditative space, or classroom. New class offerings curated by the shop’s plant experts are coming soon.
“Plants are just a really accessible, happy, productive way to loop us into filling needs in our community,” Teliczan said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.