A Succulent Grows on East Main Street
Lynzarium’s Plant Shack is further proof that the local maker movement is, uh, growing.
A half mile down East Main Street in Gloucester, in the shadow of Beacon Marine, a dark brown shingled building with a bright yellow door is making retail magic.
Amid the tendrils and spikes of hundreds of succulent plants, something is brewing — particularly on Sunday mornings, but more on that later — at Lynzarium’s Plant Shack. (“Lynzarium” is a combination of the owner’s name, Lyndsay, and her affection for terrariums.)
Lyndsay Maver, 38, “accidentally” opened this gem two years ago, thinking she only needed a studio for her “budding” interior design business, but before she knew it, a rapid increase in orders for her popular terrariums forced her to think even bigger.
What began several years ago as a hobby, pinching cuttings from wild plants on her walks through the Maui countryside has lead Maver to this little shop of succulents — and much more — in East Gloucester, near Smith Cove and Rocky Neck.
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The daughter of parents who reveled in Rocky Neck’s spirited artistic scene, Maver grew up in nearby Beverly. But the family drove up to Gloucester whenever they could. Her parents, Barbie and Larry, now live permanently in East Gloucester.
Maver attended the University of Vermont, where she studied Studio Art, with minors in English and Psychology. She loved Burlington as much as she loved Beverly, but California was calling her.
After graduation, Maver went west. First to Santa Cruz, Calif., then San Francisco, and, finally, to Maui, Hawai’i, where she got a job teaching art to kids at a golf resort.
Those eight years out west inform much of the Plant Shack mojo.
If you look around the shop, you’ll see Zen moments everywhere: sunlight pours through cloudy green vintage bottles containing shafts of wheat. There’s humor, too: a southwestern cacti living in kitschy sea captain coffee mugs. A sign over the miniature cactus display reads “Pricks for Sale.”
And there are shoes. Maver’s favorite footwear lines add pops of color in between the foliage. Jewelry is lovingly curated, much of it designed by friends, worn by Maver, and found subtly displayed in and around the plants. Proving that surprise and joy are as much a part of Maver’s business plan as photosynthesis, the shop carries “pom-pom planters” — plush plant holders made of fluffy stitched-together pom-poms.
Not surprisingly, Maver’s sister, Erica, owns a store in San Francisco called Establish, which specializes in — naturally — plants, jewelry, vintage clothes, and surfing culture. The sisters readily share ideas back and forth across the country.
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The Plant Shack story began back in Maui, where Maver started pinching stems of native-growing succulents and bringing them home to start young plants in her windowsills.
After her stint of waiting tables and teaching art to young children, Maver, then 28, decided it was time to head back to the East Coast. She took a job managing interior designer Jill Goldberg’s home boutique, Hudson, the “fantastically chic shop” in Boston’s fashionable South End.
Her propagating plants came with her.
Maver began creating her centerpieces for restaurants and weddings (guests would take home the centerpieces as gifts), then she began to sell her terrariums at Hudson. She found herself spending more and more professional time with her hands in soil. “I was making terrariums in my parents’ basement with only 5' of headroom,” she says.
“The terrariums are really low maintenance. They don’t overwhelm anybody. They thrive on neglect. Succulents are easy, too. I love their shades and color. And they’re easy to propagate. You just pinch off a piece — and start the cutting in its own pot of soil.”
As a designer, Maver appreciates the architectural aspects of foliage and stems. “I see plants as crucial to interior design. They’re such an important part of finishing a room. They create movement. They add height. And green is a great color.”
Maver’s business model? Easy. Light. She never takes herself, or her shop, too seriously. It epitomizes her work: Design with ease. Make things that last.
Succulents and terrariums are “living centerpieces” which have become ever more popular to customers looking for sustainable decorating options. The demand for Maver’s terrariums continues to grow steadily.
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Enter Bob Driscoll and David Krebs, the proprietors of Vintage 211, more frequently known as “Bob and Dave’s” the clothing store now in the basement of Beacon Marine — directly across the street from the Plant Shack.
They have been friends with Maver’s family since those years when her parents first discovered Rocky Neck’s summer community. Lyndsay grew up with Driscoll and Krebs as sort of “surrogate uncles.”
One day, she was bemoaning the lack of a good planting space in town when Driscoll alerted her, “Honey, right across the street! There’s plenty of room!”
What began as a space for making terrariums and potting plants, developed into this happy retail space. For Maver, having Driscoll and Krebs fifteen steps away is part of the Lynzarium dynamic.
“The synergy between the Plant Shack and Vintage 211 is great. We go back-and-forth across the street all weekend. They’re so imaginative. The two stores play really well off each other and the aesthetics work perfectly together.”
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“People come in and they want to plant things,” Maver says, encouraging interactivity in the Plant Shack. “The fun is taking a plant and choosing a vessel to put it in. The combination is the art.”
The Plant Shack strikes a chord with the younger crowd, too.
“Last April we had twelve 10-year-old girls here for a terrarium-making party,” Maver said excitedly. She encourages it, citing how the terrariums became small emblems of each girl’s personality. “And there’s a little boy who comes in all the time and just asks me what he can do. ‘Do you need some sweeping,’ he asks. He just loves this place.”
Now, about those Plant Shack Sunday mornings.
Maver, along with her friend Jocelyn Pierce, owner of Rockport’s Mayflour Confections — and winner of Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” for her wedding cakes — conceived of the Sunday gatherings as a way to seed a community of like-minded individuals, and to showcase the growing community of local makers.
On this particular Sunday, Pierce brings Equal Exchange coffee, along with pyramids of meltingly coconut-y macaroons. (Other recent Sunday favorites from Mayflour: fresh-baked scones and lavender shortbread cookies.)
People begin arriving after 11 a.m. — the first flush of guests seemingly making one last stop on the trail of parties from the night before. There are hugs, handshakes, and mumbles of “yeah, coffee would be great.”
Their assignment? Bring the half-and-half for the coffee. They stayed for an hour or so, two guys, bundled in plaid wool, standing in a small room filled with dangling Donkey Tail cacti, wooden crates full of artfully arranged epiphyllum, vintage tins of arcing zig-zag plants, prayer plants, ferns, and those pom-pom planters.
These aren’t just shoppers, but regulars, there for the chance to hang out together on a Sunday morning.
Wingaersheek Beach residents Chris and Irv Falk are regulars at the Sunday Plant Shack scene. “This is a great place for people to meet and have a conversation,” Irv says enthusiastically. “People come here all the way from Boston for the coffee and one of Jocelyn’s scones. There is something different happening here. East Gloucester is hot!”
Another group, locals from Gloucester, dropped in to shop, later joined by some of Maver’s South End friends. It was barely noon. “The surfers won’t be here for a while,” Maver said, “because it’s high tide right now.”
Maver laughed and said, “yeah, they stop in on their way off of Good Harbor Beach for coffee.”
And all of this on a raw Sunday morning in February. “Hot” indeed.
Shawn Henry is a Gloucester-based commercial photographer whose clients include National Geographic, Time, and Forbes.
► Lynzarium’s Plant Shack, 186 East Main Street, Gloucester. Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (usually); Mondays by appointment only.