During 2008’s financial crisis, Brooklyn local Glenroy Mahfood decided to give up on Manhattan-based office jobs and open a plant shop in his home borough, New York Daily News reports.
Mahfood, 39, is from Jamaica and had been in New York City for seven years when he made the decision. “We started right in the middle of the financial crash. It was a little outdoor space, a few outdoor plants,” Mahfood said, of Natty Garden’s roots.
Over the year’s Natty Garden, named in homage to Mahfood’s Rastafarian and Caribbean heritage, has become a mainstay of the Prospect Heights small business community, and is well-known by plant lovers across the borough and city.
The store has thrived so much in the community, Mahfood opened a second location in Bed-Stuy, offering the same wide variety of indoor and outdoor plants, herbs and fruits, and soil and gardening tools as the original location.
Mahfood said he encouraged people to buy plants to help combat global warming. “You can just have a plant in your windowsill. You don’t have to grow a tree in your yard to do your part.”
Although his business was hit-hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahfood said the summer of racial justice protests and calls to support Black-owned businesses brought new attention to Natty Garden and he had requests for plants coming in from all over the country.
“People were emailing me, ‘Do you ship to Texas, do you ship to North Carolina? We want to support you,’ ” he said.
He said Black-owned businesses needed more support, especially from institutions such as banks that made it difficult for many small Black-owned businesses to access capital. Mahfood said he never got a loan for the business and its success came down to support from all different groups in the community.
Now, Mahfood is hoping to recreate that same success with a new natural food grocery store he has opening right next door to the Prospect Heights location, called Mahfood Market.
He said through both the market and the gardens he wanted to promote the Rastafarian ways of living a healthy lifestyle. “Just like we’re in touch with Earth in our garden, we want to continue that same movement with Mahfood Market,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll be here for another 12 years.”
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