PlantShed, on the corner of Columbus Avenue and 87th Street, is a plant store that also sells coffee, the two products combining to provide a uniquely wholesome experience. CEO, Eric Mourkakos recently told Straus News about the history and growth of his beloved flower shop.
The 87th St. location, which opened in 2017, is one of three PlantShed stores in the city. There's the original store on West 96th Street, and another store downtown, on Prince Street, which also opened in 2017. The newer stores offer a sit-down, coffee-house option to customers. The original store doesn’t have a cafe in it - yet. But, Mourkakos said, “it’s under consideration.”
This year marks Mourkakos's tenth year as the CEO of PlantShed. The Mourkakos family have been the proud owners of PlantShed since 1955, when Eric’s maternal grandfather opened the flagship Upper West Side store. His father purchased the company from his father-in-law in the early 1990’s.
A Life in Flowers
“I’m entrenched in flower, I grew up in it,” Mourkakos said. He tells of assembling the flower installments for the popular restaurant Carmine’s on Thanksgiving as he grew up. College pulled him away from New York; he returned in 2006 from Boston University with a degree in economics, planning to go into finance. “Then the world fell apart," he said, as 2008 brought the recession. It was a tough time for all. For PlantShed, it meant flirting with bankruptcy.
Mourkakos came in to “stabilize things.” After considering dissolving the company, PlantShed hung on to the retail store, and began an e-commerce business. The e-commerce business is big for PlantShed in NYC: people order, they deliver.
Mourkakos assumed the CEO position in 2009. “I hated working in an office setting - especially after growing up working with plants. It was so different. But I was presented with an opportunity to fix [the company].”
From 2010-2012, PlantShed focused more on providing flowers, plants and services to corporations. Mourkakos saw that they were doing many more interior space-scapes for restaurants and companies. “I saw that market growing.”
A Magical Combination
Then he came up with the idea for the coffee shop. His background in the food-and-beverage industry helped - he had opened a restaurant in New Jersey his first year out of college, and he liked it.
“It’s a very similar experience," said Mourkakos. "In both industries, food and floral, the products are very perishable; they need to be proposed in house, and be delivered at a certain time. There’s limited time to make things before they die: [you need] hospitality [and] communication.”
The same drive for excellence in plant products applied to the coffee search as well: “It has to be a very good coffee.” He found what he was looking for in the Brooklyn-based coffee company Partners.
The combination turned out to be magical. The secret, as Mourkakos put it - “The ability to sit down in a nice environment; to be surrounded by the plant and floral aesthetic, and have some amazing coffee.”