Plant Therapy: New Local Shop Owners Bring Their Love of Plants to the Tenderloin
Chai Saechao and his partner, Tony Stapor, had spent the better part of three years walking past an empty storefront at 687 O’Farrell Street. Just a short block away from their studio apartment in the Tenderloin, its potential had become something of a pastime to lament.
Back at home, plants hung from Saechao’s ceiling and shelves lined the walls awaiting a new pot or seedling. Two dogs and a cat darted between close to 100 different plant species, including Saechao’s favorite, the elusive variegated ‘Thai constellation’ monstera plant. Growing up in Redding with plenty of backyard space, Saechao had spent most of his childhood flexing his green thumb alongside his mother. As he fondly recalled, “They only went to the grocery store when they wanted to buy meat.”
For the last twenty years, he had been working at Starbucks—first as a barista, and later as store manager of the Castro branch. Despite sharing few complaints about the wildly successful coffee chain, it was starting to feel like it was time to move on.
In the urban jungle oasis that had slowly become their apartment, Stapor prompted Saechao to look around and take note of what really made him happy: plants. After soaking up all the knowledge he could, he decided to make growing plants much more than just a hobby.
How did you decide to open the store?
For about a year I had already been going to plant stores, so I had a good relationship with all the owners in the city and had built a better connection with them. I asked them a lot of questions about the industry and, in a way, I was kinda their mentee. I’d ask them questions and end up buying some plants (and also killing some along the way). I’m definitely one of those people who think about things really thoroughly and quitting a salaried corporate job was scary to me. I just really wanted to make sure I had a strong realization of what I was getting myself into.
How did you get into plants?
I moved here [to San Francisco] eight years ago. It was all apartments and no one had a backyard anymore. I just really missed the green. I decided to get into houseplants with the fiddle-leaf fig and the collection just grew from there. Plants are addicting, once you know how to take care of one. I’ve definitely killed a few, but once you kill a plant you know what you did wrong, hopefully.
How can a plant be therapeutic for a first-time plant owner?
I think nature just makes people happy, whenever people want to get away from everything, they always want to do something outdoors. When a new plant owner gets a plant, they instantly feel happy. Caring for something will make anyone smile.
What do you hope to bring to the community with Plant Therapy?
I hope to be able to share my love for plants with everyone. I truly believe plants have made me a happier person. With our lives being stressful sometimes, it’s just nice to be able to come home to an urban jungle.
687 O’ Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA
Editor’s Note: Plant Therapy offers deliveries for busy San Franciscans, as well as flower arrangements on the weekends. The store is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 – 7:30 p.m.