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Farmingdale State alumna launches plant haven in Port Jefferson

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WILD Plant Shop is every plant lover’s dream.

The new Port Jeff business is stocked with succulents, tiny potted plants, and larger plants with massive leaves, prickly stems and budding flowers.

But it’s not just a store for experts. WILD is a welcoming place for planters of all levels, even those who say that every plant they touch dies immediately, says shop owner Caitlin Carlstrom.

Her own personal obsession for plants started while working for her father, who is a horticulturist. 

She had first went to school for interior design, she said, but dropped that program to study horticulture at Farmingdale State College.

“I always worked outside,” she said. “Me being interior design, I was like I can’t come to the city every day. I can’t work inside every day.” 

Her store, located at 116 East Main Street, is in essence an extension of her own personal collection at home, where there’s a hundred more plants.

The Rocky Point resident has been a landscaper for 15 years and owns her own landscaping company, called Carlstrom Landscapes

During the wintertime, she usually has around four months off because of the lack of planting and landscaping during that season in the Northeast.  

So eight years ago, she began collecting indoor plants. During the winter she would drive around searching for shops, but realized there weren’t many options for plant lovers.

She imagined places such as those in New York City, and that inspired her to open her plant boutique. 

“There were mostly garden centers, but they don’t have the variety, or they close in the wintertime, so I was like, let me give this a try,” she said. 

Her love for the outdoors and working for her dad’s landscaping company is what drove her to continue a career in plant cultivation. 

In August, she opened her shop and gets her plants from wholesale growers, as well as internationally.

For example, one type of potted plant she imports from Indonesia. 

The owner maintains all the plants in the store, which is a tedious task. She sprays all of them and provides different kinds of care depending on the plant.

Plant shopping to stock a store is not as easy as it may sound.

There’s a lot to consider.

“It’s hard because I have to think about everything, not just what I like,” she said. “For the most part, people do like small plants.” 

Carlstrom said she believes the COVID-19 pandemic and its stay-at-home orders created more plant collectors.

During the peak of the outbreak, when everyone was on lockdown, people turned to plant care as a home activity, and this benefited Carlstrom and her new business. 

“It took me years to even get to that step to own a plant because I wanted to make sure I knew how to take care of it,” she said. “All these new plant people are diving in.”

WILD Plant Shop has gained almost immediate attention on social media. Carlstrom now has customers coming from all over Long Island. 

This also brings customers of all different gardening levels. She’s there to offer insight and her expertise in pairing each visitor with the right plant.

“Everyone who comes in, they just tell me, ‘Oh I have a black-thumb,’ or ‘I want to plant, but I always kill them.’ And I help them choose one that is easy to take care of,” Carlstrom said.

Carlstrom said Port Jefferson Village has been incredibly welcoming and she feels supported by the many other women-owned businesses on the block. 

“They give me tips and ideas,” she said. “Everyone is so nice.” 

She meets people who come into the shop to buy a new plant but end up staying a couple of hours just to chat about greenery. 

“I’ll talk to anybody who wants to talk about plants,” she said. 

WILD Plant Shop is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Follow the shop on Instagram for updates on plants added to WILD’s collection. Below is an inside look.