Local business The Plant Gays aims to start its own Green(ery) Revolution

The Lantern
David Erbe and Aidan Robinson, co-owners of The Plant Gays, at their shop in the East Market repotting a plant, one of the many services offered in-store. Credit: Jen Brown Photography, Courtesy of David Erbe

For those of us who may feel outside of the proud plant parent community or have a knack for plant-picking, The Plant Gays might be able to help out.

The local plant shop, located at 212 Kelton Ave. in the East Market, is run by two recent Ohio State graduates, known as The Plant Gays. The couple advertises a variety of plant-related services, from repotting plants to in-home consultations.

David Erbe, owner of The Plant Gays, said the idea started as a simple 3D-printing hobby of creating silicone molds and concrete planters to pass the time during quarantine. Since then, the hobby has transformed into a successful business with a physical store where locals can purchase items, like house plants and propagation stations.

“We offer in-home design service as well,” Erbe said. “If people are interested, and, that’s where we go out to the home and kind of see what kind of space and lighting they’re working with, and can pick out plants for their space as well as any, like, interior design furniture that they’re looking for.”

Aidan Robinson, co-owner of The Plant Gays, said the business model has changed over time as they continue to grow. After starting an Instagram account in September 2020 and gaining a following, Robinson said the duo began thinking about how they could turn their hobby into a business and began selling products online two months later.

“I started doing that as a hobby during lockdown as I had more time, making planters and propagation stations that you can see on our website, like, all of our concrete items are handmade by us,” Erbe said. “And so that’s how we kind of started, by selling those items first. And we also just collected a lot of house plants during the pandemic and really got into all the house plants as well.”

Despite both having degrees in landscape architecture and city and regional planning from Ohio State, Erbe and Robinson, respectively, didn’t cross paths until a fateful Tinder match, Erbe said.

Once they learned they were both on track to graduate from the Knowlton School of Architecture a year apart, Erbe said, they formally met. As the similarities within their interests came to light, a romance developed.

“So, it kinda all just fell into place,” Erbe said of his now over five-year long partnership — both in business and romance — with Robinson.

Since opening their first physical retail shop five months ago, Erbe said The Plant Gays have been able to sell a wider range of items, and moving to the East Market brought more visibility to the business.

“I just like being in the shop and seeing people’s faces,” Erbe said. “I feel like plants just make people happy and can be therapeutic and a good hobby for a lot of people.”

Robinson, who works full-time as an interior designer for a furniture company, said he often hears clients express their desire for a plant shop that will provide planting tips or plant-related services, like repotting.

“We heard a lot from clients and people that were buying from us that there’s basically a lack of a market that offers an in-home consultation, especially for plants,” Robinson said. “And with plants, there’s been such a high demand over the last year, especially starting with the pandemic. So, we feel like we’re kind of reaching a market that hasn’t been tapped yet, which is really exciting.”

Now that their retail store is up and running, Robinson said the duo is looking forward to branching out to more people.

“Since we’ve had time to sort of settle down in our first location, we’re excited to kind of get back out doing the market settings because I feel like we can reach a wide range of different communities,” Robinson said.

The Plant Gays are preparing for their appearance at the Columbus Coffee Festival where they’ve partnered with the festival to pot succulents and other plants in the festival’s branded mugs from years prior to sell to customers, Erbe said.

Robinson said plants are not as intimidating and more relaxing than many think.

“For a lot of people, plants can be very intimidating,” Robinson said. “Just for myself, it’s helped relieve a lot of anxiety, just having that sort of organic element in our space. But to me, it’s kind of like shifting that paradigm — it’s not as daunting as people think it is, and it can be really manageable. But I think a lot of people just need that sort of expertise to help them navigate their sort of day-to-day journey with their plants.”

The Plant Gays booth will be set up at the Columbus Coffee Festival Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information on the event and ticket purchasing can be found on the event

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