THINGS WE LOVE: Tiny But Mighty

Jun 28, 2013 0 comments
THINGS WE LOVE: Tiny But Mighty
Originally Published In Magazine
It sat dormant for years on Main Street, a concrete and brick garage studded with milled-wood beams. In time, everyone learned to dismiss it without so much as a glance. Almost everyone. Annie Scott and Jeff Lorenz would peer in and feel the rush of possibility.

The decaying garage was the obvious choice as they began to fill in the details of their plans for an urban garden design shop. A month after Tiny Terra Ferma’s opening, it’s hard to imagine a better advertisement for it. Salvaged wood benches display a portion of the meticulously-edited collection of sleek but sturdy English-made tools. Hanging against a towering wall, a series of interconnected pallets serves as a massive planter. Small potted cacti are arranged around a found trunk and a replica human skull—a skull. Garden design has never had this kind of swagger.

Tiny Terra Ferma was conceived as a pop-up in February, but Scott and Lorenz secured a handful of long-term design projects by March, which gave them both the confidence and the ability to open as a conventional shop come April.

Function and form follow hand-in-hand throughout the garage. The featured plants are beautiful, for sure, but they’re also drought-tolerant, native and even edible, making them every bit as capable of sustaining a habitat as turning it into eye-candy. This has been Lorenz’s element since 1997. He raises a pair of chickens in his backyard in Roxborough (and keeps in his neighbors’ good graces by doling out their eggs). Scott’s career, too, since graduating from the Conway School of Landscape Design in 2007, has had a decidedly restorative focus, including the creation of the master plan for the Upper Bucks farm owned by celbri-chef Jose Garces.

In that vein, their plan is to develop Tiny Terra Ferma into a neighborhood hub for the DIY set and the simply curious. A studio behind the shop hosts interactive workshops and, eventually, native plant lectures. Behind the garage, a large backyard is being transformed into a demonstration garden. It all sort of undermines the excuses you’ve been mining for too long.

Pop-ups Are Blowing Up

In recent months, Main Street’s become prime real estate for pop-up shops, which open in a conventional storefront and close a couple days later. Here’s a fittingly-brief introduction to two of the most prominent players.

Nadine Gelberg, the owner of the Roslyn-based athletic apparel company, Devigi, opened a pop-up over a weekend last March at Cadence Cycling & Multisport. Designing and producing its lines remains the young company’s focus, which is why Gelberg’s not yet inclined to commit to a permanent store, or even set hours.

Why Manayunk: A town known for The Wall, yoga studios, rowing centers and fitness classes seems like the perfect market.

Long-term plans: We need to figure out if retail sales can cover additional costs, such as rent and staffing. We’d need a mixed-use space, and that’s not easy to find in high-foot-traffic locations.

The brainchild of local printmaker Christina Smith, Union Stock, open for a weekend amid the last Christmas rush, boasted a wide-ranging inventory that spanned reclaimed barn-wood furniture and screenprinted baby stuff, all of it handmade by artisans working in and around Manayunk.

“Moving these items into a storefront not only made them accessible to shoppers who don’t frequent craft shows but also changed the environment in which handmade items are viewed,” Smith says.

Back for more: This is a big old yes. Union Sock has begun plans to expand to other areas throughout the rest of the year and hope to return to Manayunk again. [When this issue went to press, Smith was planning to reopen Union Stock on Main Street during the arts festival, in June.]

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