Natty Garden is a brick and mortar shop for all of your indoor and outdoor horticultural needs. Both locations are located in Brooklyn, New York. Tiffany Lee, sat with the founder of Natty Garden, Joel Mahfood, to learn about his entrepreneurial vision and his love of nature.
Tiffany: Why Gardening?
Joel: Some people say, “Do what you know. Don’t try to do other things”. I want to do other things. My love for this is giving it to the people. Just give people a lot of plants at a reasonable price. I didn’t study horticulture. I do have knowledge of plants because I spent the last twelve years reading labels, writing orders, people asking me questions. I’m not going to say that I’m good at gardening or planting because I have customers who are good. I have customers who, this is what they do.
Tiffany: Has the current unemployment rate propelled your business?
Joel: I was hoping that yes, people would start planting their own vegetables because you want to sustain yourself. (If) you want to eat – you can go pick three eggplants, some tomatoes, (and) cook with it. I was hoping people would start doing that. People also bought indoor plants because they’re home and now their space is their office. They see it every day. There’s stuff that we can really grow easily if people just try. I was hoping.
Tiffany: What has your experience been with Covid-19?
Joel: When I heard Covid I was like, “Oh no!” I didn’t even think about business to be honest. They were like, “Hey you can’t be open if you’re not essential”. I was like, fine with me because this is serious. People dropping dead. People dying. We got more information and they said, “If you have vegetables, and herbs, soil, fertilizer, so people can grow in their back yards…” We had people who were willing to work. They want to open (and) had bright ideas: Let’s put it on the internet so we can do pick-up.
Tiffany: What are the benefits of having plants?
Joel: There’s some relationship between plants, and pets, and friendship. We’re all one living being. A lot of people gravitate to animals because they’re like a step from human beings. But plants are like another thing that’s living out there. Some people, they’re spiritual so they’ll mist it, they’ll touch it, they’ll watch it so they know when it’s going to grow out. It’s another friendship with a living organism. It’s alive.
Tiffany: What are the best plants for beginning gardeners?
Joel: Jamaican term is “creeper”. A vine. That’s the first plant anyone should own. That’s where you start.
Tiffany: What are the best plants for pets and kids?
Joel: Plants in general are toxic because they don’t want to be eaten. This is there defense mechanism. That’s why they’re around for many years. Ferns are okay for pets.
Tiffany: What are the best plants for small apartments?
Joel: Succulents don’t get that big, fast. Snake plant or cast iron.
Tiffany: Where did you get the name Natty Garden?
Joel: When the opportunity came for me to open my own business, I was free. I didn’t have that 9-5. My hair start growing out. I wasn’t cleaning up anymore. They were calling me Natty. You can shake it and my hair is all over the place. So, Natty is just a term for freedom. Natty Dreads. Natty Dread is just – he doesn’t go to the barber. He doesn’t eat what everybody eats. He doesn’t hang out where everybody hang out. He’s a little different. So Natty Garden is where Natty Dread hang around. We try to bring that vibe, ya know.
Tiffany: It’s important to celebrate your heritage. Tell me something about yourself?
Joel: Around 15 years old, my mom was going to live in the US. (She) started by moving and she would send us barrels coming Christmas time or somebody’s birthday. It was a good beginning. And then she started sending plane tickets so we could visit for a whole summer and go back to Jamaica for the school. She brought up as many people as she could. Every time I wonder, “Mom why didn’t you live some other place? But New York was the place. I think life is destiny. The main thing about destiny is, I question it sometimes but it is what it is.
Tiffany: Any final thoughts?
Joel: I am very fortunate to have a store on Marcus Garvey Blvd. I like Marcus Garvey. Even though he was from Jamaica he was talking out, here (in the United States). I like the things he said. If I had a mentor, I would have wanted to become another Marcus Garvey.