New downtown plant shop aims to cultivate community and grow our city

The Plant Studio at Outside Stimuli isn’t your average plant shop.

Inside the brightly lit, bare bones, two-story building is a curated collection of trendy indoor plants, artsy planters and a feel-good, head-bobbing playlist.

While small in size, the modern shop brings life and light to a historic area now otherwise occupied by bars, office buildings, hotels and restaurants.

Nestled in between Poor Boy Lloyd’s and Dupre’s Printing & Copying downtown, the indoor plant shop and design studio is a haven of indoor plants, pots, planters and plant hangers. On minimalistic, hand-built wooden shelves and tables, customers can find popular house plants like bamboo, money trees, snake plants, devil’s ivy, fiddle leaf figs and rubber figs.

On a sunny winter afternoon at Outside Stimuli, soothing chillhop beats play overhead. Maybe it’s the air-cleansing houseplants or the high ceiling, but walking into the shop feels like taking a breath of fresh air. Behind the register, an employee repots a small ivy plant. Nearby, owner James Curtis is heating up water to make tea.

Outside Stimuli opened downtown on Florida Street in early December 2019. Within days of the botanical boutique’s soft opening, word spread. Plant lovers from all over town started popping in to see the space.

“I’m just a brother who got a shop that, without customers coming in, won’t exist,” creative designer and shop owner Curtis says. “This has to be bigger than me. Every person who comes in here, I show mad love to. I want them to feel like they’re at home.”

For the Detroit native, that means making all his visitors feel like family. As soon as I sit down to interview Curtis, he hands me a mug, honey and a handful of herbal tea bags to choose from. Shortly after, a next-door neighbor comes in to update Curtis on one of her family members and buys her first bamboo plant. The shop has been open for mere weeks, and it already has regulars.

“When you come in, I want to dispel your stereotypes,” Curtis says. “We all have a perceived notion when we meet people of what they may or may not be. But here, we’re all just coming together over plants.”

Curtis’ ultimate goal for the plant shop is to grow community. He wants to give downtown residents, urbanites and eclectic locals a space to be themselves. He encourages more conversations around plants, nature, growing your own food and solution-building to improve the city for everyone.

Soon, he’ll start a community garden in a vacant lot behind the building, offer public workshops and potting parties, and classes for men on how to grow houseplants.

In the spring, the shop will host its official grand opening event. A few doors down from Outside Stimuli, Curtis plans to complete his other downtown project, Plantriarch, a nature-centric coworking space for artists on Third Street.

“The more people that are doing things downtown means more money in the city’s pocket,” Curtis says. “This affects everyone.”

This article was originally posted in the February 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.