Jules Zanoni knows plants. The Chicago native is the proud owner of Grow, a boutique plant shop that specializes in all things green and leafy. After nearly two years in business, Grow has laid down its roots in the form of a brick and mortar storefront in Plaza Midwood and a flagship store in Camp North End.
The idea of opening a boutique plant shop was first planted when Jules’ husband Adam grew tired of hearing her complain about the lack of plant stores in the Queen City. He suggested she open her own, and within a month Jules had found a small place to rent, obtained a business license, and started making connections with wholesalers and growers. Now, her and Adam, (or “head plant boy” as she affectionately calls him), have been able to blossom the business into something special.
Jules talked to us about the ins and outs of running a small business, the house plants she can’t live without, and the best plants for beginners.
What first sparked your interest in gardening and plants?
I’m actually lucky enough to remember getting my first plant that was my very own. It was a little cactus from the Tucson, AZ, airport when I was a young child. While plants haven’t always been a central part of my life, I have always appreciated having them around.
How do you pick which plants get featured at Grow?
I work with a select group of growers and wholesalers; some local, or semi-local, and some in Florida. I spend two to three days a week sourcing plants and handpick almost every single one (about 90 percent) of those that come through our doors and end up on our shelves.
What advice would you give to someone who is just getting into buying and caring for plants?
Start small: I don’t necessarily mean with a small plant, but I mean start with just one or two plants. Plants are amazing, and some might say even addicting, so it’s easy to go overboard and want to quickly fill up your entire space with them. But honestly, it’s best to start with one or two. Like us, each plant is unique and has its own unique wants and needs. It’s so important to be able to take time and learn from your plants, and so incredibly satisfying to watch them thrive!
What are a few household plants you think everyone could enjoy?
Some really great plants that I believe most people would enjoy are Sansevierias or Snake Plants. There are so many and they’re all just so beautiful. Hoyas, they’re some of my personal favorites, most varieties are pretty easy to care for and they have the most beautiful blooms. Then maybe some type of trailing Philodendron. They’re so lush and beautiful and bring so much life to any room!
What are a few key things you would tell someone who wants to have a small business someday?
I guess the number one thing I would say is that, in most cases, it’s not life or death. It’s easy to get wrapped up and feel like your business is your whole world and that if something goes wrong, it’s going to be the end of it all. That’s simply not true. We are all just people behind these businesses and we’re allowed to make mistakes.
What are some of the biggest challenges to running the business? Biggest rewards?
One big challenge that is different from other retail, is that our product is alive. So we can’t ever just take a break and put things aside. We have to be fully hands on all the time to make sure our plants are healthy and thriving. On the flipside, the rewards are endless! There is truly nothing like seeing the looks of delight on our customers’ faces when they walk through our doors. We have very intentionally curated our shops, so it feels like another world when you come through our doors.