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Over the past nine months, small businesses have faced unprecedented hardship as the coronavirus continues to upend the economy. Now more than ever, they need our support. To give you an idea of where to start, we’ve profiled three local small business owners who have transformed their passions into livelihoods.
The Plant Mon
A plant delivery service specializing in houseplants, succulent arrangements, terrariums, seasonal produce and herbs, as well as educational workshops and consultations.
For Louis Easton, plants are in his DNA.
He’s been working with nature since he was 9 years old, as his father, a horticulturist, would bring him along to nurseries and garden centers growing up. As he grew older, he pursued a passion for filmmaking, but he “always stayed close to the plants.” A 9-to-5 job with a water conservation company led him to look into the farmers market and urban gardening industries, where The Plant Mon was eventually born. On weekends, with whatever free time available outside of his office job, he would visit the South Central, Crenshaw and Atwater Village farmers markets to sell plants.
After the pandemic hit, Easton was furloughed and forced to figure out how to make a living. He found inspiration in the elderly women he would see selling goods on the street. And — carefully so as not to infringe — Easton set up shop in front of his house to catch the eye of passing plant lovers.
“Then it just took off like a spring chicken,” Easton says. “People were DMing me through Instagram or Facebook whenever I would do a post. And because people were at home and were nervous, I brought the store to them.”
Easton’s plant business centers on education. Prior to the pandemic, he would host workshops through the L.A. Public Library and in local classrooms on healthy eating and drought-tolerant terrariums. With new customers, Easton walks through the mental and physical health benefits of owning houseplants, such as improved indoor air quality and stress relief.
Check out The Plant Mon on Instagram, and if you’re unsure of what to get, consider some of Easton’s favorites: the snake plant, the areca palm or the fiddle-leaf fig.
Oh Comadre Candles
Individually hand-poured artisan candles inspired by Latina culture.
When Marcella Gomez was a full-time nurse, making candles was her escape from an industry steeped in stress. “Let me tell you, my first candles were not great,” Gomez says. “I never wanted to start a business — it just happened.” After her mom asked whether she’d consider selling her creations, Gomez told her employer she wanted to take some time off. In the four years since then, she hasn’t gone back.
Long before going into nursing, Gomez had studied design and worked in the garment industry. As an artist, Gomez says, you can suppress your love of crafting for only a short while before it inevitably creeps back into your life again. Candles are a constant source of fascination for Gomez, making them a perfect fit for fulfilling the creative itch she first felt when working with fabrics.
Because Gomez mixes, pours, wraps and labels each candle — which come in a variety of scents, including arroz con leche, tamal de elote and coquito — she likens her products to home-cooked meals, full of comfort and originality. As a small business owner working out of her home, she wears all the hats in her operation and purchases all the supplies herself, oftentimes at prices greater than the ones wholesale companies pay.
“These candles celebrate life,” Gomez says. “As a nurse dealing with a lot of death, I wanted something that was completely opposite. No matter how bad it is, there’s always something good. That’s what I wanted to do. Basically, not lose hope.”
Browse through the Oh Comadre Candles catalog on Instagram. The online store is temporarily closed as Gomez undergoes treatment for a recent breast cancer diagnosis.
Same Same Thai & Tuk Tuk Thai
Fresh, comfort food Thai recipes saved from generations of family chefs.
Katy Noochlaor’s journey into the restaurant business began with her parents, who opened Chao Krung, one of the first Thai restaurants in L.A., after immigrating to the United States. She went on to open Same Same Thai, a Silverlake spot that pairs Thai food with a wine bar and Tuk Tuk Thai, a casual dining restaurant on Pico Boulevard.
Noochlaor describes her restaurants’ fare as traditional and fresh and comfort food more than anything else — making it a staple takeout and delivery option for locals.
The economic toll of the pandemic has hit Noochlaor’s restaurants hard. And a lack of clarity on the ever-changing COVID-19 regulations shrouds many day-to-day operations in fear and exhaustion.
“Instead of managing the restaurant, it’s more like managing damage control,” Noochlaor says. “We have no clue where this industry is heading.”
As restaurants remain closed in L.A. County during the ongoing spike in cases of COVID-19, Noochlaor and her staff continue to grapple with increasing expenses and decreasing income. Aside from lunch or dinner, Same Same Thai also offers gift cards for purchase.
You can order from Same Same Thai or Tuk Tuk Thai online or by phone. Both locations offer flavorful Thai classics alongside extensive beer and wine selections.