Monday, October 24, 2016

Cactus shop blooms in Echo Park


Carlos Morera

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Masa of Echo Park


Storefront Report ECHO PARK — The lulling sounds of a Buddhist chant box invite passersby to peep inside the small store at the corner of Echo Park and Scott Avenues. Inside, in an otherworldly setting, a wild variety of cacti displayed on cinder blocks are jammed into the 350-square-foot shop, illuminated by red light bulbs that decorate the walls. Welcome to Echo Park’s cactus shop.

Actually, the shop, known to some as the Cactus Store or Hot Cactus, does not have an official name.

“The store intentionally doesn’t have a name,” said co-owner Carlos Morera, “We felt the neighborhood didn’t need anything that was branded, it just is what it is. We wanted it to feel like you’ve wandered into another dimension and, if it had a big name outside, it wouldn’t feel like another dimension, dimensions don’t have names,”

Morera has collected cacti for more than 18 years. After leaving a Los Angeles design firm to start his own self-funded projects, Morea saw the small space open up down the street from his house. Within two weeks, Morera opened the cactus store on December 5 , along with four partners and fellow designers, and his uncle, Johnny Morera, who manages the store.

The 350-square-foot store has a collection of more than 150 cacti that have been handpicked for their quality or unusual shape. Prices range from about $25 to $750.“All of the owners are designers and we are all involved in different projects that try to blur the lines between what we are,” Morea said.

A “Devil’s Run” is what Morera calls the trips to the California/Mexico border where they handpick their new stock at hard-to-reach cactus farms. The trip is usually taken by one person and a trailer hitch along fire roads that are not maintained by any jurisdiction, Morera said. “You really have to keep your confidence on these trips, but when you get back it feels like a major accomplishment, like coming from hell and back with badass cactus!”

They recently built a greenhouse at Morera’s house and are looking into hiring a horticulturalist to crossbreed and propagate different species of cactus. They hope to offer their own “weird species” soon.

tore exterior night

Photo courtesy Carlos Morera


Carlos Morera

Lucy Guanuna has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

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  1. Welcome to the neighborhood!

  2. Awesome that such a wonderful quirky unique store is in Echo Park … Great little place you have.. much success to you.

  3. Every time I pass this store I wonder what they are really selling–I hope it actually is cacti.

    Also–350 sq ft?? Maybe including the front yard of the house next door.

    • I have seen a few parties and drinking events here. It never looks open to the public. Please put a sign, because I always feel like I can’t stop in!

  4. Hi, Does the store ever carry succulents? Hope you do well.

  5. I live near this new shop and stopped in soon after it opened to check it out. The guys that run the place a very friendly and very knowledgeable; I came home with a beautiful cactus. Swing by and have a look.

  6. Their own weird species eh? That doesn’t sound all that knowledgable to me.

  7. I would also be concerned about the provenance of those plants. The whole “hard to reach cactus farms along the California-Mexico border” thing is a huge red flag. I wouldn’t buy anything without proof that it came from a licensed nursery in CA. Cactus wrangling, also known as poaching, is a huge problem in Mexico and the more remote areas of the US deserts. Poachers cause an enormous amount of environmental damage and should not be supported. Now if the stock does in fact come from a licensed nursery then you can be somewhat certain that the plants aren’t contraband.

  8. The structure of the roots shows that they are not pot grown but more likely stolen from the environment.

    • Oh my god you are right! These have been lifted from the ground illegally. I can tell by the roots
      This is the new Echo Park. Steal from someone , brand it and charge a huge sum


    • Thank you gamin and skr. I really appreciate you pointing this out. I definitely don’t want to support the taking of cacti from the natural environment.

  9. Ok ok …I’m gonna have to step in here as one of the owners and clear up this stealing accusation.

    The plants are not stolen, they are bought.
    I think what might have led you to this assumption is the photo of the cactus bare rooted. Not all plants are sold in pots in the wholesale market, there are growers that grow large specimens on there farms to be dug and potted by the paying customer.

    Although I am not going to go ahead and tell you our sources to debunk you erroneous claims…I’ll prove it to you this way.

    We have over 150 species from all over the world in the store, i would say that 25% of the specimens are natives, that actually grow in California or the states. So if we were to be stealing 75% of these exotic plants out of there native ground…then we would be traveling the world every month stealing plants and then imagine smuggling a 6ft cactus through customs…

    Seems a bit unfathomable…that’s cause it is.

    Unless you believe that we are taking them out of people’s front yards…which i invite you to take a good look and see if you spot any gardens with these species…I think you’ll find it would be easier for us to buy them. Which, we do.

    • Hi Carlos

      I think the right thing to do at this point is prove that all your “natives” came from a licensed nursery in CA

      Simple as that.

      • i don’t think as a business owner you should have to reveal your sources to placate all. Buying product from a source and selling it for profit is your right.
        That said; should you have a way to debunk these claims you should.

      • Um @jacka**es- innocent until proven guilty. WTF is this witch hunt on a small business with NO evidence to support your accusation. You might as well go after every small retailer selling anything. Unless you can back up your claims of ill gotten goods Shut your Effen Cactus hole. Gezzus people.

        • I just re-read my last post and want to make sure my message is clear. I stand behind this shop (see previous post) 100%. I agree with IHEART ECHO PARK, lighten up the witch hunt and support local business.

      • uh, these cacti are from Mexico, therefore they cannot prove they are from CA.

  10. For the record, there are several other dimensions that do have names.

  11. I happened across this store shortly after they opened. I’ve had very few retail experiences as pleasant as the one I had with them. They were welcoming, took great length to describe various plant options, have fair prices, and it turns out lived on the same street as we did in Elysian Heights. Indeed — welcome to the neighborhood! May you prosper.

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