Planthropy living wall and model

September/October 2023
Taking third place: Making your IGC a community gathering space By Teresa McPherson

The Garden Retail Traveling Workshop at Cultivate’23 explored how four Columbus, Ohio, retailers created and became gathering spaces for new and existing customers.

What do two plant sellers have in common with a sprawling indoor/outdoor shopping complex and a vintage reseller? They all focus on being a “third place” in their community — a place outside of home and work to draw in customers and entice them to stay a while.

Easton Town Center

Easton Amazon

A natural fit for a third place, Easton Town Center opened in 1999 and is designed to look like a self-contained small town. It succeeds, with a number of restaurants, shops, department stores, a movie theater and even a comedy club on-site.

Easton phone booth

The center also uses plenty of fresh and synthetic plant material, both on the grounds and in many of the retail stores, to provide a relaxed and welcoming environment — from landscape features to the surprisingly “natural” look of its Amazon Style storefront (the second of its kind in the U.S.), where shoppers use technology to find, select and even try on merchandise.

Flower Child Vintage

Flower Child Vintage gathering

Not everything is for sale at Flower Child Vintage, says owner Joe Valenti. The two-story, nearly 30,000-square-foot store located in a former warehouse serves as both a retailer and a hands-on museum — and a gathering space. Valenti says the store keeps certain not-for-sale merchandise to allow customers to come back and bring someone with them to show off something in the store.

Flower Child Vintage color blocking

Merchandising strategies at Flower Child Vintage include elaborate vignettes with seating areas for customers to gather, color blocking similar items and using vertical space.

East Market

The Plant Gays

Similar to the North Market in the Short North district near the Columbus Convention Center, East Market is a 30,000-square-foot space in a former trolley building with more than 20 food and market stalls among 15 tenants. An upstairs space serves as a meeting and event space.

Inside, The Plant Gays — founded by the owners in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown as a hobby — sells plants, cut flowers, planters, home accessories and locally made items from its stall in the market. It also offers plant design and repotting services.


Planthropy living wall and model
Planthropy designs and installs biophilic designs, including plantscapes and living walls, with both live and faux plants. Co-owner Jessie Laux says she has come around on using faux plant materials, or what she previously referred to as “the f-word.”

“When we started doing that, it was a little like a twist of a knife in the heart because I never thought that we would be working with fake plants,” she says.

Thanks to a good supplier with very realistic-looking plants, she has embraced using faux plant material and pointed out benefits such as not needing to water or prune them, making them ideal for certain installations.

Planthropy living wall

For an enhanced reading experience, view this article in our digital edition.

Teresa McPherson

Teresa McPherson is the managing editor of Lawn & Garden Retailer. Contact her at [email protected].