PAOLI, Wis. – A new gallery south of Madison, Wis. doesn’t focus on just art or museum artifacts; it shows plants.
“I get to connect with people and share the best part of their day with them,” says Sarah Boyd, a smile obvious under her mask. “Coffee is the best part of your day, and I think plants are another pretty awesome part of your day.”
Boyd just opened Vert Cafe and Plant Gallery in Paoli. It’s her passion project. “Vert” is the French word for “green”, so it rhymes with “hair”.
“I’ve been in love with plants for a really long time,” she laughs. “My grandma got me this book … and it had this woman in the UK who has a plant gallery. And I was like, that's what I need to do, have a plant gallery!”
The first space in the shop is cozy and intimate. Boyd knows about half the people who walk in.
A plant gallery and cafe is exactly what it sounds like: there’s coffee and baked goods, plus a few snacks. But the back space, where customers can hang out, is filled with plants for sale. There are works from some local artists, too.
Boyd went to art school “100 years ago,” she says with a laugh. “The plants are the art!”
People can buy the plants and take them home, or just enjoy them while they eat and drink.
The plants come from a variety of places, and Boyd selects them herself.
“I import some. I have growers around the country that I work with, we kind of trade plants and exchange plants,” she said. “Then there is a grower in Brooklyn [Wisconsin], like five minutes away […] she does mostly outdoor plants, and she is incredible.”
Boyd was at a crossroads in her life when she decided it was time for a change.
“I was having some real difficult feelings about my job, and how I didn't feel like I was contributing to my community very much. I felt like I was just playing the corporate game, and I didn't love it. So this space opened up, I signed the lease, then I wrote my business plan,” she said with a laugh.
It’s obvious to her now that that was the right move. “Then I actually got fired from my job. So it all worked out like in the most beautiful way,” she’s laughing, but it’s obvious she’s not kidding.
All these pieces fell into place at the right time for her.
Boyd said plants can bring us a sense of peace in turbulent times. They’ve helped her mental wellbeing over the years.
"Some of the mental health issues that we're all experiencing right now […] I mean, no one has gotten out of this unscathed,” she said.
A study published in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening surveyed people all over Greece, Italy, and Brazil. The results showed three out of four people felt better once they had plants in their home during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I think this past year has really shown people that we need something to nourish, to nurture, to cultivate,” Boyd said. “So many people have been bringing plants into their homes over the past year because they don't know how to take care of themselves if they don't have something else to take care of too.”
That’s her big goal: to help people make their lives a little greener, and hopefully a little happier.
“Now we just get to help each other, now we get to hold each other up,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Boyd has big plans for Vert. She’s going to butcher school in the fall.
She’s also hoping to get into making more edibles. She uses Delta 8, a type of THC that’s legal in Wisconsin. It carries a high, but is about two-thirds as effective as your “average” THC, which is Delta 9.
It all fits into the mission of helping people just feel a little better.
“I get to bring joy to people’s lives every day,” she said.