by Tom Sims
Nestled between Café Corazon and The Hashtag in Fresno’s Tower District is The Succulent Shack. It sounds like a nice place to eat or drink. In fact, as you enter the door, it looks and feels like a nice place to eat or drink. It has all the rustic charm and simple elegance of a corner café.
It is, in fact, a potting studio.
With an comfortable sitting area, wi-fi, a bar with barstools, friendly lighting, round tables, and an artistic décor, the atmosphere invites you to come, relax, eat, and create. The reality is that the invitation includes everything but the eating.
Janet Moos and Jason Kabeary got together some time back and, as their personal relationship developed, discovered a common interest in gardening together. That interest began to focus on succulents and the more they studied, the more passionate they became. They could see that succulents, which include all varieties of cactus and more, are ideally suited for Central Valley planting because they require so little water.
They are not only “responsible” plants, but they are beautiful.
Faithful members of the local succulent community, Janet and Jason have been active in the Fresno Catcus and Succulent Society which recently met at their new location. Their initial idea was to wait a few years and open a garden center and nursery, but that all changed one day when they were meeting and sipping coffee at Café Corazon.
The empty space next door drew them over and soon they were involved in the arduous task of gutting the building and remodeling the storefront. It is difficult to believe that it had been in a state of disrepair. It is now one of the great “living rooms” in the district.
Billed as a “potting bar and shoppe,” Jason writes that the stores’ mission is “to not only help improve the look of our customers’ gardens and homes, but mostly to spread the word about the importance of owning a water-wise garden by using succulents and smart watering methods.”
Equipped with educational materials, supplies, space to work, mentoring, coaching, and even hands-on assistance, customers are able to choose the right pots and soils, the best plants, and the proper tools to walk out with a new plant friend. The Succulent Shack offers homemade cactus mix, top dressings, and lots of decorations to provide the best settings for succulents and cactus.
According to Jason, “all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.”
That is the sort of information that one can learn by associating with these folks. They are not just sellers, but they are also teachers. While their goal is to equip and enable people to do their own potting, they are willing to do the work for anyone not comfortable with the process.
It is fun! In fact, they have a “banquet room” in the back for potting parties. They host such events for kids and adults.
Jason would find it difficult to believe that anyone could miss the joy of this avocation. The more he studied about this family of life-forms, the more engaged he and Janet became. It was fascinating for them and developed into what Jason describes as “almost an addiction when you discover the varieties.”
“Certain ones call to you,” he observed, but “there is nothing I don’t like.”
These folks are almost poetic in their descriptions of clusters of plants. Describing one picture, they write, “It’s mostly succulent ground cover consisting of Sedum ‘Dragon’s Blood’, Sedum ‘Tricolor’ and Sedum ‘Pork ‘n Beans’… along with a few others hidden inside; Aloe ciliaris, Kalanchoe marmorata, Cremnosedum nutans, Graptopetalum paraguayense, Crassula argentea and variegated Agave Americana.”
Whether a customer leaves with a pre-potted plant, a completed project, or decorative accessories, he or she will most likely exit with a smile and a warm feeling inside. On the day I visited, the store was closed, but Jason received me warmly, invited me back for the grand opening party, and conversed with me in a manner that was relaxed and casual, but also passionate and joyful.
He is continuing to work in his computer business and this is a labor of love for the two. Perhaps it will become far more as the concept catches on.
In the spirit of collaboration and community, the Succulent Shack is already integrating into the Tower community, networking with other businesses, featuring local entertainers, and even has some of their products available on the Dusty Buns Bistro. Many of the store’s pots are made by local artists. One is “Dirty Bird Birdhouses,” made from local gourds.
Between now and December 24, Christmas tree ornaments are available. According to the store’s Facebook Page,”They are crafted by the same awesome couple that supplies us with the Dirty Bird Birdhouses. They’re miniature gourds made into the cutest little drum ornaments and they’re all different! “
The Succulent Shack is a café for the senses. It is a real contribution to the life of the Tower District and the entire Central Valley. With its quaint and sophisticated charm, it is more than just another shack. They not do a great deal of advertising on or offline outside of social media. They like Facebook because of the opportunity of interaction with their current and future customers. It is all about relationships.
The Succulent Shack
Fresno, California 93728
Phone (559) 286-0910
Hours: Tue-Thu: 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; Fri: 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.; Sat: 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Most plants cost $4.50 or less, depending on size, with pots ranging from $1.50 to $25 and potting fees ranging from $1.75 to $3.75.
More of Tom’s articles on the Tower, among other topics, can be found here.