Urban Garden Shop 'Plants And Friends' Sprouts In Hayes Valley

At the end of October, Nick Forland opened Plants and Friends in the former Kira Kids space at 542 Laguna St. (at Linden).  

"I walked by when [Kira was] still here," said Forland, who inquired about the space after seeing a sign in the window announcing the store's plans to relocate to the Inner Sunset. 

"I had seen a lot of stores in New York and LA that were more catering to young urban people that wanted more of an experience than going to the garden center," Forland said.

Some of the plant-themed books in the store are vintage finds.

Although he wasn't actively looking for a space to set up shop, he decided that the Hayes Valley storefront could house enough plants to make a viable business. "I wanted to do it my way, with my aesthetic," he said.

After the closure of Birch earlier this year, the neighborhood lacked a place to shop for greenery. Forland said that besides neighbors who've welcomed him to the area, shop owners have also come in to buy plants for their stores or as gifts.

Forland has done photo production work in the city over the last couple of years, as well as experimental design and marketing for companies like Airbnb. He notes that he currently has 40 plants in his home.

"I feel like [plants] make the atmosphere more enriching in my home life," he said. "Just to see soil, earth and that sense of groundedness inside is a good reminder of nature."

Besides plants, the store also offers candles, body care products and other homewares.

At Plants and Friends, customers can buy plants suitable for coffee tables, floors, shelves, and hanging, as well as plants that are easy to maintain. Forland said his inventory contains greenery that's well suited for different light situations.

"There are also pet-friendly plants," he noted.

Forland, who also offers specimens from the Flower Mart, obtains plants at nurseries in Half Moon Bay, Petaluma and a few in Daly City.

"I go to nurseries to pick all the plants myself because I feel there are certain ones that have the right balance or the right look," he said. "I don't like to just get a shipment of plants. You never know what's gonna show up."

Friendship is represented in the shop's name, but it was also a major factor in getting the shop ready to open, said Forland.

"The woodwork I did with a friend who is a woodworker in the city and has a shop in Berkeley," he said, adding that his painted signs were created by Alexis Joseph, a friend who owns a shop in the Outer Sunset.

In the future, Forland plans to do pop-ups and collaborations with other local businesses as well. Currently, he's rotating artworks in the store, currently showcasing collages by artist Rachel Duffy.

The shop also comes with its own potting station in the back.

Plants in the little "greenhouse" are constantly changing.

If customers want a plant for their house or a pot for their plant they can come in. "At some point I will also sell small soil bags and some smaller fertilizer," Forland explains.

For now, Forland said his main challenge is to keep enough plants in the store and to get enough sleep, but things have proceeded smoothly since the launch.

"When I signed the lease, I found $20 on the ground," he said, laughing.

Plants and Friends (542 Laguna St.) is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12 to 8pm. Customers can see samples of current inventory via Instagram.

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