From the street, the Cactus Store in Echo Park, LA looks unassuming.
A clean, small space lit by a single pink lamp at night, there is something almost of the desert in its bareness. And rightfully so, because this 350-square-foot place has become a legend for its unique variety of cactus specimen.
Owned by a community of friends, each cactus is carefully selected from farms along the Mexico-California border. The store is currently managed by “cactus guru,” Johnny Morera, whose fascination with plants began over 30 years ago with Japanese bonsai and, eventually, cactus.
Traveldo.se gets a chance to interview one of the partners, Carlos Morera, to learn more about how their love affair with cacti has blossomed into a successful business.
1. How did you come up with the inspiration for The Cactus Store? What is the back story behind the business?
Hmm inspiration…We try not to look at or think about “inspiration” because we don’t like references. I like to feel like things come out of thin air (which I know they don’t, but I like to feel that way). My partners and I have always loved and collected cactus. We all live in Echo
Park and one day we saw an empty store front and thought to ourselves “That little shack would be bad ass cactus store.” Then we did some internet snooping to find the landlord, bought 8000 lbs. of cinder block and went down to the border of Mexico to buy a ton of cactus. My uncle, Johnny Morera, (who is the store guru and manager) was a major influence on the starting up the shop. He is a master when it comes to plants and cactus, and really opened our eyes up to the amazing world of cacti. He is really the spirit of the shop, he looks like he was birthed out of a rock in the desert.
2. Why cacti specifically?
They are some of the most resilient plants in the world, they survive the harshest conditions – and look incredible while they are at it. We like what they stand for. They are also such a huge plant family, with such an array of forms and qualities. When you put them in the same room and say these are all the same plant, it’s really jaw dropping to see the adaptations in form.
3. Where do you get your specimens?
Can’t tell you exactly, but all over the southwestern states and some mail order from around the world. We buy from farms and retired growers and collectors…we do a great deal of snooping around to find unusual stuff. We have literally begged people to sell us some things. We try to keep it as diverse as possible.
4. What’s your favorite specimen?
That we have? Probably some of our huge haageocerus or our cereus forbesii spiralis. In general, anything that’s big. We are definitely trying to move people away from succulent planters on wedding tables, and into specimens with presence.
5. Most people assume that cacti are low maintenance. How do you keep them at their healthiest?
They are and they aren’t. There are some things they can definitely take a beating from: the sun, drought, a tiny amount of soil and nutrients. There are other things that they definitely can’t take a lot of: over watering, very low light conditions, bad air circulation. We try to tell our customers to be observant and in tune with the plant and the signs that it’s exhibiting. By monitoring and careful experimentation with the placement of the plant and watering, you can really fine tune/ personalize its care. They are living pets, so you got to take some time to figure out what they like. Also we are coming out with our own brand of fertilizer in the next month or so, so adding some of that will definitely help.
Written by Isel Garcia