How This Retailer Packs a Greenhouse, Gift Store and Maker Studio All into One Storefront

The Tiny Greenhouse packs a lot into a small space in its Greensboro, N.C., storefront. Run by husband-and-wife duo Edgar and Suzanne Cabrera, the space houses dozens of plants, the couple’s circa 2009 design studio — An Open Sketchbook — and the namesake home and garden shop started in 2017 by the Cabrera’s.

Full of everything from gardening supplies to vintage finds, books, local artist creations and more, the shop has a clear and cohesive whimsical aesthetic with bright pops of color, light wood, large windows and, of course, plants on every surface. The whole space is reminiscent of one of the Cabrera’s printed art pieces, also on sale inside the store on notecards, T-shirts and more.

It’s no wonder why the store flows so well despite all it has going on. Edgar and Suzanne both studied interior architecture in college, and after receiving a master’s degree on the subject, Suzanne stayed on at her university to continue teaching. Edgar moved on to work with Italian leather furniture company Natuzzi as a showroom designer, working throughout South America designing showrooms for the company. An Open Studio came into the couple’s lives first in 2011 after the couple had twin boys.

“For the first year I was a stay-at-home mom while Edgar continued to work for Natuzzi,” explained Suzanne. “At nights and during naps we chipped away at An Open Sketchbook — a blog I’d started back in college that evolved into a dream of a design studio. In 2012 Edgar quit his job to pursue our studio work full time, which we did up until 2017 when we opened The Tiny Greenhouse.”

Despite the couple’s efforts, Suzanne said they had not had the success they had hoped for with An Open Sketchbook before opening The Tiny Greenhouse. The retail operation grew from a desire for a place to showcase their work, particularly their greeting cards and prints at the time, along with their other interests, home and garden.

And that vision has been a hit with plant lovers and plant killers alike, though the plants can be a little demanding as far as merchandise goes according to Suzanne, who noted that they do require constant TLC to remain presentable and ready for selling.

“Plants and their care play a large role in how we merchandise the store,” she said. “Something may look pretty, but if the lighting isn’t right for the plant it is a no-go. We utilize low-light areas in the shop for low-light plants (and) sunny areas for our sun-lovers. This also assists us in helping guests find the right plants for their similarly lit space. The lighting really dictates the layout, just as it would in any home.”

For retailers looking to get into plants, Suzanne encourages folks “not to underestimate the lighting conditions of your space,” noting that without great natural light or adequate artificial light it is not worth doing. Retailers should also be prepared for lots of change as new plants with new needs, alongside regular inventory, move in and out constantly and require immediate action.

“We like to tell an ever-changing story through the gifts we curate, to the way they are displayed, to the gift tag bookmark you receive on leaving the store,” she added. “To us, it’s like working behind the scenes at Disneyland. What started as a collection of vintage finds, paper goods and a few potted plants has turned into a creative playground for us as designers and lovers of community. It’s so fun to work in three-dimensions and massage the experience one has when visiting the space.”

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