When the Covid-19 pandemic shut down nonessential businesses last March, Jonah Rangel held his breath. He was only weeks away from fulfilling a dream of opening his own plant shop. Fortunately, Rangel, of Bellmore, had built a strong online presence among Long Island’s plant enthusiasts prior to opening — and for them, the timing was perfect.
“It was almost the best time to start a new plant shop,” said Rangel, who owns Jonah’s Garden (2279 Jerusalem Ave., North Bellmore). “A lot of my customers are taking care of plants as a form of therapy to get them through the stressful, day-to-day life of the Covid times we’re in right now.”
Rangel services a wide range of plant lovers, from “really avid, exotic plant-seekers looking for those plants that they can’t get elsewhere,” he said, to beginners just starting out. Customers can connect with Rangel virtually on Instagram and Facebook, where he posts informative videos and invites followers to livestreamed chats, or in person at the store.
During regular business hours, residents can peruse the plants while maintaining social distance, but Rangel also offers pre-scheduled appointments for customers before and after hours so they can have the shop to themselves. Online orders, contactless delivery and curbside pickup are also available
One customer, Heather Broker, found Rangel on Facebook while hunting for a specific plant, which he supplied. When she discovered Jonah’s Garden was located near her home, her potted plant collection immediately expanded.
“Jonah always has the best plants,” said Broker, noting that Rangel is her go-to person for plant advice. And her family shares her enthusiasm. “My daughter [Abigail is] obsessed,” Broker added, and even her 22-month-old son Miles has learned how to properly care for different plant varietals.
College students also enjoy the hominess of plants. The houseplant portal on Stony Brook University’s dorm search site brought Amanda Tyrrell and Alli Guzman-Martinez together as roommates. Although their third roommate, Jasmine Mukai-McGreen, came from a more general search, all three were glad they found Jonah’s Garden on Instagram when they were feeling “incredibly bored” by pandemic confinement, Mukai-McGreen said.
They travel an hour out of their way just to visit the shop. “We wasted all our savings on foliage plants” like philodendron and calathea, Guzman-Martinez said.
One room in the girls’ dorm has become a jungle of distinctively patterned leaves, making it the perfect place to study. “The plants bring life to the room,” Tyrrell said. “It’s nice to take care of something other than yourself and feel connected to nature.”
If you’re staying in your house during quarantine, Rangel said, “why not make it beautiful?”