Burbank’s store is eclectic with its fair trade garlands, plants and mobiles made of metal bells and mobiles, and pom-poms as suncatchers. But her ability to mix colors, patterns, and prints is what keeps customers coming back.

In a time when people are spending more time at home, her bohemian shop is especially popular.

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“This is what my house looks like,”Christian spoke of Tansy which she opened with her long-time friend Colette fowler in 2019. The two met as sophomores at Grant High School. “It’s all about color and plants and fabrics. I am trying to perfect the art of being insanely creative without being claustrophobic. I like throwing different colors and patterns together that shouldn’t go together but ultimately work.”

Shawna Christian and Colette Fowler of Tansy
Shawna Christian and Colette Fowler, co-owners of Tansy.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Her professional life wasn’t always like this. Christian quit her job after running an IT company for over 20 years. “I had raised my kids and put them through school,”She spoke. “I turned 50 and realized I wanted to do something different before I passed away. So I spent all of my money and opened a plant store.”

 

After the first stay-at-home order one year ago, the store struggled. But in May, sales rose as people became more interested in houseplants and influencers encouraged people to support Black-owned businesses in the face of increased racial awareness.

“Our followers and customers, even Google and Yelp all reached out to us, wanting to promote us because we are a Black-owned business,”She spoke.

LOS ANGELES-CA-NOVEMBER 27, 2020: Florence Nishida is photographed at LA Green Grounds Garden in Los Angeles on Tuesday, November 27, 2020. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

She’s not complaining. She admitted that the attention was still difficult to absorb. “I’m proud of being Black,”She spoke. “But it’s hard for me to grasp that our revenue doubled solely based on my skin color.”

She added: “I would like to be revered as a female-owned business too.”

In a recent Q&A, Christian weighed in on plant matters and how the pandemic has affected her small business:

It’s a little overwhelming when you first walk into Tansy. How would you describe your style, Tansy?

It’s bohemian and ethnically driven. It’s more than just plants. Ninety percent our home decor comes from charities or artists from around the globe. We represent almost all countries on the planet. I love it when people come in to ask us questions. ‘Do you have anything from Portugal?” and we can say ‘Yes.’

Tansy, a heartfelt home decor, and plant store co-owned by best friends Shawna Christian and Colette Fowler.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Do you have any tips for parents of new plants?

People unfamiliar with plants or who are just starting out should slow down and take it slow. It is a slow process. It’s not easy to buy 15 plants. It is possible to make small improvements to your home without spending too much money. You can also use the discount area outside. “Adoption center” – plants that aren’t dead, but still need some love and attention. Enjoy the small things and slow down. Spend $10 to get a 4-inch pothos and a terracotta flower that will make your smile. This is a great place to begin the process.

Can people buy 15 plants at once?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Our plant sales have increased dramatically. This was a joke from my husband. “Only you would open a shop just before the pandemic to have the one thing everyone wants.”

What do your customers want?

Before the pandemic, people wanted something original and unique. They need plants to hold Zoom meetings, clean the air, and take care of their plants. People are being forced to slow down. People are looking at their homes and wishing to improve it.

What plants are the best for beginners?

ZZ plants, sansevierias and dracaenas as well as certain pothos, Philodendrons, and peace lilies, are not neon or Snow Queens.

 

A look inside the Tansy plant store in Burbank.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Do you have an idea of what your business philosophy is?

It’s like my home. It’s a sanctuary. People are often astonished by the way it makes them feel when they visit my home. I want people to feel transformed when they come into my store. I want them to feel happy, secure, and safe while shopping. That’s what this shop is based upon.

As a woman- and Black-owned business, do you feel like you’ve had hurdles that others have not?

That’s a yes-and-no answer. Yes, there were struggles for me to do something like this but I don’t think it’s because I’m a woman or I’m Black. With a caveat, I will say this. I don’t want to say that it’s not an issue for other people. I was an experienced entrepreneur who knew what to do. If I hadn’t had all of that experience, it would have been daunting for me to start a business in California. There aren’t many resources available for women and people of colour. They are difficult to find. I’ve been in business for two years, and I just found out about the California Women’s Business Center. They were recommended by a friend who was already in business for ten years. Did you know that 911 is available? Did you know that you could? Call 211 for social and mental help? This is something that no one knows. I feel the exact same way about these organizations that are meant to assist women and minorities. It’s so hard to find these places. It feels like you are in a losing battle before you even start.

Favorite plant

 

An illustration of a pilea peperomioides
Pilea Peperomioides, also known as a Chinese Money Plant.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Pilea peperomioidesThe Chinese money plant, also known as the ‘Chinese money plant’. We put four-inch pileas in our shop’s window the first day we opened. They have now reached a height of about a foot. Those are our babies. They have such a cool history. You could only get them from people who pulled the babies out and gave them to them as gifts for a long time. About three years ago, nurseries realized that people loved them — they were Pinterest is everywhere — so they started selling them. They are also known for being the friendship plant, as you can give a baby of the mother root system to a friend.

Shawna Christian and Colette Fowler, the co-owners of Tansy plant shop.
Shawna Christian and Colette Fowler are the co-owners at Tansy’s plant shop.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Before the pandemic, there were many events you hosted. Do you view yourself as a community space or a facilitator of events?

We did baby showers and birthday parties, as well as terrarium-building workshops and macrame workshops. There is definitely a community feel to our shop.

One of my favourite things about our store, is that we have a group preteen girls between 9 and 13 years old who love the boho look. They help out on weekends. They learn about business and customer service. They learn about plants and give advice to new plant parents. They also get to see that it’s females running the show. It has been incredible.

What are you looking forward to once the pandemic restrictions are lifted?

Don’t let what we can do limit you. I really took my freedoms as granted. I’m looking forward to not being nervous anymore and feeling like we can all go on with our lives again. People will thank us for adding color and creativity to their neighborhood. It will continue in that manner.

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