Madison woman turns front porch hobby into store front business

MADISON, Wis.– A small hobby quickly grew into a full-time job for one Madison woman.

After taking a step back from her career as an emergency room nurse last summer, Melissa O’Brien began propagating plants and selling them as “pay what you can” in her front yard.

“I got good feedback from my customers. They’re like, ‘You can’t just end when summer is over,'” O’Brien said. “So, they encouraged me to open a shop and it became a dream of mine.”

O’Brien didn’t go very far, just two doors down to be exact. Her shop, Grow Greenhouse, is located at 831 East Johnson Street.

“I repurpose and upcycle pots… drill holes in them, find the right plants to go in them,” O’Brien said.

Now, with a store full of plants, O’Brien’s attention is focused on keeping them healthy, much like she used to do with her patients.

“That’s a daily chore around here, especially with the amount of plants we have,” O’Brien said. “You have to get the right sunlight, the right water requirements, the right pot for them.”

O’Brien isn’t the first person in her family to take a strong interest in flowers and plants. Her grandmother owned a flower shop, Ronlie’s, in the 50s. Her grandfather grew the family business throughout Madison.

“His designs were known for their artistic abilities and were well known across the city,” O’Brien said. “I kind of grew up around that and there were always flowers in our family.”

O’Brien hopes her business will one day flourish in the same way.

“Hopefully, at some point, we can expand and have more stores, just like my grandfather did,” O’Brien said.

Grow Greenhouse is open Thursdays through Sundays.