Two weeks after indoor plant store The Mellow SF opened in March, COVID-19 shut it down. However, to the founder’s surprise, moving temporarily online brought them more success than they had ever imagined.
“We put three months of our own blood, sweat, and tears into opening our doors and the community just poured in with support, even after we moved online,” said Lorena Velasco who, along with her husband David, owns The Mellow SF. “For only being open for two weeks, it feels crazy to have received so much love and support.”
The shop was named after the Velascos’ first dog, “Mellow,” but was also inspired by the idea that “plants keep people mellow,” said David.
The shop specializes in affordable, locally sourced, low-maintenance plants that thrive in indoor environments. They’re all hand-selected from greenhouses in Half Moon Bay, Richmond, Daly City, Santa Cruz and Sacramento.
“In addition to wanting to keep things affordable, we wanted to cater to folks who are busy, full-time workers that don’t know a lot about plants or don’t have a green thumb, but still want to spruce up their indoor space,” said David.
Aside from plants, The Mellow SF supports local, women-owned businesses by selling their products, such as naturally dyed fabrics from Jalama Dyes or teas from Flowerheadtea. They then invite these local business owners and other artists to teach workshops at The Mellow.
David and Lorena also emphasize the importance of supporting women and immigrants. After previously volunteering and teaching classes at The Women’s Building, the Velascos hired women who immigrated from El Salvador and Mexico to work at The Mellow SF.
“Any immigrant is close to heart. My father is from Mexico and David moved from Spain here, and we’re both bilingual,” said Lorena, “and to be in a Mission district, we think it’s really important for us to be able to speak Spanish.”
Despite abruptly closing in March, David’s background in product design and technology made it easy to create a website for The Mellow SF for online sales.
To their surprise, online orders began to pour in as soon as the website launched. The new norm of working from home and shopping online helped, they said.
“In the city, not a lot of people have gardens, so many people want to bring nature indoors, especially during a time where people are working from home,” said Lorena. “They want something that cheers them up and brings them joy, and having plants can purify the air.”
Customers can order online for deliveries on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They can also place orders and pick up their plants the next day at the storefront, open Monday through Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m. While their storefront is currently a processing center for online orders, The Mellow SF recently reopened for in-person shopping.
Like many other businesses and institutions, The Mellow SF will be experimenting with online teaching. The Velascos are currently taking inquiries for private online Zoom workshops, where people can send in their plant pictures and questions and will be provided with tips and advice. More information is available on the website.
While working to keep The Mellow alive during COVID-19 was challenging, David and Lorena have taken something positive from experience.
“Being online really expanded our reach. More people see us and find out about us and we just overall have more visibility, which is really great.” said Lorena. “We hope to eventually open our doors again and offer more workshops.”