With Polly, Her Refurbished Horse Wagon, Taylor Robison Wants to Get You Into Plants
Taylor Robison never had horses, and certainly didn’t need a horse trailer—but when she saw one for sale on Facebook Marketplace, she somehow felt it had to be hers. After picking it up from a couple in St. Pete who sought a buyer who would retain its integrity, for the first time in her life, Robison hitched a trailer to her car and drove the extra time it would take to avoid the Skyway Bridge home to Parrish in north Manatee County.
After outfitting the vintage trailer with extra shelving and giving it a fresh coat of paint, she named it Polly and turned it into an extension of her online plant shop, Pilea Plants and Things. Polly, now a fully functional mobile plant shop and plant bar, made its debut in September.
At Polly's, you choose your pot, succulent and soil topper, like pebbles, for a customized "plant cocktail" you take home, along with some encouragement from Robison. "Having one plant makes you a plant person," Robison says.
Robison, 30, got the idea for Polly on Pinterest, but had always wanted “a mobile something” for her business, she says. “I thought I wanted a VW for a while, but most need lots of renovation and time. Once I started my plant sales online, I wanted to expand but without the overhead of brick and mortar. It created itself when I saw the marketplace post.”
The plant shop stemmed from the pandemic, a time during which, she says, she “had an insane amount of plants. It was bad. I didn't have my daughter at the time, so they were like my babies.”
But she didn’t hoard them. Robison, a former project manager, got into propagating and gifting what she grew. She didn't know it at the time, but she was in the infancy stage of her plant business.
“I would leave plants in front of doors of people I didn't know with a note and encourage them to propagate and give to others,” she says. She often used pileas—a low-maintenance plant also known as a symbol for friendship—that can grow into a brand-new plant from a plucked-off leaf, hence the shop’s name.
Propagation is really just plant-speak for sharing, and that accessibility is important to Robison.
"It's about overcoming a scene that can be intimidating at times and ushering people into seeing themselves as plant people," she says.
“I got a succulent and took [Taylor's] advice, and after six weeks it's still alive,” says Sarasota local Amanda Just, who ordered her heart-shaped "plant cocktail" from Robison when she and Polly popped up in Burns Court. "It's great for novices. She was so sweet and reassuring and she told me that succulents thrive off neglect and to stop watering them."
The biggest misconception about plants is "that you have to keep them alive," she adds. "Just because I own this mobile plant shop people think I'm a plant guru, but I still kill plants or get overconfident. It's a lot of trial and error."
For Just, buying plants from Polly is also about supporting small local businesses. "Especially in the wake of Hurricane Ian and the pandemic, [small businesses] got walloped," she says. "We have such a rich community here. Your dollar goes further when you support businesses locally. And Taylor is so great and I love her setup."
Find Robison and Polly at the Summer Tap Juice Bar every first Sunday in Burns Court and every month with Friendly City Flea at Oscura in Bradenton.
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