Born during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Plant Gays started as an Instagram account under the same name. Founders David Erbe and Aidan Robinson began posting plant care tips and tricks in September 2020, capitalizing on the trend of collecting houseplants to combat pandemic boredom and amassing nearly 10,000 followers.
The pair tackled establishing an online shop two months later, fulfilling small orders for handmade concrete planters. Erbe uses his experience as an OSU graduate in landscape architecture to make silicone molds for the pots.
Inventory grew as Erbe and Robinson’s selection quickly piqued the interest of local plant lovers, leading the pair to begin selling in markets across Columbus. After a few seasons of pop-up shops, the two realized the potential of a full-time retail space.
“When starting Instagram, we didn’t have the intention of opening any shops,” Erbe said. “But, it surprised me just all the positive feedback and the support we got from the local community and the LGBTQ community.”
Erbe and Robinson were immediately drawn to the new East Market in the Trolley District. The 140-year-old building is steps away from Franklin Park and has been transformed to house more than a dozen food and vendor stalls, including Yellow Brick Pizza, Winston’s Coffee and Waffles, Taste of Greek and Moroccan Street Food, and the market’s flagship bar Railhouse.
The Plant Gays celebrated its grand opening with the East Market on April 30. The space offers an array of indoor plants, planters, ceramic pots, candles, macrame, household items, plant accessories, and a rotating lineup of local vendors. Shoppers can also bring in their houseplants for repotting.
“Being surrounded by all the food vendors brings a lot of good foot traffic,” Erbe said. “Everyone feeds off each other’s energy, it’s a really nice environment in the market.”
A graduate of OSU in interior design, Robinson leads the shop’s plant-focused design service. Through an initial free 30-minute consultation, Robinson creates a custom design proposal tailored to the customer’s space, meeting light requirements and maintenance desires. Once selected, the plants are potted, delivered, and installed in the home.
Erbe said the pair would like to eventually open a second location with more space for their projects. In the meantime, The Plant Gays are focused on providing the quality services they’ve become known for and paving a path for LGBTQ-owned businesses.
“We just want to provide a visible, openly-gay business in the community,” Erbe said.