A singular piece of Los Angeles arrives in New York on Saturday: Cactus Store, the pint-size Echo Park cult cactus emporium owned by designers turned succulent obsessives Max Martin, Carlos Morera, and Jeff Kaplon. The shop is popping up through November at 5 Essex Street, in a custom-made greenhouse sitting on a lot adjacent to the now-shuttered M. Schames & Son paint shop. The aluminum greenhouse will hold some 400 exotic cacti, along with Japanese gardening tools and a T-shirt printed with a rat sitting on a cholla, designed by Martin and Morera.
Even the most cactus-crazy New Yorkers with succulent-packed windowsills have likely never seen this kind of inventory — or met such real-deal cactus collectors before. (Or even had a cactus-dedicated store to begin with.) The 1,500-or-so plants that made the trip to Chinatown were primarily grown in Southern California by long-time collectors — locals with at-home greenhouses and larger cactus farms — the names of which Martin won’t disclose. (“That information can be a bit … sensitive,” he says). Several of Martin and Morera’s plants come from a private, half-a-century-old collection they bought from a local plumber who passed away a couple years back. It includes Gymnocalycium collected in the fields of Argentina in the 1960s ($75) and a centuries-old Copiapoa cinerea ($1,200) from the Atacama Desert in Chile. Morera — known around Echo Park as “The Cactus Guy” — points to some other notable collector’s items: Euphorbia canariensis (from $60), which are endemic to the Canary Islands; and a Welwitschia from Angola ($190), which Martin describes as two leaves growing into a tangled, curly pile. Also for sale: cacti with a mutation that makes them swirl around themselves ($340), spineless cacti (from $255), and cacti with a pigmentation disorder that turns their flesh different colors. One of his favorites (which isn’t for sale) is the Aztekium ritteri, one of the slowest-growing plants on earth, whose juveniles are the size of a Tic Tac. “We have one the size of a golf ball,” Martin says. “So you can only imagine the age on that.”
And if you can’t make it to Essex Street …
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