Feeeed me, Seymour!

Midtown features an exotic plant flower shop

Sara Nicole Miller

University horticulture and floriculture senior Kenrie Williams doesn’t mess around when it comes to affairs of the botanical variety. She recently opened a shop in Midtown Global Market called Androsian Gardens, a full-service plant and floral shop that specializes in exotic and eccentric greenery. A&E sat down with her one day amid the lush vegetation of her shop to discuss her Bahamian roots, her experience as a Midtown entrepreneur and the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life.

When did you first start cultivating your love of plant and floral life?

I’ve been doing this since I was 9 years old. That is the first time I can remember having a garden of my own. My mom gave me a space in the back of the yard that I could plant in.

When my aunts and uncles found out that I was getting interested in planting things, they started shipping me plants from the Bahamas. I remember being sent things like coconut palms and sugar banana trees that would actually grow and produce fruit on it. I was sent things like sugar cane plant and casaba root. I was living in Florida at the time, so the climate was really similar and the plant would still survive. I would get seeds for things I couldn’t get in the states, like pigeon peas.

One time, we ended up with these 3-foot-tall, bright-freaking-orange marigolds in a circle in the yard. That was the beginning of the landscaping.

Why do you find it rewarding?

Gardening is basically my Zen period. I can think, work through problems. I’m gardening but my mind is elsewhere. Because the gardening is basically second nature to me, I don’t really have to think about what I’m doing. So it gives my brain an opportunity to deal with other problems in my life, other things I need to work harder on in my head. I figure out homework problems when gardening. I love being a mud digger, and I get paid to play in the dirt.

How did you get involved in opening up a shop in Midtown?

Last year, I started getting these phone calls from the Neighborhood Development Center. They had a program where you would go and learn how to do a business plan and they would help you move on to entrepreneurship things.

Well, I had gone through the course. But I hadn’t done anything geared toward business yet. They were like, “Well, we have this opportunity over in Minneapolis, do you want to be a part of that?” and I said “No.” I told them that I wasn’t interested because I wanted to finish my education first. A couple weeks later, they called back. They called at least three or four times.

I knew that I would want to be a full-service floral shop, and I was afraid that I’d end up sitting at some kiosk selling flowers in buckets and bored out of my skull. But, I finally decided that I should take the opportunity while I can because they were willing to help me get funding and also have a start-up mentor.

Basically, there was going to be some other business help behind me if I could take care of the horticultural side of it. The city of Minneapolis hooked me up with the NDC over here and Minneapolis Consortium of Community Developers. Everybody in here has some kind of connection with a community organization and the city of Minneapolis. I’m hooked up with three organizations. The city gave me entrepreneurial money and start-up funds that were matched with NDC and MCCD funds. I had a hard time getting a loan from the bank, and I basically stripped my savings trying to do this. But I think it will be worth it.

Any struggles with opening a business at Midtown?

This was initially built as a food emporium. I mean, you can come here and eat for days. You can sample the world of flavors.

The nonfood shops weren’t initially going to be a part of this. But at some point they realized that they couldn’t do an all-food center and keep a high volume of traffic, and so they started looking at other businesses and other things to incorporate and to flush out this whole idea of an open market. And that’s how we came in.

There is a lot of food here, but there are also many other specialty shops, and sometimes that is overlooked. People come here prepared to spend their money on food, but they’re not prepared to spend their money on, say, a plant.

Tell me about the name of your shop.

(The name is) Androsian Gardens, which means “of or pertaining to something from Andros.” Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamian archipelagos. Most of my family originated in southern Andros.

And what do you sell?

If it’s green, I’m selling it. I like to sell the odd and unusual. I have several local suppliers, but none of this stuff is grown locally. Most of it is grown down South. Venus flytraps have been a favorite. We water and check all plants by hand daily.

What do you like best about being here?

Oh my god, please! I get to hang out with these people all day long. I get to roam around – I’m literally in a global market. I’ve got a friend who’s Tibetan, and so I’m learning Tibetan words from Sam over at Everest Café. Manny’s Tortas is also across the way from me. I also love the atmosphere – I love how they’re pulling in so many different kinds of businesses. I love the salsa dancing on Monday mornings, and I love the live music. If I need fresh fruit or jelly beans (for a floral arrangement), I can get them here. It’s all here.