By Emilee Kyle
In the center of a light-filled room, lush plants paint the crisp white walls in different shades of green. This indoor jungle is part of a new plant shop, babygreens, which opened six months ago in downtown Bellingham.
Owner and Western alumnus Nick Meza said he’s always wanted to own a small business. After dreaming of opening a plant shop for years, last year he decided to pursue it and make his dream a reality.
Meza said he originally moved to Bellingham from Seattle to study outdoor recreation at Western. After graduating in 2015, he noticed the city could use a picturesque plant shop downtown.
He said he made the decision to open his first business in Bellingham because he loves the community and it was less intimidating than a big city.
“One reason is that I really enjoy it here,” Meza said. “The community strength that Bellingham has to offer is really tight and strong. And then thirdly of course, the need for a plant shop up here.”
Meza said all different kinds of people shop at babygreens, but he notices a lot of millennials and college students coming in looking for houseplants for their apartments or dorm rooms.
“With life being so busy and with city living, it’s good to bring the outdoors in and I think a lot of young people are actually recognizing that,” Meza said. “They are just enjoying them in their spaces as a way to reconnect with nature without having to go out deep into the woods.”
Meza said many customers also like having plants around because of the positive atmosphere they can create while also doing wonders for oxygen levels and cleaning the air.
Plants are important to Nicole McCallum, a senior at Western in the urban planning program. She has a background in sustainability and is vegan. She also lives a zero-waste lifestyle meaning she finds new uses for all things that would typically end up in a landfill or the ocean.
“I am really focused on environmental conservation and I think plants are a very important part of how we live,” McCallum said.
McCallum said a reason why so many college students have plants right now is due to having to live in small apartments and dorms. She said it also could be a way to reduce stress and bring life into their rooms.
Sophomore Emerlynne Terrell said she owns more than 20 plants and enjoys their comforting presence and being able to watch them grow.
“I generally just really like taking care of living things,” Terrell said.
Terrell said she struggles with mental health issues so being able to focus her energy into something positive like growing plants can really help improve her mood. She also said that plants can open up small spaces and be used as decor, as well as helping with health.
Meza said babygreens’ mission goes beyond helping Bellingham residents bring nature into their homes. He said his ultimate goal is to make it an open space for all creative people in the community.
During the first six months babygreens has been open, Meza said they have put a focus on welcoming photographers, hosting events and partnering with other Bellingham community members and small businesses.
“I think trying to implement that kind of involvement within different groups in the community is just good for everybody,” Meza said. “It’s good for the people involved, it’s good for business, it’s good marketing and it’s good for strengthening community ties and relationships.”
Meza said babygreens has gotten much more support from the Bellingham community than he ever anticipated. The store has already gained nearly 5,000 followers on Instagram since their opening.
Meza said in the near future he plans to expand babygreens into a cafe. He said he wants to expand into the space next door to the shop and make one big space where people can meet and enjoy coffee and shop for plants. He said they hope to offer a pleasant environment with coffee, tea, beer and wine.
Meza said that being able to work, study or socialize in an environment with greenery will hopefully help relieve stress for college students.
“So that’s in the pretty near future and when that happens, we will be reaching out very strongly to everybody, including Western, Whatcom and Bellingham Technical College students to introduce that,” Meza said. “Keep an eye out and come check us out because we love meeting everyone and we’d love to get to know you.”