Business

The Ground Floor: Backyard garden becomes blooming business

NewBo City Market boutique expands to storefront in Iowa City

Anne Armitage stands in the front part of Moss in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. Armitage, who owns the store with her husband Alan Peterka, is also the owner of Bark and Bloom, a boutique plant and decor stand in the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids. With Moss, she hopes to offer clients a serene shopping experience with expanded lines of gifts. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Anne Armitage stands in the front part of Moss in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. Armitage, who owns the store with her husband Alan Peterka, is also the owner of Bark and Bloom, a boutique plant and decor stand in the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids. With Moss, she hopes to offer clients a serene shopping experience with expanded lines of gifts. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Anne Armitage said she “never in a million years” expected her backyard work to grow into the business it is today.

Before opening two business — in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City — Armitage and her husband, Alan Peterka, were selling willow tree starts from their 14-acre home at various farmers markets and plant sales around the area.

Then last month, Armitage and Peterka opened their boutique, Moss, on East Washington Street in Iowa City.

“I never 10 years ago would have imagined opening a store on this street,” Armitage said.

Armitage and Peterka started Bark and Bloom, which sells succulents and various plants, in the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in 2012 after being mobile for about two years. The 200 square-foot boutique in NewBo was the couple’s first permanent location.

“The focus of Bark and Bloom, to begin with, we just really wanted to highlight natural, simple nature as opposed to flowers that are painted blue that you see in a grocery store,” Armitage said.

Now, the couple’s Cedar Rapids-based boutique is branching out into a storefront in Iowa City.

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The urban garden boutique, Moss, had its soft opening in Iowa City less than two weeks ago. The store staffs one full-time manager and two part-time employees.

The boutique in the 700-square-foot space on East Washington Street sells what Armitage describes as “living decor,” or house plants that have a sculptural quality. A portion of the plants are sourced from growers in Iowa, including Pheasant Run Fram in Van Horne and a greenhouse in Pella. The couple grow their own succulents and flowers in the summer.

The store also sells planters and pots, as well as various gifts such as soaps and candles — in line with their goal of selling natural, earthy items.

Armitage said they didn’t have to renovate the store when they moved in this past August, but she and Peterka are working to pay off a loan used to open Moss. Armitage said she’s hopeful they’ll start to make a profit in two or three years.

While their first business succeeded in Cedar Rapids, Armitage the move to Iowa City felt right to the couple.

“We’d been talking about expanding for about a year now,” Armitage said. “We looked at the various possibilities, but we always felt really good about Iowa City as a market for what we do.”

However, Armitage points out it never would have worked without their success in NewBo.

“We never would have entertained the possibility if we hadn’t incrementally grown our business at NewBo and seen what we were capable of,” she said.

At a glance

l Business: Moss

l Owners: Anne Armitage and Alan Peterka

l Address: 112 E. Washington St., Iowa City

l Phone: (319) 804-8608

l Website: mossymoss.com

l Know a business that would be ideal for “The Ground Floor”? Contact Michael Chevy Castranova at michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

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