BREMERTON – Twenty-five-year-old John Melicor, an interior design student at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, has a vision: he wants to make the indoors feel a little more, well, wild.
“I like the idea of people making their own urban jungle,” Melicor, a former Navy service member, said from his new plant store – Urban Plant Shop – near downtown Bremerton on Thursday.
For a recent school assignment to build a “hidden structure,” Melicor designed a shelf that looks less like furniture and more like something you’d see on a hike through the woods. It was an experiment that played on the dichotomy between ‘nature vs. industrial’ design concepts, he said, and all of the flora was found in the Pacific Northwest.
If you’ve never owned a shelf that requires occasional watering and sunlight, then you may have a lot to learn from Melicor.
His new store is his first brick-and-mortar business – he’d been a freelance photographer in years’ past. The shop is located in a cozy office space at the Kitsap Business Center, at 865 Sixth Street, and opened earlier this month.
Melicor was born in the Philippines, and spent his childhood living in all corners of the country as the son of a U.S. Marine. He lived in Virginia, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and North Carolina, he said, before ultimately deciding to join the military himself. He was stationed at Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor for three years, from 2013 to 2016.
Now he’s embarked on a new mission – to earn an undergraduate degree while running a successful plant shop in Bremerton.
Urban Plant Shop’s inventory is sourced from regional nurseries in and around Seattle, in places like Snohomish, Sodo, and Woodinville. Prices are kept low, Melicor said – a large cactus that stood about four feet tall was priced at $90. It might go for at least double that across the Sound.
It felt a bit incongruous to browse succulents, cacti, philodendron and snake plants in a carpeted office that may have housed an accountant or an insurance salesman in a past life, but Melicor had turned the space into a healthy plant environment – with help from a humidifier and floor-to-ceiling windows.
“They’re north facing, so they bring in a lot of indirect sunlight,” he said. “Perfect for house plants.”
Melicor said business has been steady, with help from houseplant enthusiasts looking for more affordable prices than those found in Seattle. He said members of the Tacoma Houseplant Club were piqued by a rare variegated string of hearts plant.
“It’s a big community,” he said of plant lovers, some of whom share tips on Facebook groups.
The store also sells original artwork and candles made by local artists and artisans.
The space is currently shared with a photographer, a friend of Melicor’s, who has a backdrop and lighting set up in a corner of the room. But due to demand, Melicor thinks big things are on the horizon – on Thursday he was scheduled to look at a larger space just down the road.
“I’m looking at expanding,” he said.
Urban Plant Shop is located at 865 6th Street in Bremerton.
Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.