Megan Strasser of Fern
Photographs and Interview by Egan Parks
FERN is a bit out of the way in Cincinnati and feels like an oasis once you arrive at the old service station in College Hill. Inside is the most beautiuflly curated space that features all types of different plants, ceramics, and even art-books. I always just end up wanting to hang out for a while. The space is warm and alive and calming, as any good oasis should be. Owner Megan Strasser works very hard to keep FERN’s look and feel this way.
How do you curate the space? How has it changed since you’ve been there? What sort of feel are you going for?
Since I opened I’ve always referred to the shop as my personal oasis. I want others to feel the same when they’re here, that the space allows them to breathe. I try to design the shop in a way that feels like home, to make buying plants approachable by making it easy to visualize how plants could work in your indi- vidual space. When we first opened the shop was much smaller. We had a vintage rolling rack, a vintage shelving unit, a couple card shelves, one table, and three product shelves on the walls. As we’ve grown and expanded slowly and organically making room for more product and more plants yet always staying within the bounds of what feels clean and fresh.
What are some of the current trends in plants? Have there always been “plant trends”? What was popular back in the day, 70s, 80s, 90s etc?
I think houseplants in general are experiencing a major renais- sance. So many people come in and say, “oh, we had these in the 70’s” or “that reminds me of my grandma.”
What do you think makes certain plants particularly desirable?
Currently I think social media seems to be driving plant trends. About 10 years ago you started to see plants being featured in design magazines and blogs, specifically terrariums, succulents, and fiddle leaf fig trees. For the last few years entire instagram accounts have been created and devoted to the pilea pepero- mioides, which I believe began with one image on Pinterest. I think the availability of the thing you’re seeing all over your feed also plays a role, making it either more or less desirable.
As a small business owner, do you feel like the internet helps or hurts you or is it just sort of a mixed bag? I’m curious how owning a brick and mortar store in modern times is compares to owning an online business and how you navigate that.
The internet and social media is equally a source of inspira- tion and frustration for me. I feel like inherent in the spirit of entrepreneurship is the pressure we impose on ourselves to always perform and achieve. As a business owner who is ac- customed to taking risks and not afraid of change, I continu- ally ask questions to keep Fern evolving and yet the lifestyle that I dream of demands that I seek balance. Social media can be a dangerous distraction from that balance if you allow it to seep into your decision making too much.
How do you curate the ceramics? Why carry ceramics and how do you feel like they compliment the plants?
I’m not sure which I have a greater obsession with to be hon- est: plants or ceramics. I’ve had a mild addiction to functional ceramics for a long time, specifically handmade ceramic cof- fee mugs. There’s something about holding them in my hands that just feels so good to me, as though feeling the weight of the object connects me to the time and the effort that the artist put into creating it. The entire concept for the shop was inspired by what I see as a connection between the imperfec- tions in nature and those found in small batch goods made by hand. I wanted to change the way people thought about shopping for plants; that the vessel would have just as much importance as the plant itself.
How is it opening a small business in Cincinnati? What is the small business culture like in Cincinnati?
Cincinnati has been a wonderful place to plant the shop. Being in a small-ish big city or a big small city where the cost of living and real estate is so affordable, it makes opening a business here a little more doable. On the flip-side in a city this size there seems to be this prevailing notion that there can only be one of some- thing. It’s taken some years of learning for me to be comfortable in that without feeling like I need to be protective of the space I’ve worked to carve out. I sincerely believe that there is room for eve- ryone to do their thing, so while there may be many plant shops, there’s only one Fern and that’s all I need to be. The community of small business owners here that I have been lucky enough to develop relationships with have been incredibly supportive and I love that there are many opportunities for collaboration.
Lately I’m really digging the generic plants you would likely find in office buildings; schefflera, diffenbachia, dracaena marginata. through the first plant I ever bought almost 20 years ago was a livistonia chinensis or chinese fan palm. I just recently purchased one for the shop and can’t help but smile when I see it.
Do you get a lot of “Feed me Seymour?” jokes at the shop?
You’re the first! Gosh I wish there were more. I had a childhood crush on Rick Moranis after that movie!
FERN is located at 6040 Hamilton Ave in Cincinnati OH www.fern-shop.com