RICHMOND, Va. — Sitting on the corner of East Main St. and North 1st St. is an entirely new kind of coworking space – one that is quite literally living, breathing, and growing every day.
That’s because The Living Room, located at 20 E. Main St, is very much alive – it’s a concept that blends together an exotic plant boutique, with a creative working space, and it opens Saturday.
With a name that pays homage to the store’s comfortable, bright interior as well as the plants that thrive within it, The Living Room serves as a space to learn about and purchase exotic plants as well as work among them – with free wifi, cozy couches, sweet snacks, fresh Honduran coffee, and none of the membership fees typically attributed to coworking spaces.
Store owners and Richmond natives Jacob Fonseca and Aaron Brown envisioned the shop as a work space where anyone from college students to professionals can work among rare plants, listen to music spun on vinyl, and focus on their projects and creative ventures in a tranquil, sun soaked environment.
“Think Panera Bread – but with plants, it’s a place to feel peace and tranquility so you can create freely,” Fonseca said. “Because we have a lot of plants in here the oxygen levels are increased which actually is proven to improve brain function.”
The plants lining The Living Room’s walls are Fonseca and Brown’s true passion – and the shop’s selection carries varieties that generally aren’t available in Richmond. “A lot of these plants are really hard to find because they’re tropical in nature,” Fonseca said. “You wouldn’t be able to go to Lowes and grab an African Mask, Rattlesnake, Rubber Tree, or Monstera plant.”
The pair — who met at Manchester Middle School – reconnected in December 2017. Little did either know that just eight months later, their vision would manifest as The Living Room.
The Living Room’s Mission Statement: “It is no secret that all ecosystems are interdependent, if one is out of balance the others will be affected. With all of today’s technologies and industrialization, we’ve noticed a society that was out of touch with their internal and external ecosystems. Our mission is to help create a singular, synchronized ecosystem between your person, plant and planet , or as we like to call it, “One Eco.” One plant at a time, from our Living Room to yours.”
“I make music and I had my studio decked out with plants and homies would come and take pictures and start posting them on Instagram,” Fonseca said. “And I was like man… maybe this could work out into a business. So I kinda slept on it and started finding people who supported me.”
That’s when Brown came into the picture. As producers, the two reunited over music and decided to make a track together – but according to Brown, the roots of The Living Room were born by what can only be referred to as “Divine Intervention.”
“After the third session of producing our song, we started talking about spirituality and stuff,” Brown said. “I had a ‘thing’ going on in my house, for lack of a better word, it felt like a negative entity – and you don’t meet people every day who understand that.”
But Fonseca understood, and quickly confirmed that he too could sense the energy that Brown felt.
“It was just a crazy experience,” Brown said. “We prayed and then he went home and then that very same night my house burned down – like to the ground.”
But Brown refuses to acknowledge the negative aspect of what happened, instead, he attributes the event to the starting point of The Living Room.
“That experience kind of sealed the deal for us as friends – and this store wouldn’t be here without it because we came up on the insurance money from the fire.”
Now, eight months later, Brown and Fonseca are putting the final touches on the shop to prepare for Saturday’s grand opening, which will feature plant repotting classes, live painting from local artist Earl Mack, food vendors, plant raffles, and a yoga class by Ashley Williams of BareSOUL yoga.
“We want it to be a community event and have everyone be blessed with what we’ve been blessed with,” Brown said.