By Jennifer Marshall
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” Frank Lloyd Wright
Anne Wright-Levi, great granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright, and her son Michael Levi, great-great grandson, are keeping their famous forefather’s legacy alive through their shop Wright in The Garden near 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard.
“I started this as a hobby business when I stopped teaching preschool in 2008,” said Wright-Levi. “I wasn’t doing much with it; then, Michael said, ‘Mom, what can we do to get this going?’”
“We started,” said Levi, “by repurposing antiques like wash buckets and bank drawers into planters for succulents, flowers, herbs and veggies.”
This mother and son duo also began doing gardening renovating and selling at farmers’ markets.
After two years of these activities, customers began asking where their store was located. Well, there wasn’t a shop, but according to Wright-Levi, “the thought kind of planted,” and they decided to go for it.
The next step was to find the right spot for their store. While they scouted around Phoenix, they were drawn to the North 32nd area. Originally from Arcadia, they’d lived in the neighborhood for many years, and loved that it was an up-and-coming community.
Both mother and son grew up gardening, and they each hold a certification in landscape design. A self-described man of few words, Levi enjoys researching and studying new plants.
“This love of gardening all trickled down from my family,” said Wright-Levi. “I learned so much from my grandparents and parents. I figured I got the outdoor nature side of the family versus the architectural side of the family.”
Gardening is definitely in the blood, and from hobby business to brick-and-mortar shop, Wright in The Garden has evolved since its early days. Year round, the store stocks a variety of succulents, cactuses and houseplants. Seasonally, they carry vegetable and herb plants as well as seeds for planting.
They also have some small outdoor plants for sale in season. And while they no longer do outside plantings, they are happy to help their customers select the best plants for their landscape, order them to be delivered to their homes and recommend a professional landscape installer to do all the plantings.
Wright in The Garden continues to grow as they strive to exceed their customers’ expectations. Recently, they’ve added several plant themed home goods pieces to their lineup such as pottery items and plant-based candles. And, so far, the home goods have been a hit with some products quickly selling out.
“The home good items have been good,” said Wright-Levi. “We aim to stay local with artists and small companies from here in the area.”
Gardening education for their customers is a huge component of Wright’s business and is evident in the many classes they offer throughout the year.
One mission is to teach their clients how to garden, enabling them to grow their own veggies and herbs.
Another mission is to educate customers on the benefits and proper care of house and outdoor plants. Throughout it all, they want their budding gardeners to understand that while they’ll face some setbacks along the way, they shouldn’t give up on the many benefits that come from plants and gardening. Whether it’s growing a tomato plant or an indoor succulent, they want their clients to succeed.
According to Wright-Levi, they plan on expanding their educational offerings this year. A naturopathic doctor will conduct several workshops pertaining to the key roles plants and herbs play in maintaining excellent health. During the summer, they also provide Saturday hands-on classes for kids and their parents making this a fun family activity.
In everything they do, customer service is their number one priority.
“The customer is most important,” said Levi. “It’s not the sale; it’s about the help. I’d rather help you pick the right kind of plant so you can succeed and then educate you on how to take care of that plant than focus on making a fifty-dollar sale.”
This family business is also actively involved in their community. Wright-Levi reports that the growth experienced in the area is a positive one with quality businesses opening their doors. They’re proud of their involvement in helping to shape their neighborhood into a special place to call home. And with people often calling out “Wright in The Garden” when they ride by and see Levi working in his front yard, they’re thrilled to know they’ve become a mainstay of small business life in their community.
“We’ve really found our niche in the area and have been loving the community. Everyone gets along and looks out for each other,” said Levi. “The neighborhood is very small business oriented.”
Customers are greeted at the door by Kaiya—a sweet Labrador retriever who is the official “Shop Dog.” This boutique garden shop feels like home and underscores the fact that it really is a family business. And like all moms do, Wright-Levi loves to brag that “anything in the store that’s not metal” her son has made—such as the checkout counter. Representing the next generation, Levi’s little girl, who is almost eight, loves coming in, and given her enthusiasm for the business, she’ll probably soon be running the cash register.
So, what’s next for Wright in The Garden?
“We’re very happy here in this shopping center,” said Wright-Levi, “and we feel very fortunate to have found this spot. It’s exactly the right fit.”
“We have plenty of growth in our heads,” said Levi. “Now, it’s a matter of what avenue do we want to take first. What’s working right now is working well, so we don’t want to grow too fast. Slow and steady always wins the race.”
Science has proven two perfect reasons to visit Wright in The Garden: Plants help to purify the air, and petting dogs is relaxing for the soul. Pamper yourself with an enjoyable trip to this gem of a gardening shop.
Wright in The Garden
10880 North 32nd Street, Suite 27