Silver Spring events-based plant business finds success expanding to retail during pandemic

Jeff Kushner has transformed his event-based plant business into a retail store in his backyard greenhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Jeff Kushner)

Jeff Kushner has transformed his event-based plant business into a retail store in his backyard greenhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Jeff Kushner)

Jeff Kushner has transformed his event-based plant business into a retail store in his backyard greenhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Jeff Kushner)

Jeff Kushner has transformed his event-based plant business into a retail store in his backyard greenhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Courtesy Jeff Kushner)

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The coronavirus pandemic shut down events last year, leaving a Silver Spring, Maryland, event-based plant business scrambling.

Jeff Kushner’s business Plants Alive! has provided designer plants for presidential inaugurations and for the dressing rooms of singers like Elton John and Paul McCartney when they came to the D.C. area through the years, but when the coronavirus hit and events were canceled, he was in a tough spot.

“I laid everybody off,” Kushner said.

He didn’t know what to do with the hundreds and hundreds of plants waiting to be delivered for rent to canceled events including concerts, weddings and conventions at hotels.

Then, they had an idea.

“We decided ‘let’s stick our toe in the retail part,'” Kushner said. “Someone said ‘hey, you know millennials like plants.'”

They started small last spring by bringing some plants to local coffee shops for pop-up events for a few weekends.

But not all of the plants they had sitting in the greenhouse could be transported easily, since they had many larger plants for hotel and event spaces.

So they opened up their greenhouse and Plants Alive! started into the retail business where anyone can come and get one.

“It started small in the greenhouse and then slowly built up,” Kushner said. “We were just in the right place at the right time.”

Kushner said it took off with people staying home more and wanting to redesign their spaces while quarantining.

Now, their business is mostly retail, and he said it’s been a lot of fun to meet with people.

He lives on the property with the greenhouse and says the shift to selling plants has been fun and rewarding, both personally and for the business.

“I love teaching people, I love talking about plants. And people are receptive and they’re energized and they’re passionate. It’s been an amazing experience,” Kushner said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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