The terrariums sold by the North Carolina-based nursery The Zen Succulent are delicately cultivated in thick glass vases. In each one, there’s a patch of rich brown soil at the bottom, a few rough stones half-buried along the interior, and a sturdy collection of rugged cacti sprouting out of the core.
Megan Cain, who owns both of The Zen Succulent storefronts in Durham and Raleigh, tells me that her terrariums have long been her most popular product. But in February, as the pandemic shut down borders and threw the global supply chain into disarray, glassware was no longer being imported from China. Like so many other small business owners, she had to improvise.
And so, throughout spring, Cain sold take-home terrarium-planting kits. A nation under quarantine could still experience the joys of a plant nursery, so long as they spent the anxious days of lockdown in their kitchen, germinating their own private, indoor garden. It was one of the many ways Cain tried to keep her business afloat.
In the darkest days of Covid-19, her total revenue was down 90 percent and roadblocks were everywhere. Cain needed to find new sources for her raw materials on the east coast, she built an online ordering system from scratch, and took notes from other retailers to determine her own socially-distanced curbside pickup policy. Both of her stores are open again, but only for three dates a week, 15 hours total. Full capacity, it seems, remains a ways off.
In the meantime, her community…