Photo Credit: Peter Bonacci
Meet The Childhood Besties Behind This Black-Owned Plant Store
Besties Maya Haynie and Kelly Brown have been sharing life milestones ever since they met in the second grade. The New Jersey natives even moved to Philadelphia for college, albeit at different schools. Now they have formed a business bond as the co-owners of deVINE Plantery, a small Black-owned plant store based in their hometown of Maplewood in South Orange.
Haynie is the original plant lover of the two. Her first purchase was a yucca during a trip to IKEA. Since then, her home could easily be mistaken for a jungle as her collection continued to grow. Like any true friend, she put Brown on to her new hobby. Brown in turn fell in love with all things plant-related and quickly turned a three plant set-up at her Philly apartment into 30.
“Slowly our collections grew and grew,” Haynie told Travel Noire. “It started as a hobby and we like to research things so we really enjoyed learning about all these plants that we would buy and just figuring out how to care for them, trading plants, and all that fun stuff. And that’s where our interest in plants started. Plants are better, or a little bit easier on the pockets, than shopping.”
The deVINE Plantery appeal lies in their personalized approach to the plant buying experience. According to Brown, “You’re not just walking in and purchasing a plant.” Instead, it is a mini-consultation.
“What are you looking for? What type of lighting do you have? How much experience do you have with plants?” Haynie said, sharing some typical questions they might ask a new customer. “Then we go through the customized experience of recommending any plants that might be perfect for their lifestyle. On top of that, outside of the plants, we have things like pots and other accessories like misters, and things relevant to plant care like fertilizer. We do workshops with clients and events as well, corporate things, and we’ve taught at schools in the past. But mostly people come for the plants. What differentiates us is the experience of shopping and getting that custom attention.”
“We try to meet people where they’re at,” added Brown. “We don’t want to give someone a plant, and they not do well with it. As Maya said, we want to give everyone a really good experience, not a transactional thing. It’s very personalized. We like to converse with our customers a lot. I would say we spend about a good five to 10 minutes talking. And it’s really good. It builds a really great customer base.”
The lifelong friends had no intention of turning their shared passion into a business. The idea for a plant store was somewhat accidental. The seed was planted when Brown, an engineer working for a medical device company, was out for what she calls a ‘quarantine walk’ with her sister. They noticed several empty storefronts, which got Brown thinking about her overcrowded apartment.
“I was like, ‘wow, this would be a really great spot for plants. The windows are good.’ And then that’s when I reached out to Maya, and I was like, ‘Am I crazy? You want to do this with me?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah!’ That was in April of last year, around my birthday. Right after, we went into complete planning mode all of May. On June 29th we made our official first sale.”
The response to the plant store has been overwhelmingly positive. A recent tweet about the company, composed by digital marketer Haynie, went viral and has gained them more exposure and clients. Right now they only offer pick-up and delivery from their Montclair location but they are working on shipping options to give more people access to the brand. Another long-term goal is to open more retail stores nationwide. But first, they want to go back to where it all began.
“The very next spot we have to open is in Maplewood, South Orange,” shared Brown. “Somewhere back over in our hometown. I think that would definitely be a perfect second location. And at the rate we’re growing, I think we could definitely do that.”
Find out more about deVINE Plantery on their website.