LANSING, Mich. — Coronavirus has hit communities of color especially hard. Financially, it's taken a disproportionate toll, but as Ash-Har Quraishi found, the plant business has provided comfort and stability in an uncertain time.
Ozzy Gamez’s neighborhood store front looks a lot like an indoor jungle. “Our main focus has been indoor houseplants tropical cacti anything weird and exotic strange. ”Co-owned by his long-time friend and business partner Juan Quezada they own “The Plant Shop”.
“It feels good to come in come into work and just put my hands on some soil and just kind of bond with people over something that's very natural very organic.” For many in the Latino community a connection to caring and nurturing plants is intertwined with family and culture.
Gamez grew up in Belize, surrounded by tropical plants. “When I was growing up it was kind of all around my grandfather would plant things and grow things you know whether it was for the animals he was raising or whether it's for us too.”
Juan Quezada explained “I am Mexican, so i think that in my culture it plays a big role. Just from remedies growing up, my mother always used plants for remedies even as small as like aloes. If I had a little cut she always used that.”
According to the Pew Research Center the pandemic has hit Latinos especially hard. about six-in-ten Latinos, 59%, in May said they live in households that have experienced job losses or pay cuts due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Many have found solace during the pandemic in reconnecting with plants, a return to their roots.
“You start thinking about where you came from and thinking about thinking about your ancestors you not only to think about them but the places that were meant for me and I start thinking that kind of links it all it's plants.”
Gamez and Quezada have been fortunate. Business has been good to them during the pandemic. Despite having to limit the number of customers in the store demand has increased. They’ve had to double their staff to keep up. As Quezada shared “our customers are great. so they completely understand whether they have to wait outside for a sec or you know you have to sanitize your hands coming in or wearing a mask.”
Regulars like Glen Gallet say it’s worth it. “The amount of rare plants and things I'd never seen before things I've lost that after I spent a lot of money here over the years, but it's all been worth it.”
Noting a time when most could use a little extra care, nurturing another living thing could be just the right medicine.
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