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Welcome to the Neighborhood: The Old Yew Plant Shop, 1 Horatio Street

Today we welcome a new small business to our neighborhoods — help us welcome the next. Tell us which new independent store in Greenwich Village, the East Village, or NoHo you’re excited about by emailing us at info@villagepreservation.org.

As advocates for local small business, we find great satisfaction in hearing of new independent establishments opening in our neighborhoods. These arrivals give us hope that reports of the death of mom-and-pops have been greatly exaggerated. Whenever such occasions present themselves, we like to share our enthusiasm with the world in the hopes that others will join us in wishing our new neighbors a warm welcome, and more tangibly, patronize and spread the word to help ensure their success and survival.

Sheltering in place during a global pandemic has few silver linings. If it inspired the beautification and greening of your apartment, that would be one. If it led to a career reconsideration, that might be another. But if it led to a new career in helping others green their homes, then that would be both a double-silver lining and the story of August Laska and his new store, The Old Yew Plant Shop (1 Horatio Street). This recent addition to the West Village offers not only a selection of plants for all tastes and levels of plant-growing know-how, but landscaping and installation services, expert advice, and generally all you need in order to turn your place into an urban jungle (in the best of all possible ways). 

Before the pandemic, August was fortunate to have his passion for houseplants coincide with a natural eye for arranging them, a green thumb for growing them, and an apartment with huge south-facing windows. His home looked like a plant store. At the time, however, he worked in marketing. When he was furloughed by his employer at the start of the pandemic, August moved in temporarily with his parents in the suburbs. This fortuitously gave him both a larger canvas on which to exercise his fledgling gardening artistry and a way to do so in the safe outdoors — his parents’ front yard. Relatives’ and friends’ yards soon followed. And then one day, a friend’s neighbor, noticing August’s handiwork, approached him and remarked, “Wow! Could I pay you to do that in my house?”

Surprised that he could charge for what he was doing for fun, August started spreading word of his services in the area. By the end of the summer of 2020, he was making enough money that it made sense to launch a business. It also made sense to learn more about the fundamentals of landscape design and home gardening, which he did through a course at the Bronx Botanical Garden. Before long, he had to hire a crew of subcontractors and was going around town installing ten-foot trees. The growth in his landscaping business gave him the financial wherewithal to eventually develop a retail operation, which itself started out as a pastime. 

August decided to branch out into retail just for fun, and because he wanted to reach a younger audience. His first foray into retail, in the fall of 2020, took the form of an online house plant business that he promoted through social media. Although this remained a side-project, the volume of sales occasionally surprised him. Over a holiday weekend, he was swamped with orders, many from across the country. And that was far surpassed on Valentine’s Day, when a site prompting small businesses featured a heart-shaped-leafed plant from his store.

At least 250 people received one of those plants that year from their Valentine.

Encouraged by his sales and by the tentative reopening of the city, August decided to open a pop-up store in 2021, during the summer, when the weather makes landscaping impractical. He sold his plants out of a 400 square foot space in Nolita.

Customers, perhaps eager to once more get out and touch and feel something, flocked there from as far away as New Jersey and Queens. In four weeks, he sold everything but the shirt on his back. 

August resumed his landscaping work through the fall of 2021, at which point he started contemplating the possibility of opening a permanent retail store. He was only casually looking when, walking down 8th Avenue, he noticed a vacant-seeming storefront with south-facing windows. He peered in to check out the space and discovered inside the landlord, waiting for the photographer who was going to take the pictures for the rental listing. August took quick note of the backyard, the basement, and the size of the frontage windows, and told the landlord to cancel the appointment: he would take it. And thus was born The Old Yew Plant Shop. 

The store now features a house plant for every occasion and space: eye-catching exotics, low-maintenance plants, and pet-friendly ones, along with a range of plant growing accessories and plant-themed books and gifts.

In addition, you can get all the guidance you’ll need at the store in selecting the perfect plant and in keeping your new green friend alive and happy. And if you need more involved assistance, you can retain August’s services in designing, arranging, and installing greenery for your home.

We’re excited to see how The Old Yew takes root and blooms in the West Village, and we encourage you to swing by, welcome August to the neighborhood, and embark on the journey of transforming your living room into your own personal verdant sanctuary.

If you would like us to welcome another independent business to the neighborhood, please let us know at info@villagepreservation.org.

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