Amesia Doles in front of her van where she sells plants
Amesia Doles standing in front of her van. Photo by Yujie Zhou

Amesia Doles, 45, like many others, lost her small business at the height of the pandemic. Nevertheless, a subsequent government loan has turned her into an entrepreneur of plants.

“I think, kind of weirdly, the pandemic gave me an opportunity to have money that I would never have asked for,” said Doles, a longtime bartender, as she sells a Chinese evergreen from a van overflowing with plants. 

For nearly a year, two or three days a week, Doles parked this pop-up plant emporium at 18th and Valencia streets. For both the humans and puppies that pass by, the temptation of getting closer to these lively green things is hard to resist. 

“I feel really warm towards them,” said Dones. “I care about every plant that I bring in the shop (her van). I come from plant people. Plant lady from plant people.”

Plants have rooted their way through Doles’ life. Her botanist father named her after a yellowish flower and raised her in a garden crammed with native California plants. In college, she bought her first and favorite plant in life, a monstera deliciosa, one that she still cherishes today.

The van that becomes a plant store
The van becomes a plant store. Photo by Yujie Zhou

In Doles’ van, designed by local artist Melanie Getman and featuring some of the best-selling plants, there are always several monstera deliciosa Doles keeps ready for beginners. Many of her customers, she said, came to like plants during the pandemic. The monstera deliciosa is “forgiving,”  she said, referring to its tolerance for infrequent watering. Pothos and snake plants are also on her recommendation list.

With more than two decades of water and sun, “Horatio” — the name Doles gave to her favorite monstera deliciosa — has grown too big to fit in her current home. Still, she constantly mentions the name to customers when she introduces the plant to them. “I do encourage people to name their plant, because I think if you name a plant, you’re more attached to it,” she said. “It’s harder to kill ‘Harold,’ right?” 

The van is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Please check Doles’ Instagram (@botanicpanicsf) for weekly hours.

Amesia Doles selling plants from her van at 18th and Valencia Streets. Photo by Yujie Zhou
Amesia Doles selling plants from her van at 18th and Valencia Streets. Photo by Yujie Zhou.

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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