Meghan Paige and Keneisha Malone first connected through their work as behavioral therapists. They originally met at a local autism clinic, then reconnected again two years later at another clinic. As their friendship grew, they shared life’s joys and challenges with one another, often bouncing around business ideas. Keneisha, a local maker who owns her own skincare line called Ziya Soul, had previously faced challenges getting her products in local stores. “I had a very hard time finding a store that would place my product on the shelves,” she explains. It was that struggle along with the women’s shared love of plants that ultimately led them to open a new business.
“We started Gather + Memphis in 2019 to host markets around town for local makers,” says Meghan. But when the pandemic brought that endeavor to a halt, the women instead looked for a permanent storefront. Terra Cotta had a soft opening in September 2020, followed by the grand opening on October 3. Open and airy, the store on Summer Avenue sells beautiful plants and also offers space for under-represented local creatives to thrive. They welcome customers in need of greenery, as well as those wanting to support local makers. “It’s important to me to carry products from Black creatives because I watched Keneisha struggle to get a beautiful product in local stores,” Meghan continues. “We know many Black creatives in Memphis have great products, and we wanted to give them a place to shine.”
Meghan and Keneisha balance the demands of running their business with full-time jobs outside of Terra Cotta. A native of St. Louis, Keneisha moved to Memphis in 2014 with Teach For America. She currently teaches fifth grade with Shelby County Schools. Meghan, who was born and raised in Memphis, works as a clinical therapist, serving inner-city children at risk for residential placement. She also started a private practice in October to work with adults. To accommodate their busy schedules, the women have intentionally chosen Terra Cotta’s hours of operation: The store is open Wednesday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. “Both of us work many hours for our multiple jobs, but we know it will pay off!” Meghan says.
Keneisha and Meghan say plants are very therapeutic for them. In fact, some studies have shown that having plants around can reduce stress levels, something so many of us need right now. Leafy green Monstera plants have proven to be a popular option at Terra Cotta, but you’ll also find lemon-lime Marantas, English ivy, the wonderfully named Sansevieria Moonshine and many other types of plants available for purchase. The store shelves are also lined with handcrafted jewelry, art, candles, apparel, candy, beauty and wellness products — the list goes on, and all made by locals! Fun events like plant swaps and “Meet the Maker” evenings take place there as well.
“Overall, Terra Cotta seems to have been received very well by the community,” shares Keneisha. “Our customers are super supportive. I think the most gratifying part for me is the people I’ve met. I’ve become good friends with people who’ve walked in as customers and over time have become people I talk to every day.”
Meghan agrees that meeting new people is one of her favorite parts of owning the store. She especially enjoys sharing her love of plants with the community. “Oftentimes, one question from a customer will lead to a meaningful conversation,” she shares, “and we continue making valuable connections with people in the city.”
Meghan and Keneisha look forward to post-pandemic life so they can really explore all of the opportunities the store can afford them. For example, they are excited about opening up the space to the public for more than just shopping. Look for workshops and other events to eventually be added to the calendar. Until then, Memphians can soak up a little joy in the bright spot that Terra Cotta brings to the community — and brighten their homes with a plant or two that they’ve found there as well.
Terra Cotta is located at 3032 Summer Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112. Learn more at terracotta.com or by calling (314) 443-4831, and be sure to follow Terra Cotta on Facebook and Instagram for updates on available plants, items in the store, plant swaps and more.
All photography courtesy of Terra Cotta.
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