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NYC’s coolest new pop-up shop is a greenhouse with 1,000 cacti

A rare treat for East Coasters

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All photos by Jenny Xie

From a shoppable townhouse to a wellness store in historic lofts, pop-up retail taking over vacant urban spaces are now a common sight. But the most inspired example we’ve seen of late can be found on a narrow lot that has sat unused for nearly a decade in New York City’s Chinatown, where residents can now feast their eyes on 1,000 of the coolest cacti carefully transported in a truck all the way from Los Angeles.

Unveiled this past weekend, the NYC outpost of Cactus Store, the Echo Park gem founded by friends and cactus collectors Max Martin, Carlos Morera, and Jeff Kaplon, comprises a 250-square-foot greenhouse on a 2,000 square-foot lot, which will be turned into a space for neighborhood engagement with workshops and more. But so far, the stars of the show are no doubt the succulent darlings in the custom-designed greenhouse shop.

The inventory was sourced from months of hunting around wholesalers and private collections, focusing on a varied selection that would fare well indoors for urban dwellers with little outdoor space. Big ones, little ones, sculptural ones, colorful ones, $30 ones, and a $4,000 giant...this is cactus like you’ve never seen before.

When asked if cacti are “getting popular,” Kaplon, who gave Curbed a tour of the space, says for them it’s less about treating cacti as “aesthetic objects and decoration” than about “adopting” these creatures and the stories they come with.

Above is a sampling of them (clockwise from the top left): A 400-year-old Copiapoa, a Cereus forbesii with the “spiralis” genetic defect sourced from Rio de Janeiro, another with a “monstrose” mutation, and a 10-foot-tall Pilosocereus cactus with a blue “sunscreen” coating hanging out in the corner (not to mention the simply show-stopping Euphorbia grandicornis in the foreground).

The pots have stories, too. According to Kaplon, some of the terra-cotta pots were handmade in Mexico in the ’70s and ’80s, which the Cactus Store inherited from one of their sources who passed away and left behind two shipping containers full of them.

Cactus Store New York, located at 5 Essex Street, is open through October, and will do a few more restocks throughout the summer. The shop is also selling Japanese garden tools and its own shirts and fertilizers.