Starting a business during a pandemic might seem like a risky move, but for Lori Haugh, it was the perfect opportunity.
Along with her husband Greg last month, Haugh launched Secret Garden Boutique at 84 Norfolk St., a store that offers exotic tropical house plants. Since then, she’s seen her business bloom as plant collectors travel from across the GTA to buy from her specialty store.
“Everyone is spending a lot of time in their home now because of the pandemic and they just want things to be more beautiful, more green,” said Haugh.
“Once you own every single house plant that’s available in all the stores, you want something new, you want something unique, you want something different to look at and people just get into it because they’re beautiful, they’re special, they’re from super far away. They’re rare.”
Haugh sells aroid and hoya plants that she imports from around the world, particularly Asia and South America.
Haugh grows her plants using full-spectrum lights and custom soil mixes in a grow room right inside the store.
She said opening the shop was a dream of hers that was in the making for years.
“It just so happens with the pandemic that place became available and the rent more affordable. So that was our opportunity. So we just went with it,” said Haugh.
With her family out east and her husband working full time, the stay-at-home mom said she was struggling with depression and anxiety for the last five years.
“I just was like 'I need something for myself. I need something to do.' I always liked plants but I mean I got really into plants so caring for them, just checking on them, propagating them so taking one plant and making many plants,” said Haugh who found nurturing plants therapeutic.
“Plants grow and they just make you feel so good it’s like you did something right. It was just something for me to focus on and really take my mind and relax.”
With a few friends two years ago, Haugh created a private Facebook group called Guelph Plant Zone where local plant collectors can share information and trade plants. It was through the Facebook group that she discovered a huge market and community for the rare tropical house plant and so she tapped into the niche market.
“It’s honestly all plant lovers so when you get a bloom, you put a picture on there and get excited about it. You get a new leaf and people are like woooo!. And only other plant people will really understand,” said Haugh.
Haugh began her business at home two years ago where she grew her own plants, propagated them, and nurtured them. When the pandemic hit, a store downtown became available and rent prices dropped.
“It sounds crazy because I know a lot of people were struggling and going through hard times but this for me was the only chance I had in terms fo being able to afford a place,” said Haugh.
Haugh’s store also sells decorative pots and macrame plant hangers created by local business owners.
“I’m doing something that I love and I’m really passionate about,” said Haugh.
“If you would’ve asked me five years ago what I would be doing in 10 years or whats my dream job, I wouldn’t even know. I would just know that I love to work with plants.”
Secret Garden Boutique is open Tues to Sat 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun noon to 5 p.m.