Stores With Stories: Put a Plant on It
Green is perennially the theme at Put a Plant On It on Elmwood Avenue, a botanical gift shop and plant store with an affable owner, Johanna Dominguez, whose lovely, curled tresses are sometimes also colored a vivid green. The store specializes in domestic and exotic houseplants, locally-made ceramic pots, and art and jewelry created by regional hands.
Johanna realized she had found Buffalove when she returned to New York from a trip to the City of Good Neighbors and a friend told her, “You’re always so happy and bubbly when you come back from Buffalo,” adding “You should just move there.”
And move to Buffalo she did, seeking – and finding – a home in Allentown, with enough space for her, her pet cats, and a burgeoning collection of plants. “I wanted to buy property, and own my own house because I was paying someone else’s bills and mortgage at the house that I was renting,” she says. “I knew that I could not afford New Jersey, Long Island, or the Hudson Valley, so when I came up to Buffalo again and was visiting Therese (Deutschlander) at Thin Ice (another local-loving Elmwood Avenue boutique, next door to Johanna’s shop), I started house hunting.”
But how did Johanna know Buffalo at all, you may be asking yourself.
In 2000, she was enrolled in the Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation program at Canisius College, before switching to English Literature and Philosophy. “I loved Canisius and the environment there with lots of one-on-one attention,” she says, “they foster a great sense of learning. I had wanted to do Animal Behavior because I grew up in Africa; that’s why I have animals at home and in my store. I wanted to study animals but I didn’t want to take molecular biology. I have dyslexia and it made no sense to me at all. After Canisius I did a Masters of Fine Arts and Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence in Westchester County, New York.”
What Johanna says that she loves most about Buffalo is the affordability, and the variety of culture that is here. “I still do a lot of work in New York and D.C. and it’s easy to get to any other major city by flying out of Buffalo or Toronto when you’re based here,” she says. “If I was going to open this store anywhere else it would have been a lot harder. The business community here is super-supportive; it’s easier to be an entrepreneur here – and to follow your dreams here.”
Put a Plant On It has been successful since its grand opening, and Johanna has since hired three staff members, each a knowledgeable plant lover. “Plants are important to create a home, and they help people by bringing joy and happiness,” Johanna notes. “We have 84 local artists in the shop, selling wooden decorative pieces, ceramics, jewelry, and greeting cards. I hold pop-ups in front of the shop from June to early November where local artisans can set up shop and process their own sales – and keep all their own sales.”
Johanna earned a nursery license, she says, “to make me more legit” and she grows plants in her back space and in a small greenhouse mid-shop. “People sell plants online that they grow but technically they should be licensed to ensure that invasive and endangered species aren’t being sold. There’s a huge online plant market that is not regulated.”
The shop carries a large selection of plants for beginner to advanced gardeners, and Johanna and staff give (and write out) directions for perfect care of the plants purchased. “We also have plants for the serious collector, rare and unusual plants,” she says.” I like being really accessible for someone who wants either a $9 or $900 plant. We’re able to help and nurture all people in their plant journey.”
Concluding our conversation, Johanna reiterates her love for Buffalo, saying, “I try to get everyone to move here.”