Sprout Home is an innovative urban garden center with two locations, Chicago and Brooklyn, that is noted for rare plants and design work. I spoke with Amy, who's been with the company for 7 years and leads garden design and outdoor purchasing. A lot of our conversation revolved around the challenges of being a retailer during a pandemic and creative solutions to new and old problems.
I see a lot of video content coming from your social media? Has this been a response to the challenges of COVID-19?
Yes we began posting tutorials from the beginning as a way to inspire customers and encourage DIY projects. We even did a floral arranging tutorial that began with foraging for flowers and plants in your own back yard. Now that people have some extra time on their hands, we’re encouraging them to get their hands dirty. For example, we offer potting services, but now we’re providing the tools, knowledge and supplies for customers to dive in themselves. We also give our number and email out freely. We get things like people sending us pictures of sick plants and we try to help diagnose and treat the problem.
Do you think video content is effective for a garden center?
As much as we miss face to face interactions, videos have become the next best thing to stay engaged. Additionally, keeping an up-to-date website has been important. Whether in-person or on video, we strive to be personable, taking time to educate the buyer and keep them comfortable and successful with their plants. Education has been such an important part of Sprout, from the very basics to the nuances of rare plant care. For example, we offer design consultations so that customers know what plants would thrive in their space and what level of care they can expect.
What else has Sprout done to keep customers interested and engaged?
People are more interested than ever in turning their homes into spaces they want to spend a lot of time in. Gardening is a great way to do that. So we started the Garden Grab Bag . It’s a flat of 10 plants (5 varieties) that are selected based on different needs like light, water and price point. Because of the difficulty of sourcing plants this year, Grab Bags are generally designed by us, so customers get a surprise (tailored to their needs) when they are delivered or picked up. And since we offer soil and containers too, people can really start from scratch. The response was tremendous. People were so excited to have plants and gardening projects as spring arrived while the virus was also making shopping so difficult.
What is unique about Sprout Home?
As a boutique urban garden center, space has always been a limitation. Our Chicago location was once a mechanic’s shop. To make the most of it while staying true to our passion for rare plants, we’re highly discerning with inventory and aesthetics. Our focus has been on unique and unusual indoor and outdoor plants, with the addition of considering what’s possible with the local climate. We’ve done well with the millennial indoor plant craze, which has proven to be more than just a trend. And we think offering this new generation of plant lovers tools, education and inspiration, is the way to keep them engaged.
A little bit about Sprout Home...
Sprout Home is built upon the talent and knowledge of many gardeners and designers - the crew and community are led by founder Tara Heibel. Tara got her start with plants by designing and planting gardens in rehabbed homes throughout Chicago's eclectic West Town neighborhood. Plant addition took hold and a business venture turned into a passion and a lifestyle. In 2003, she founded Sprout Home in that same neighborhood in Chicago which has since expanded to include multiple storefronts featuring plants and accessories for the home garden both interior and exterior, fresh floral for any occasion and special events as well as a curated inventory of useful objects for the home.