Image above: Urban Tropicana
Urban Tropicana, who started by running a stall selling houseplants at Chiswick Flower Market, is opening a shop on Turnham Green Terrace.
The business, started during lockdown by Lewis Cox and his partner Steve Desouza, has been a runaway success as Lewis, who was made redundant last year, decided to have a go at turning his hobby and passion into a way of earning a living.
Lewis spoke to The Chiswick Calendar just after they’d signed the lease and I could hear the excitement in his voice as if he couldn’t quite believe what they’d just done.
“It makes total sense because we feel totally at home in Chiswick” he told me.
Their shop will be at number 21, which is currently a nail bar, next to Chris’s Fish Bar – “far too tempting”.
Image above: Lewis, Steve and their son JoJo
When Chiswick Flower Market opened in September 2020 Urban Tropicana was one of the first stallholders to sign up.
“We just had an old table and a gazebo that didn’t work” Lewis recalled. After months of trading at markets they opened their first shop in Ealing six months ago, in Northfield Avenue, where he said they have learned “all the boring stuff, about rates and organising the rubbish and recycling – that kind of thing”.
The Northfields shop is leased short term in premises which will eventually be pulled down. Their new shop will have more permanence, they hope. They plan to open on Saturday 20 November with “more of our jungle-inspired amazingness” and a decor he described as “industrial chic”.
“We will have lots of winter plants that do well in shade. Things like Chinese evergreens which are happy in lower light conditions. We’ll have all the usual Christmas stock, like poinsettias. Last year at the Flower Market we had Norfolk Island pine trees which are about 47cms high, that look like Christmas trees but are actually tropical plants, so we will order some more of those”.
Images above: Some of the plants they will be selling: a Monstera, a Syngonium Albo Variegated and an Alocasia Dragon scale
When he said they were very conscious about sustainability I asked the obvious question – Isn’t there an inherent contradiction in selling tropical plants, which have their origin thousands of miles away?
The answer he said is no, because their plants are not transported from tropical locations. They are grown in nurseries in the UK and Holland.
“Amsterdam is nearer than Scotland, so it is as sustainable as we can make it”.
They will be selling plant care products by Plantsmith, who do not use chemicals in their products; For Peat’s Sake, who sell compost made from coconut husks; and Shell on Earth, a small family business which sells crushed whelk shells, the by product from their seafood processing plant, for landscaping and mixing in with soil to aerate it.
Images above: How it started at their first market in August 2020; How it’s going at their shop in Northfields Avenue
Lews is one of those traders who doesn’t just come to the market to sell plants. He’s happy also to spend time giving advice based on his many years of collecting plants “both fragile and virtually indestructible” from all round the world. He worked as BA cabin crew until last year, which gave him the opportunity to travel the world seeing tropical plants in their native habitat.
I have a feeling that if you go into the shop and ask Lewis for advice about plant care, once he warms to his subject you may be there for some time, but you will come out wiser.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Inside the Sipsmith distillery
See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features
Support The Chiswick Calendar
The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.
We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.
To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.