Dec. 13, 2022
People of PROXY : Ngoc Luong, TERRAVITA
Our second feature for the PEOPLE OF PROXY series is with Ngoc Luong, the owner and founder of TERRAVITA plants, a local mom-and-pop shop curating a selection of rare and unique plants, pots and San Francisco themed gifts. Cassiopea McDonald, PROXY’s Program Director, interviewed Ngoc to hear more about how they got started, growing a business during the pandemic, and her experience at PROXY.
Cassiopea McDonald: Tell us about Terravita and what drew you to PROXY?
Ngoc Luong: We first began at a boutique shop on Valencia. When COVID hit, we had to close our shop, but we still had all those plants so we started doing home deliveries. At that time, we were wondering when the pandemic would end. We had noticed that people were more interested in plants at home, so we shifted the brand a bit, re-branded everything on Instagram and our website. We tried to look for other outdoor opportunities, which is when PROXY came to us. It was a trendy container shop but still open air, so if we had to re-shelter again, we’d be able to remain open. We loved the concept; it felt like a farmers market vibe and was more welcoming to people grabbing a cup of coffee nearby or walking through and seeing all those plants.
We wanted to create a space where people can just browse or learn about plants; this is how we came to be at PROXY.
CM: Having to start during the pandemic, and since you’ve grown your store, how have you seen the community and scene change since coming out at PROXY?
NL: When we started, we only had one side of our current space. We had a lot of plants that took up most of the Linden side of the lot. We saw such a close-knit community here, but we didn’t have the opportunity to build a communal space. When we were able to expand, we wanted to create that space for the community. We brought in tables, and we now have chess and checker games outside so people can hang out and chill with us. We also have our propagation station where people can trade plant clippings, learn about plants, how to pot plants, and just hang out.
CM: How has the neighborhood become part of your growth?
NL: It’s been a huge part of our growth. The neighborhood has been so welcoming, we have a lot of regulars now, and we know people’s first names and their dogs’ names. Many people have purchased their first plant with us and come back for more. We see it as building a relationship. People have come to know that we do a lot of consultations and help with plants even if they didn’t purchase them from us. They know we’re here and always happy to help.
CM: What about the other PROXY vendors and PROXY as an entity?
NL: All the PROXY vendors are a huge part of this community. We saw small businesses thrive and grow here. We have become friends with them, and we’re always trying to do cross-promotions and support each other in any way. We have done different fundraising opportunities with LUXFIT, including the pop-up raising funds for Type 1 diabetes research.
CM: What are your hopes for the future of the space?
NL: I hope we get to stay; we’ve built such a great space together for people, especially during COVID when people needed an outdoor space to unite. Proxy is holding the movie nights, LUXFit with fitness, us with plants, and the coffee and juice shops, it’s a communal space, and if it does go away, it will be deeply missed. It’s a place for people to come out and take a break from working from home or indoors. We’ve learned that everyone needs a space to pot their plants and not to make a huge mess, so we’re doing that here. Many people don’t have outdoor space, and we like to think people see us as their backyard.
CM: Anything else to add?
NL: I think many people in this community have been following whats happing here and keeping in touch. We’re hoping to rally up the community and have more events here. We are starting to do our Shop Small Saturdays, where we are supporting other local small vendors to come, sell their products and learn about our community.
I find PROXY as a helping hand to the community in all aspects. I see a lot of families come here, young folks come here, kinda all walks of life. It’s just a great community!
Stop into TERRAVITA today! Say hi to Ngoc and her team, trade plant clippings, play chess, and shop their beautiful selection. Wednesday – Saturday 10AM-6PM, Sundays 10AM-5PM