By Kelly Youngblood
Like most things in life, timing is everything.
McReaken discovered Plantify after it opened in 2020, when she was shopping locally for a simple white planter. The Champaign native loved the store and became a regular customer.
Then, a few months ago, McReaken saw that Plantify owners had shared a post on Instagram announcing the sale of the business. The mother of three, who took a break from CPA work over a year ago and was looking for a new direction and career path, took a screenshot of the post.
McReaken sent it to her friend and former nanny, Riley Ramirez, with a question attached. “Do you want to own a plant store?”
Ramirez, who had just graduated and earned a Master’s degree in social work, was trying to determine what was next for her. The message she received from McReaken was all she needed to make that decision. Ramirez responded to McReaken with an emphatic “Yes!”
Both say they don’t see themselves changing much moving forward. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” McReaken said. “We are going to step in and keep going with what (the former owners) already had going.”
“The store has amazing foot traffic and an incredible customer base and we want them to be able to come back and feel that this is the store they know and love,” she said.
They plan to continue selling beautiful high quality houseplants in a variety of species — easy care plants all the way up to finicky special care plants, in a clean, calm space.
In addition to minimalist planters in a wide variety of simple shapes and beautiful colors, they have added some gift items such as puzzles, mugs, etc.
“If a plant shop could be a boutique we are a plant shop boutique,” McReaken said. “We want to be that houseplant store that you think of when you need something for your own home or a gift for other people.”
McReaken, who takes care of around 60 houseplants at her home, has always had plants. Her collection slowly grew over the years, as did her fondness for giving and receiving plants as gifts.
“I think that plants are a gift that keeps on giving. They can be really meaningful to people,” McReaken said.
She still has the plant her best friend brought to the hospital when her first child was born and she recalls her husband’s late grandmother breaking off parts of her plants to give to her to take home and grow. “It felt like I brought home parts of her,” she said.
Ramirez, who is 24, says she developed a love for plants during the pandemic.
“For me, I love houseplants. I can see the value in having them in one space and the joy that they can bring to people,” Ramirez said.
Even though owning a business is a first-time venture for both women, they feel up to any challenges that might arise. McReaken foresees her background in taxes and accounting as beneficial, as well as her family’s expertise in running a business.
McReaken’s father just retired from running long-time Champaign accounting business Martin Hood and her sister and brother-in-law own and operate Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola.
Ramirez grew up in the Chicago area but moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend college at the University of Illinois. That’s when she met McReaken and became her live-in nanny.
Ramriez went back to Chicago to get her master’s degree, but is returning to Champaign to help run Planted.
“I’m rooted in this community and Riley is moving to this community to become a resident so it just feels poignant for us,” McReaken said.
Planted is located at 16 E. Washington St. in Champaign and will be open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to plantedcu.com.