Business

Moss plant store coming to Cedar Rapids Czech Village this summer

Air plants are displayed for sale at Moss in NewBo City Market on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Anne Armitage will move her plant shop, Moss, from NewBo City Market to a storefront in Czech Village later this summer. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Air plants are displayed for sale at Moss in NewBo City Market on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Anne Armitage will move her plant shop, Moss, from NewBo City Market to a storefront in Czech Village later this summer. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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A rolling stone might gather no moss, but houseplant store Moss’ planned relocation soon will add to Czech Village’s gathering of local businesses.

Moss, which since 2012 has offered houseplants, succulents, cactuses, airplants and related decor out of the NewBo City Market, is slated to begin selling from a new storefront, at 74 16th Ave. SW in Czech Village, later this summer.

The relocation marks the latest of several outgrowths for a business with more down-to-earth origins around 2010: plant sales out of owner Anne Armitage’s mother’s garage in Cedar Rapids with a handmade sandwich board sign.

Beforehand, Armitage and her husband Alan Peterka said they started spending a lot of time gardening outdoors after they first married, while living in rural West Branch.

“That led to Anne coming home every other day with a new carload of plants,” Peterka recalled. “That’s what really sparked the business side: ‘Let’s come up with a way where we can justify buying more plants.”

The garage sales escalated to appearances at farmers markets and open plant sales over the next two years, and then Moss’ first permanent location in a 200-square foot boutique in the NewBo City Market in 2012.

Moss — then operating as Bark and Bloom — focused on outdoor plants and flowers at first, but Armitage said she and Peterka quickly realized those offerings were not a solid foundation for a year-round business model.

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“We didn’t know what we were doing at the very beginning at all,” Armitage said. “We never had a grand plan. It was just trying things and seeing how well they worked.”

The pair shifted to a heavy focus on houseplants and “unique, stylish” arrangements such as hanging planters and moss wall art around October 2016, when they opened a second location in Iowa City — a 700-square foot boutique off East Washington Street.

Over time, Armitage said she and Peterka also began increasing their business’ number of non-plant items for sale, ranging from candles and soaps to greeting cards and fairy garden accessories.

Czech Village was an area Armitage said she and Peterka had eyed for an expansion years ago, but the right opportunity did not come knocking until recently — and they’re glad it did.

“It’s kind of a happening spot,” Peterka said, citing its historic main street infrastructure and continuous block of commercial buildings as appealing features.

“We never envision our business going into some strip mall on Collins Road or anything like that, it just doesn’t fit with our brand and our values,” Armitage said. “We want to invest in new urbanism. We love the movement now to reclaim urban spaces, and just the sheer number of people that want to move into a condo downtown is really, really encouraging.”

The pair recently bought their new 1,755-square foot building off 16th Avenue SW and are working to renovate its storefront, with approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and with an overall price tag of around $400,000.

Property records show the building was erected in 1928 and housed several small retail businesses over the years, most recently antique store PJ’s Czech Shop.

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Once the renovations are finished and the new Moss store opens, likely around July, Armitage said it will offer an expanded selection of handmade items and large “statement” plants that would not fit in its NewBo City Market space.

The new store also will have room for weekly walk-in planting bar events on Saturdays, plus two evening planting workshops each month, similar to its Iowa City location, she said.

Of customer feedback to the planned relocation, Armitage said, “We’ve been really pleased with how fast word has gotten out. People are really excited and we love that. It’s very encouraging that they’re excited and that they want to support us in the new location too. It feels great.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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