Columbia shops have a reputation for supporting “shop local” initiatives. Ophelia’s Flower Shop, located in the North Village Arts District, takes its support one step further.
Walk through the front doors and into the open-concept room of Ophelia’s and you are welcomed by a lush display of houseplants. Local artists’ paintings line the walls, homemade soaps sit on tables and vibrant vintage pots overflow cubbies.
Return after hours several nights a month, and the store blossoms into a pop-up shop, a music venue, a yoga studio.
Owner Jeni Mae McKenzie says the possibilities are endless.
“Ophelia’s is really just like a collection of all of the things that I feel really passionate about,” McKenzie said.
Since opening in July 2018, Ophelia’s has embedded itself in the Columbia community. McKenzie, who is originally from Columbia, said she almost opened shop in Columbus, Ohio. But on a drive back to Columbia for Thanksgiving in 2017, she realized her hometown was the ideal location.
Community members who have work featured in Ophelia’s or host events at the store include Sarah Judd, a local yoga instructor; Violet Vonder Haar, lead singer of local band Violent and the Undercurrents; and Caitlin Waters, McKenzie’s coworker and a soap-maker whose bath products are sold at the shop.
Judd and Vonder Haar said they both first interacted with Ophelia’s during a First Friday event, when McKenzie hosts many pop-ups. Judd said she was drawn to the energy of the open space and thought it would be a lovely environment for a yoga class.
Judd holds a monthly yoga class among the plants. In recent classes, participants have received a free cactus.
Vonder Haar performed what she describes as an “unplugged-ish” show in the shop on Feb. 23.
“(McKenzie) likes to put on a good party,” Vonder Haar said. “She’s been working with really cool people in Columbia and has got some really good support.”
Events like these bring in some revenue for Ophelia’s. The flower shop receives 20 percent of pop-up shop revenue. Some events bring a 50 percent split. The space can also be rented for $350. But McKenzie said rates depend on the event and the revenue split is specific for each.
McKenzie also supports local farmers Emily Wright and Paul Weber of Three Creeks Produce. Wright said McKenzie is the main purchaser of the farm’s wholesale flowers.
McKenzie, who said she tries to purchase as many locally produced plants in order to be environmentally conscious, wrote the farm a support letter for a grant, which the farm received in December 2018. This grant will allow Three Creeks to grow more types of flowers.
“We couldn’t meet the demand, even for just Ophelia’s, for local, seasonal flowers and foliage,” Wright said. “Beyond Ophelia’s, there are other people reaching out to us, asking about product availability. We’re going to now be able to meet this demand that’s existing and also growing.”
Ophelia’s also hosts a number of its own workshops. “Houseplant Killers Anonymous,” a monthly workshop where McKenzie and her coworkers teach participants how to keep their houseplants alive, is a popular one. The workshops are capped at eight people to make sure each participant can receive the attention they need.
“It has a tendency to get a little emotional when (people) realize that they’re not actually houseplant killers, that they are just lacking in a little bit of kind of basic information,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie has been working with plants for over 15 years. She worked with exterior plants and landscaping for 12 years and started focusing primarily on houseplants, arrangements and nurseries about five years ago, she said.
In planning Ophelia’s, McKenzie said she thought her demographic would be middle-aged, upper-middle-class women. But she said she’s been happily surprised by the large number of young people that walk through the store’s doors.
She attributes this partly to being in a college town. However, she notices something bigger happening.
“Plants are just super in vogue, like they’re just really trendy right now, which is awesome,” McKenzie said.
This can also be seen on Instagram, where hashtags like #plantsofinstagram and #plantaddict are popular. In 2016, millennials made 31 percent of houseplant purchases, Ian Baldwin, a business adviser for the gardening industry, told The New York Times. In 2017, the National Garden Survey found that 5 million of the 6 million Americans who took up gardening the year before were between the ages of 18 and 34.
McKenzie’s “lifestyle” plant shop only fuels this trend. A music, yoga, art, plant shop.
“It’s just kind of a happy surprise that young people are super getting into it,” McKenzie said. “I hope that I can help them make all their plant growing dreams come true.”