Editor’s Note: This post has been updated on 3/30/2021 to reflect the rebrand of PlantBar to PlantHouse. The article below reflects images and commentary from their prior location. You’ll find the updated website and location at the bottom of the page.
A mother-father-daughter trio are the minds behind the local plant store and terrarium workshop PlantBar (now PlantHouse). It has blossomed into more than the Ryan family imagined. 22-year-old Bailey Ryan has set the vision for PlantBar, a place where all generations can come together and work on the same craft.
A wave of greenery and a breath of fresh air hits you as you enter PlantBar. The spacious room is framed with shelves of plants stocked from the floor to the ceiling. In the center of the shop are numerous workbenches, where guests craft terrariums or air plants during rotating workshops.
The community support has been the fuel for PlantBar’s success. Bailey told us more behind the business and shared exciting news about upcoming storefront expansions to new cities.
How It All Began
The Ryan family started their business model online as Hinterland Trading Company. With natural business wit, Bailey knew there was a higher demand to bring a plant-based business into the market. Bailey explains, “I wanted to create an in-person experience, and I knew people wanted and needed that.”
In 2016, Bailey scheduled the first terrarium workshop while her parents were out of town. To her surprise, sign-ups for the class began rolling in rapidly. With pure excitement, she called her parents and told them to get home as soon as possible, as they had quite a bit of preparation to do. Over 100 people signed up for the workshop, which was scheduled to take place a couple of days later. They spent the evenings building benches and preparing for the crowd. For the next eight months, the class was booked out completely with 100 people per event. This solidified the concept and the Ryan family completely pivoted their model to a temporary brick and mortar located in Virginia Beach Town Center. While they signed a six-month lease, they remained in that building for over a year. High rent and their desire to find a more suitable space drove them to find a more permanent home.
“We decided to open at the oceanfront to be closer to our customers as well as local businesses,” Bailey says. She continues, “The community has been incredible. We really knew we were home when we moved [the business] here.”
They polished up the brand and PlantBar was born. The idea for the name came from Bailey’s dad, and she admits she was not a fan of it at first. “I fought my dad hard on the name. I really wanted something original that kept the small business image,” Bailey says and smiles. She admits the name does get the business across very easily—yet a lot of people assume it is a full bar and hope for a whiskey on the rocks.
Bailey also gives credit to their impressively creative team who stayed along for the ride. “Our staff is passionate about what we do. It became a thing on its own and now we could not be happier.”
The PlantBar Experience
The shop welcomes plant lovers and makers. The PlantBar model is easy: a place to freely express creativity.
Drop by and pick out your plant and pot pairing for your home or office. The ceramics at PlantBar are custom ordered and cannot be found anywhere else locally. And the best news? They will pot your plant for free! “We want to set you up and start you off on the right foot,” Bailey explains. You may also bring in your own pot when purchasing a plant and they will pot it for no additional charge.
If you do not see the perfect plant for you, leave a request with the PlantBar team! “We take requests all day long. The community is a huge influence on our plant inventory and style,” Bailey says.
Weekly workshops are held to provide a distinct and enriching experience. “We really push for creative freedom,” Bailey says. She explains they separate themselves as a business by teaching guests how to assemble and care for their plants while leaving them to the creative design and exploration.
The workshops are also a place to relax, unwind and get a little dirty. “Being in the dirt is known to be therapeutic. It is a nice break for everybody.” Every project also includes two complimentary glasses of wine, Sangria, champagne or beer. We will cheers to that!
The hope for each workshop is to also help guests find the plant that is fit for them. So much so, Bailey throws around the idea to host a plant speed date night and a horoscope plant night. The ideas continually flow. The PlantBar team brings new workshops to the table to provide a different experience for regulars. “We want you to come back with a new friend and try the classic class or the newly introduced class.”
At the end of the day, PlantBar hopes guests feel zen during their time at the shop, and perhaps leave with a newfound love for plants.
The community influences PlantBar entirely. From the plants to the workshops, the team is listening to input and feedback from guests every day. “We want everyone to be able to afford it. We want everyone to be able to buy it. [The community] influences every aspect of our business.”
Guests are encouraged to request plants for the shop’s next inventory order. The PlantBar team wants to know what you are interested in and what styles you are drawn to. “I love being able to see what [guests] are putting in their homes.”
The local small business community has made a major impact as well. North End Bag Co. created branded durable jean aprons for the PlantBar team to wear; Local artist, @meg, painted the walls of the shop and designed PlantBar cards for purchase; and, many restaurants around town enhance their spaces with plants from PlantBar, including StockPot, Aloha Snacks and Simple Eats. “I love working with local artisans. I mean, that is what we are. We are just artists with our plants,” Bailey expresses.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
The proudest moment for Bailey has been how the growth of PlantBar can support her entire family. “I am so proud to work so closely with my mom and dad. It feels really good to be financially independent and stable at this age with something I am really passionate about.” Secondarily, she mentions they are very proud to have recently signed with investors, Horizon Ventures, out of Petersburg, Florida who will help them bring their business to new heights. “We knew we needed that other side of the business. When we found it, we were ready to run.”
The biggest obstacle is stocking products, as plants are very dependent on the weather. Their supplier ships from Florida weekly, so they have to stay in touch on the status of the plants to ensure they will receive new inventory every week. “It is important for us to have back-up to the back-up.”
Bailey’s advice for others starting a small business is to “hold your guns and stand out.” She expands, “My mom did not realize how much I am willing to speak up for myself. You need to really know when to speak and when to speak up for yourself.” Bailey’s mom Elizabeth chimes in, “She does not give herself enough credit. Bailey was never one to get up and perform in front of people. She never wanted to be the center of attention. Yet she has the ability to know when to speak and when not to speak.” More so, she knows how to speak truthfully and thoughtfully, especially to their brand.
Future Goals & Favorite Things
A future goal: open five locations by 2020. The Ryan family is most looking forward to opening their second location in Richmond this fall. “It is something we have been talking about since we started. This is such a huge accomplishment for us,” Bailey says. The growth of their business model is due in large part to their business partners at Horizon Ventures, who provide strategic business input while leaving the operations and creativity up to Bailey and her team.
As PlantBar continues to expand, they have a goal of creating a community in each city they are in out of a common love for plants. Each location is going to be very different from one another. “Artistically, we want it to fit the people that live there because it is being crafted for them.”
The Richmond location will open mid-October with an edgier vibe. “Located near VCU’s campus, it is a new venture for us. The vibe is so different from Virginia Beach. Being in a college town that is close to home, it felt like the perfect place to introduce the concept,” says Bailey.
Off the clock, Bailey is a foodie who enjoys dining around town at her favorite stops, including Barrel 17 (the chili cheese tots are her guilty pleasure), Esoteric and former R&A Business Spotlight, Bay Local. A beach gal at heart, she also loves spending time at the beach or in First Landing State Park with her water dog, Boone, who often makes an appearance in the shop!
How to Experience All That PlantBar Has to Offer
The plants fly off the shelves weekly, so we recommend popping in on delivery days for a plentiful pick. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The space is available for corporate and private events as well.
Bring a friend and stop in for one of the interactive workshops held every week, Wednesday through Saturday. The DIY workshop welcomes walk-ins every day of the week.
Stay on the lookout for the new locations! Richmond and Charlotte are coming very soon.
PlantHouse Virginia Beach is located at: 1564 Laskin Rd, Unit 192 Virginia Beach, VA 23451