Not long after Michael Angeles’ mother immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, she got a Monstera plant. Now more than 40 years old, that plant still lives at her home and a cutting grows in Angeles’ Bed-Stuy apartment. His cutting has also spawned a number of other small Monsteras that live at his friends’ houses.
How his mother cultivated and cared for that plant, and how it went on to create its own community, was a big influence on Angeles, who is now opening his own plant store and cafe in Bed-Stuy, which he hopes will grow roots throughout the neighborhood. He has loved plants since he was a child, thanks to his mom, and sees them as a way to bring people together. In addition to selling coffee, plants and housewares, he hopes the business will become a community gathering spot.
“It’s this idea of caring for something and seeing my mom care for something, it really inspired me to think about feeding and caring, and how we can translate that into caring for each other,” Angeles told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner in his 173 Lewis Ave. location.
“It’s something very simple, but for me it’s very special.”
Botani is set to open in the next couple of weeks, as soon as the water filter for the espresso machine arrives, Angeles said. The interior look, which hints at Brutalism and Scandinavian minimalism, was inspired by the 39-year-old entrepreneur’s travels, Filipino heritage and “also the ocean when it’s calm,” he said.
The light and open space, with its high ceilings and earthy color scheme, sets an inviting ambience, one Angeles said he hopes will encourage people to linger and socialize.
The space’s past life was as a deli, and Angeles — whose own past life was in visual merchandising and store design for fashion and beauty companies — said he wants to keep some of that history with a deconstructed look for the facade. It includes some old, fading Monster energy drink and Arizona iced tea stickers, along with the original “beat up windows.”
The cafe and store will stock plants and homewares picked up on his travels and from local makers. Angeles, who has lived in Bed-Stuy for more than 10 years, also plans to hold workshops focused on creative skills in the space, such as plant potting and flower arranging, and host events including food pop-ups. He is putting together a rotating pastry special created by local chefs.
Many of the planned partnerships have come from locals stopping at the shop over the past months as Angeles has whipped it into shape for its pending opening. As Brownstoner sat with him on Sunday afternoon, more than three groups dropped by to enquire about the opening date, take note of changes since their last visit and look over the coffee menu above the counter.
Looking around the store, Angeles pointed out that most of the new furniture, including the countertop, was made by friends who live nearby.
For coffee, Angeles has partnered with Devocion, a company he said implements direct-to-farmer trade practices that benefit farmers in Colombia. Some of his teas will come from a friend’s tea company based in Japan. He said he wants to gauge the taste of the neighborhood before locking in all of the menu items, but he said there will definitely be all the regular cafe drinks and pastries. Drip coffee is $3.25, hot tea $3.50, and espresso drinks will range from about $4 to $6.
In terms of hours, Angeles is also waiting to see what the community wants, but he is planning to start out opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. seven days a week — as soon as that water filter arrives.
“All the neighbors keep stopping by, I hate having to say that I’m not open yet,” he said.
And he does have a slight time crunch: The local block association on Van Buren Street has its annual block party on July 31, and he plans to have his doors open and hand out popsicles made by one of his friends.
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.