Once again, Empowering Gardens Inc. was on the verge of becoming homeless.
From April to November, Empowering Gardens, a nonprofit that aims to provide people with disabilities meaningful, long-term employment, operates outside at 7730 Madison St. During the colder months, the nonprofit relies on friends with empty storefronts to provide it space rent-free.
In early January, Empowering Gardens lost their space at 7316 Madison St.
“We were down to the wire in our search for four walls and a heated space,” said Richard Biggins, co-director.
Landlord Tony Aiello was letting Empowering Gardens stay at 7316 Madison St. for free, with the understanding that if he found a new tenant Empowering Gardens would have to move. In January 2018, Aiello found that new tenant in Studio 8, a vintage furniture and jewelry store set to open this month.
Studio 8’s arrival meant Biggins and Solares spent the month of January scrambling to find a new space to temporarily operate in, until they can move back to the site they own in the spring.
Solares called at least 10 people searching for a temporary space. Friend Theresa Jurgus, a realtor with Baird and Warner, began looking for vacant business spaces. At the last minute, Biggins called friend Art Sundry, a developer who also operates Café de Lucca, and asked if he had anything available.
“Art called the next day, and told us we could locate in the space he owns where Jimmie’s Popcorn used to be located,” said Biggins.
Empowering Gardens is open at 7415 Madison St., staying for free until Sundry is able to find another tenant. It’s the nonprofits second temporary location in four months.
Solares, who has a degree in horticulture, said she is delighted to have the temporary space because she can start new plants to offer for sale in the spring. She pointed to more than 200 small plants that she recently cloned from four mother plants. Biggins said he’s happy to find a place in time for Valentine’s Day, so Empowering Gardens can take advantage of customers who want to buy plants and other products for their sweetie.
“We feel like nomads,” Biggins said with a laugh, as he unpacked boxes of merchandise. He later added that this experience only increases his desire for a permanent, all-weather greenhouse as quickly as possible.