Amy Jo Moe, the founder of Green Thumb Artistry, stands next to a display of her work at her new store on Third Street. “It’s not like going to work — it’s having fun creating,” she said.
by NATHANIEL NELSON
If Third Street seems a little greener, that’s because it is now home to a haven of terrariums, succulents, and shrubbery –– Green Thumb Artistry has opened a brick-and-mortar store for lessons, gifts, and all other things leafy and green.
Amy Jo Moe, founder of Green Thumb, explained that her love for plants traces back to her grandmothers –– plural.
“I’ve always been into plants. It started with my [maternal] grandmother, who was always into plants and gardening,” Moe said.
While her maternal grandmother taught her about gardening, her grandmother on her father’s side built terrariums as a hobby, and eventually left Moe one of her largest creations. Over time, Moe began creating them herself for gifts, before being approached to teach classes at a local coffee shop.
“I started classes out of [Blooming Grounds] once a week, and then started doing pop-up shows to sell what I was making,” she explained.
She ran stalls at many local and regional art fairs, building a fanbase and refining her skills, but it was still just a hobby. “I always wanted to have my own shop, but I was a social worker,” she said. “Plants were just my relaxation, my stress reliever.”
But last July, tragedy struck. Moe’s 16-year-old daughter, Sophia, was killed in a car accident in Houston County.
“I realized social work was no longer something I could do. I need to do something that makes me happy, and brings happiness to other people,” Moe said.
She quit her job, and began working on her terrariums and art in earnest, continuing to host classes, go to art fairs, and hone her talent. It wasn’t until one night with her son that she decided to finally settle down.
“As my son was helping me one night, he said ‘Mom, why don’t you open a shop?’” Moe said, “and that was the catalyst. I said ‘Let’s open a shop.’”
Last year, Moe moved into the new building, located at 55 East Third Street. Moe explained that she had admired the space for a long time, including its large windows, historical exterior, and large open layout. After some remodeling, repainting, and reshelving, Green Thumb Artistry was open for business in December.
Since then, business has been going well, she explained, and she can barely keep the plants in stock. “As fast as I can get them in, they go out,” Moe said. She added that a lot of college students make their way to the store to look around, ask questions, and pick up some green for their dorm rooms.
The store is stocked to the brim with flora, including hanging terrariums, small trees, and a large collection of different kinds of succulents neatly planted into handmade pottery. There are also minimalist gifts like clothing, pillows and other wall decorations.
In the back, the words “Peanut’s Corner” are emblazoned on the wall. The corner, named after Amy Jo’s nickname for Sophia, was created to give children the chance to create their own plant sculpture. Every month, a different creation is featured, including a Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree for the holidays, an underwater moss ball terrarium, and a “Dinosaurrarium,” complete with tiny reptile replicas.
While the corner was originally intended for kids, Moe explained that plenty of college students and adults try their hand at the creations, too. Some eventually choose to move onto something more complex, but Moe said she just enjoys being able to show her love for plants and get people playing in the dirt.
“The ability to share my knowledge about plants with other people is great,” Moe said. “And the kids are a hoot.”
Moe still teaches full classes, though they have moved from Blooming Grounds to the new storefront, and individuals are welcome to apply and try their hand on a project. There is a fee for the class, but all materials are provided and at the end, they’ll have a creation to take home that night.
Moe said she plans to continue growing over the coming months, introducing new and different plant species as the seasons change. She also said she will showcase more arrangements, particularly as the year approaches the holiday season again.
“Everyone wants a little green in their life. It’s good for the soul, and makes people happy,” Moe said.
Green Thumb Artistry is located at 55 East Third Street in downtown Winona, and is open from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, contact the store at 507-615-0373.