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

David Erbe and Aidan Robinson, co-owners of The Plant Gays, repot a plant at their East Market shop, one of the many services offered by the shop. Photo credit: Jen Brown Photography, courtesy of David Erbe

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

The local plant store, located on Kelton Ave. 212, located in East Market, is run by two recent Ohio State grads known as The Plant Gays. The couple advertise a variety of plant-related services, from plant transplants to at-home consultations.

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

“We also offer an in-home design service,” said Erbe. “If people are interested, we go to their homes and look at what type of space and lighting they are working with and can choose plants for their space and any furniture they are looking for.”

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

“I started this as a hobby during lockdown as I had more time to make planters and propagation stations which you can see on our website such as all our concrete items which are handcrafted by us,” said Erbe. “And so we started by selling these items first. And we just collected a lot of houseplants during the pandemic and really got into all the houseplants.”

Although both have degrees in landscape architecture and urban and regional planning from the state of Ohio, Erbe and Robinson only met during a fateful Tinder match, Erbe said.

When they learned they would both be graduating from Knowlton School of Architecture a year apart, they officially met, Erbe said. As the similarities in their interests came to light, a romance developed.

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“So it kind of all fell into place,” Erbe said of his now more than five-year partnership — both business and romantic — with Robinson.

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

“I just like being in the store and seeing people’s faces,” said Erbe. “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 customers express their desire for a plant shop that offers planting tips or plant-related services like repotting.

“We’ve heard a lot from customers and buyers that there’s a real lack of a market that offers on-site advice, especially for plants,” Robinson said. “And for plants, there has been such high demand over the last year, especially since the pandemic. So we feel like we’re reaching an untapped market, which is really exciting.”

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

“Having had time to settle into our first location, we’re excited to get back out there and do the market hiring because I feel like we can reach a wide range of different communities,” Robinson said.

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

Robinson said that plants aren’t as intimidating and relaxing as many think.

“For a lot of people, plants can be very intimidating,” said Robinson. “Just for myself, just having that kind of organic element in our space has helped relieve a lot of anxiety. But for me it’s like a paradigm shift – it’s not as scary as people think and it can be really manageable. But I think a lot of people just need that kind of expertise to navigate their daily journey with their plants.”

The Plant Gays booth will be set up at the Columbus Coffee Festival on Saturday from 9am to 6pm. More information about the event and how to buy tickets can be found at the event

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