Mary Hogue was rolling a lemonade stand with one hand, Philz coffee in the other, to a sunny spot on the sidewalk outside Praxis, at the southeast corner of 24th Street and Treat Avenue.
Upon closer inspection, however, passersby might notice there were plants, not lemonade, perched on the brightly painted yellow and blue stand.
“We’ve always done this,” said Hogue, referring to a tradition of trade or donation her friends and Praxis founders Aerin and Ethan began when they opened the business in 2011.
“Plants for adoption” has been painted on the stand since Hogue and Ethan requisitioned it from a neighbor who had built it for their children. It replaced a plain rack, she said.
Beyonce’s “Lemonade” album had just come out, said Hogue, and they knew they had to have it.
“I get the plants either from my backyard, like propagating, I guess, or if I take a walk and find them,” said Hogue, explaining that Ethan, who is also her flatmate and works in landscaping, has filled their backyard with various types of plants.
“A lot of people leave cuttings, or I have a bunch of friends that actually donate things,” she added.
Hogue recycles her Philz to-go coffee cups as containers for each day’s eligible plants, most of which are spindly spider plants at the moment.
There’s also a small pepper plant — “he’s doing pretty good,” she said — and “a little jade” succulent. “They’re really easy,” said Hogue of the succulent. “You can just cut it and you can just put them in water or just put them straight in the dirt.”
The pepper plant is in an old plastic water jug. “That’s how it came to me,” she said.
“We just have always done it by trade donation,” she said. “So people usually give, like, a dollar or two dollars, like, whatever they have, or they’ll trade a plant, or they can just have it, too.”
Given the contents of her non-lemonade lemonade stand, it might come as a surprise that Hogue, who now owns the shop, confessed she is not much of a green thumb. But she’s friendly.
“I water them and talk to them,” she added.
The store, which she took over as sole owner in late 2016, has served as a space for a number of community-oriented support efforts, including a “Trade a Treasure” box stocked with Praxis-made clothing and jewelry or items donated by neighbors, and a fundraiser box for the Shaibi family in 2015 after fire struck their home on 24th Street.
“The shop has always had this energy of being community driven, especially since I live right there,” she said, pointing to a green and orange house with flowers down the street. “The one that looks like the shop,” she said. The shop is also an explosion of color, inside and out.
“There’s a lot of reasons it’s not a traditional business,” said Hogue, a fashion designer and pattern maker who pays the bills by offering custom orders through Praxis. “One of them is that I really do take the time to get to know people and work with local artists on projects, but also, like, a lot of the skaters will come in. And so I teach a lot of people how to sew — a lot of young people.”
She said one of her favorite community-driven projects was a memorial quilt for Sean Monterrosa, a Mission native fatally shot by Vallejo police during a protest in 2020. Around 69 squares were hand-painted by Monterrosa’s friends and family members, and she sewed them into a 10-by-seven-foot quilt as a gift for his family.
“There’s not a lot you can do to help a family when they’re going through something like that, but you know, you can give them love, and something that’s comforting and beautiful,” she said.
Although she did a stint in tech making robotic clothing, she said she is more fulfilled now at Praxis making custom orders and meaningful projects, like Monterrosa’s quilt.
“I’m happier here. I like this,” she said. “This is my happy place.”