A houseplant oasis on wheels is putting down roots in the Iron District as the small business’ life cycle sprouts new opportunities for owners Tryce Nelson and Steven Morrill.
“We’ve rolled all over Kansas City this past year — popping up at wineries, breweries, coffee shops, universities, events,” said Nelson, who co-founded The Rolling Garden alongside his partner Morrill. “People would always ask us, ‘Where’s your store?’ and we had to tell them that they just had to catch us on the go. So we’re really excited to have this shop in the Iron District.”
The Rolling Garden launched as a mobile, boutique plant shop in April 2022. Less than a year later, Nelson and Morrill expanded their presence to North Kansas City’s Iron District.
“We saw this as the perfect location because it’s a good combination of a little bit of everything — food, drink, shopping, music,” Morrill said. “It’s outside, which is especially nice post-pandemic with people preferring to be outdoors.”
“This is a huge stepping stone for us because [the Iron District] already has the established foot traffic,” Nelson noted. “If we can do really good here in the next few years — or maybe even a year — then we know that we can grow our business to something bigger.”
Click here to follow The Rolling Garden on Instagram and stay up to date on their special events and pop-ups.
Planted in the pandemic
The idea behind The Rolling Garden budded during the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple recalled.
“When the pandemic started, I didn’t really have a green thumb,” Nelson shared. “But we were stuck at home, and Steven started getting plants. It started with three plants in our little windowsill, and I started researching everything about plants and how to take care of them. Next thing we knew, we had over 100 plants.”
Learning how household plants worked to help purify the air, boost mood and lower stress levels, the duo decided to renovate an old ice cream truck and turn it into a mobile plant shop.
“We started as pretty much just word of mouth,” Nelson said. “I reached out to pretty much every business in Kansas City, asking if we could pop up with them. Half didn’t respond, but a lot of businesses said yes. We really had to put ourselves out there and not be afraid of failing.”
“We said yes to every opportunity that came our way,” Morrill said. “It didn’t matter if plants really fit into that event or not, we did it because you have to get in front of people when you’re starting out. … We are still going to be popping up with the truck this year, but we will stick to the bigger events instead of running the wheels off to be everywhere.”
The Rolling Garden secured a spot for major city events such as Kansas City Pride, Boulevardia and Cornucopia in 2022 — and they have plans to return in 2023 as well.
Family and community
The Rolling Garden has brought Morrill and Nelson closer to their families, Morrill shared, as their families have been eager to support and assist where they can.
“Our dads are superheroes. We’re actually both disabled, so they have been a huge help in the build out of the truck and our shop,” Morrill said, noting that he is legally blind and Nelson has cerebral palsy.
The small business community has also backed their business, Nelson added.
“Owning a business is not just a one person thing — it’s a whole ass community,” Nelson said. “In Kansas City, it’s a small community of entrepreneurs; but when we all come together and support one another, that’s when we really thrive.”
All are welcome
The couple has built their business on authenticity and affordability, Nelson said, noting that their intention is to set every customer up to be a successful plant parent.
Iron District is an outdoor dining and retail destination that repurposed colorful shipping containers to provide a space for local businesses. The district also has an outdoor food court area and stage for musical performances.
Click here to check out the other local businesses in Iron District.
“How many times have you been to a plant shop and felt overwhelmed? You can end up buying a plant with no idea how to take care of it,” Nelson said. “We always want our customers to reach out to us on Instagram and message us if they have any questions or just want to update us on how their plants are doing. I’m not afraid to tell someone not to buy a plant if it’s their very first plant. We genuinely want our customers’ plants to thrive, and I feel like that is why we have returning customers.”
“Being affordable and authentic goes hand-in-hand,” Morrill added. “We are not going to sell you the most expensive plant and say that it’ll just be OK in front of a window. We get a lot of first-time plant customers, and we’re happy that they choose to start their journey with us.”
Along with selling plants and local goods, The Rolling Garden offers interior plant design and plant maintenance services for businesses.
“I love interior plant design,” Nelson said, “so we can design and take care of all the plants hassle-free for the business.”
The Rolling Garden is also set host planting classes and succulent arrangement classes at their Iron District location this Spring, the duo teased.
“We are currently building a greenhouse where, in the future, we can hold larger workshops and classes,” Nelson said, noting they received a grant from the Porter House KC Alchemy Sandbox to help with the greenhouse buildout.
Nelson and Morrill have big dreams for The Rolling Garden, but their ultimate goal is to ensure that it is a safe space where all can feel welcomed and accepted, Morrill said.
“If you’re having a really poor day, come through,” Morrill said. “You don’t have to buy a plant or anything. Just come catch a vibe and have a conversation.”