When you first walk into Plant Terrariums, the earthy smell of flowers and dirt fills your nose. Greenery covers the store from front to back and the owner’s two dogs wander around. The store is divided into sections based on amount of sunlight needed for each type of plant.

Kyle Chow, owner of the shop, has a warm smile. He adds to the welcoming environment by simply being at the store. Dark stubble draws even more attention toward his smile. He chats with staff and customers while wearing a button down shirt, his nearly black hair prominent against his green surroundings.

Chow opened Plant Terrariums in 2014, but had a long history with botanicals. Opening a plant store was not always Chow’s plan: it came naturally but was unexpected.

Chow first became interested in botanicals at the age of five when he would work with his grandparents in the garden. Once he learned how to care for a vegetable garden, he wanted one of his own. So that’s exactly what Chow did.

He asked his parents if he could plant his own garden. Chow started with vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots.

Once Chow was old enough, he would ride his bike through his hometown of Moose Jaw to the greenhouse to browse.

In high school, Chow had his first commercial exposure to dealing with plants when he was hired at Flower Potts, a small gardening shop in Moose Jaw. This job introduced Chow to a lot of what he knows about indoor plants. From creating moss baskets to planting and running the shop when the owner was not in, Chow learned a lot about the business. He was able to see how the ordering was done, while interacting with growers.

Kyle Chow creates stunning visual arrangements within the walls of terrariums, drawing much of his inspiration from Europe. He finds that many botanists have been doing the same thing for years and enjoys doing things a little bit differently. Photo by Robyn Welsh.After high school, Chow moved to Calgary and began studying business at the University of Calgary. But this didn’t last long because the classes were too formal for him, and he wasn’t after an office job in the same sense some of his classmates were.

Instead, Chow transferred to the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) for graphic design. Since then, Chow has been doing varying amounts of graphic design.

Well into his graphic design career, Chow saw terrariums in a restaurant on a trip to Oregon with his wife. Fascinated by the beautifully designed plant homes, Chow did some research and began creating them himself.

Quickly, it became a hobby. “It was my excuse to get away from the computer and do something more tactile.”

Chow enjoyed it more than he could have imagined, and was making so many that he ran out of room in his own house. In order to find an outlet for his terrarium creations, Chow began selling them at markets and community events. This is when Plant Terrariums was created and began to take off on its own. In a few years, they realized they needed a space.

So in 2014, Chow opened the first Plant Terrarium shop. While he always wanted to open some sort of retail store Chow said, “I didn’t know it would come back to gardening and plants and things, and it did quite naturally.”

Using his design background, Chow created the signage, marketed and branded the store. His keen eye made it easy to create an aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable experience for customers. Within the glass walls of the terrariums, Chow continues to create balanced and beautiful arrangements.

Last month, the shop celebrated its three year anniversary. In just two years, Plant outgrew its space and moved a few doors down to a larger store. Chow said that last year’s transition to a bigger store was out of necessity. They had outgrown the original store, and though it was a big jump they filled the new one out within less than a year.

Chow said it was amazing to see the evolution of the store from his original idea. “It’s so different in a very positive way. And how it just sort of naturally evolved, we slowly went from terrariums and a few plants and supplies to now offering a wide selection,” he said. While they originally started as a terrarium shop, they are more of a full fledged plant store that also does terrariums.

While the transition wasn’t necessarily easy, store dogs Clyde and Lake quickly adjusted to being in the new store. The two no longer rush to the door every time it opens.

“They’re sort of something people come to see now. They have lots of friends in the neighborhood and stuff or that come by just to see the dogs. They don’t come to see the plants sometimes,” said Chow. Clyde and Lake are friendly and help to make people feel at ease. It makes for a fun environment having the dogs there.

Chow says they have never had issues with the dogs eating plants in the store. “Their tails sometimes knock over the odd piece of glass or something but for us that’s no big deal,” Chow said. It’s more important for Chow to have his dogs close than to lose a few items.

Customer Quinlan Mazurenko enjoys the fact that his whole family, including their dog Rio, can come into the store. “They’re dog friendly so you don’t have to have one person hold your dog the whole time,” he said with a smile.

His mother Kelly Mazurenko and her family see Plant as a city escape. “For us this is a trip, like a destination to come to. There’s other places we can go but this just makes it special because they’ve got all sorts of things out that you can see what you can do and there’s lots of product here. There’s tons to choose from, so the hard part is just deciding what you’re going to choose,” she said.

Though Chow keeps the store running smoothly, he still makes time for graphic design. With his design work, Chow primarily focuses on branding for organizations and doing a lot of identity development, as well as on typography and print materials. “I do some online work but I’m really passionate about the tactile thing,” Chow said.

Plant Terrariums has a variety of succulents, cacti, tropical plants, and other house plants for sale. They also offer terrarium making workshops. Photo by Robyn Welsh.For the past six years, Chow has taught graphic design at ACAD. “I still maintain that. I may not do a lot of design for the public but I still teach it and obviously do a lot for the business in terms of all the design,” he said.

Chow teaches one to three classes a semester and tries to keep his class times in the morning so that he can go into the shop in the afternoon.

Chow’s approach to teaching is fairly relaxed and he tries to be an approachable person. He says he enjoys being open to sharing his day to day experiences with students.

“I think they get a value seeing that I’m an entrepreneur and what I’ve done with my design education, that I did practice graphic design but then how that can take on different paths based on your interests and passions,” said Chow.

Between design and the plant shop, Chow enjoys variety in his day to day life.

Alysa Vanhaastert, the shop manager loves being around plants, getting her hands dirty at work and the creativity that comes along with the job. Vanhaastert said that Chow is an inspiring person to work with because of his generous nature and his joyful and open personality.

“It’s hard to actually put who Kyle is into words,” said Vanhaastert. “Being around him you feel inspired and encouraged to work harder and get things done in a beautiful and exciting way.”

rwelsh@cjournal.ca

Editor: Amber McLinden | amclinden@cjournal.ca