Retail 101: Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

Photos by Leo Soyfer

Located just across the street from Arsenal Tech High School, Grounded Plant and Floral Co. is the ideal oasis for houseplant enthusiasts. The shop opened in 2017 and features an array of succulents and indoor potted plants for gardeners of all skill levels, plus a curated collection of natural beauty products, local paper and home goods and more. PATTERN had the opportunity to speak with the shop’s manager and learn more about this hidden gem and Instagram favorite.

Name: Sarah Lynn Harbison, store manager

Store name: Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

Store address: 1501 E. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46201

Store website: www.groundedplantandfloral.com

Store insta: @groundedplantfloralco

When did you open the store? July 2017

Number of employees: 1 full-time, 9 part-time

Entrance of Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

What do you sell in the store?

First and foremost, plants, of course! We also sell a lot of lifestyle items, like aromas for your home, eco-friendly kitchen and cleaning items, all-natural bath and beauty products, books, and a lot of art as well.

Previous jobs/ventures:

I actually moved from Alabama, and the thing that sparked my interest in plants was that I worked for my college’s Arboretum, pulling weeds, building fences, taking down trees, things like that. I did a lot of work with that was more conservation-based in the Museum of Natural History, and had some other retail jobs before that.

Why did Amanda [the store’s owner] decide to open her own storefront?

She started out in weddings— you can see some of the work she did at Grounded Weddings. She started more in events, but once she had less events and more of a need for a storefront, she was in a smaller space to the side of the current full shop. Most of it was devoted to storage for cut floral, so there were just a few items, a handful of pots and plants with mostly cut florals and arrangements. Once she started with that, she was able to expand into this space, because it got popular enough that she was able to spread out a bit.

For you specifically, how did you find Grounded Plant and Floral?

I moved up to Indianapolis with my friends from high school and college. Once I came here, I moved to Fountain Square and this was one of the first spots that I found. I was like, “wow, what is this? We don’t have this in Alabama!” This was the first plant store I’d ever been to, and I fell in love instantly. I started inquiring about jobs pretty quickly, and was able to get a very part-time gig. I think when I started, I was working one three-hour shift a week! Then, I was able to just have initiative and pick up shifts. Then, post-quarantine, I got more into the managerial side of things here.

Plant selection at Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

Do you have an online store as well?

We just sell the non-plant items online. It’s mostly our best-selling aromas, bath items, books, and art there, the best-sellers of what fits our lifestyle brand. Plants are just in-store right now.

Which came first, the online store or the brick-and-mortar store?

The brick-and-mortar store. The online store was really something we created out of COVID needs. Once quarantine hit, I worked with Amanda on doing some curbside pick-up for plants, and then we thought of the idea of getting some online inventory.

What are five skills/qualifications that you think are important to have before launching or managing a storefront?

I feel like it leans more on skills than qualifications. Initiative is really important. You have to have that want to get things done, that drive. Passion, too. For Amanda, a lot of it is a gift-giving kind of culture. She wants to bring people to the space and give them something to bring home from it. This may be basic, but time management is important. There are so many things going on at once, and you have to know how to prioritize and manage that. 

Day-to-day, this job has a lot to do with people skills, having the skill to talk to people and figure out what they need. Maybe they don’t know which window their plant would be facing. We can figure it out with them through context clues and digging in with them in a nice and inquisitive way. Our goal here is to get somebody a plant that fits their needs. I really encourage finding the plant that works for that person. That level of people-skills and general customer service, really caring for all the people that come through, is important.

What’s the most effective marketing tool that you’ve been using recently?

Instagram. We don’t really have other social media at the moment, besides our website. We’re not really in any of the main locations in Indianapolis, we’re not in Fountain Square, we’re not downtown. We’re in kind of an in-between location, so a lot of it is just getting the word out. Instagram has really helped us. Our following has really grown through quarantine. I feel bad saying that, it was a really dark time for a lot of people. But people were able to spend a little more time on their phones and looking through these things, and so a lot of people found out about us through that.

What’s more important when opening a storefront: location, having a nice cash cushion or having a lot of retail experience? Why?

I would say experience. We’ve been successful, even without having that prime location spot. I love our location, because it feels like you’re finding a hidden gem every time. It might not be the perfect location on paper, we’re kind of off the beaten path, so I feel like you can play with location, find what works for you. But I feel like experience is really it. Amanda has a lot of experience and a customer base through events and planning. She learned a lot about people through those events, what brides like and how that translates to what they want in their homes.

What’s more important when opening a storefront: location, having a nice cash cushion or having a lot of retail experience? Why?

I would say experience. We’ve been successful, even without having that prime location spot. I love our location, because it feels like you’re finding a hidden gem every time. It might not be the perfect location on paper, we’re kind of off the beaten path, so I feel like you can play with location, find what works for you. But I feel like experience is really it. Amanda has a lot of experience and a customer base through events and planning. She learned a lot about people through those events, what brides like and how that translates to what they want in their homes.

Display at Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

How do you decide which vendors/products/brands you want to carry in your store?

As far as plants go, we use a nursery in Ohio. Some of it depends on what they have in stock, and part of it is following trends. It’s really interesting how it’s changed. Pre-quarantine, it was a lot of really showy, flashy plants, and now that people are learning more about plants, it’s one that they’re able to keep alive in their homes. So with plants, it’s following what trends are happening now, especially in our area. We don’t have as big of a plant district as places like Seattle and New York, so we follow the locals, and there’s Facebook pages that we check.

For the rest of the inventory, that’s a group effort. It’s still mainly Amanda, but she also listens to our input, too. We let her know what customers are looking for as well. 

Do you work with vendors on a consignment basis?

For now, we’re sticking to all wholesale.

Do you carry any local vendors/brands (outside of the plants)? Why/Why not?

It depends on our inventory. We have a lot of Midwest brands. We have tea from Bloomington— Cup and Kettle Tea. We’ve carried local pottery and a lot of small batch things, so we’ll try out a lot of different artists.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in running this business?

Plants aren’t “forever inventory,” so we have to keep track of them and understand how to take care of them and keep them alive. And we have to understand the trends – what are the customers interested in buying.

Plant display at Grounded Plant and Floral Co.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening their own storefront or someone interested in gaining management experience?

I would encourage people to reach to businesses that they’re in love with and try to get plugged in. They knew who I was here even before they were hiring. Take initiative!

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming brand looking to build a strong relationship with a retailer?

We have a lot of people who talk to us about their products and work, and then don’t follow up. You have to keep up communications, because if I’m reaching out to you, I really want to sell your product!

Are there any online resources that you regularly visit to help you run your business better, or keep up with the latest industry trends?

We use Facebook more for plant stuff. As far as retail trends go, I try to tap into the knowledge of other local businesses in the area. I try to keep an eye on what they’re doing, what we can do differently, and what we can learn from them.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We have new plants every Wednesday!

To learn more about Grounded Plant and Floral Co. and view their limited online inventory, check out the store’s website and Instagram!

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