"If not now, when?” That was the question Laura Dooley asked herself before ultimately deciding to push forward to open a studio for her home goods and plant business, LoKey Designs, last June.
It was a serendipitous journey to get the Shaw storefront to where it is now – a retail space showcasing a range of plants, pots, home décor and more, as well as one for hosting by-appointment shopping and virtual consultations and bathing in the peacefulness of the lush greenery stocked from floor to ceiling.
“The biggest deciding factor was whether it will get enough light to keep plants happy and healthy,” Dooley says. “I was so fortunate this space has a gorgeous amount of natural light.”
Dooley was fortunate, as well, in finding the studio itself. The space had been special to her for a few years. “A friend of mine had a retail store in this space, and when she was moving out, I remember wishing silently that I could move my business in there,” she says. “I just felt connected to it somehow.”
However, taking it over solo wasn’t possible at the time. But here’s where things got weird: A completely unrelated friend asked if Dooley would be interested in co-using an available space, and lo and behold, it was the one her other friend was leaving.
By October 2019, Dooley was operating LoKey Designs from the shared retail space, but after the coronaviral pandemic shut it down, she moved her business online. There, orders and collaborations flourished, but Dooley knew she needed a space to work with clients and couldn’t keep running things from her home. By late spring, with the decision looming of whether to let the physical space go, Dooley decided to push ahead and take it over on her own.
“Each time I walk into my studio, I am instantly filled with so much joy and excitement – it’s truly become my happy place,” she says. “It’s an undeniable tranquil, plant-love vibe.”
With the brick-and-mortar in St. Louis’ Shaw neighborhood, Dooley can carry a wider selection of plants and pots, and she has added to LoKey’s offerings local, hand-poured candles, plant-related books and seasonal gift boxes curated with other local makers. Her top-selling items are low-maintenance, low-light sansevieria and pothos snake plants and DIY succulent kits, which are popular for beginners and make a great gift that can be shipped across the country.
Currently, shopping at the studio is done only by appointments, which can be booked in 30-minute increments online. Dooley also recently started offering virtual plant consultations via email, phone or videoconference. Most often, clients are searching for plants that will work with specific spaces in their home or office, especially with spending more time in these spaces due to remote work.
“We cover the light, water and soil conditions, and from there, I make suggestions on next steps and care,” she says. “It’s always been a goal to make plants approachable and bring practical plant knowledge to clients so they can have the confidence to care for them on their own.”
Virtual consultation pricing starts at $15 for 30 minutes. Some clients bring photos of their space or show Dooley a specific pot or plant they need to find a fit for. The biggest myth she hears is that people wish they were good with plants.
“Just about every client who walks into my studio or I chat with virtually says this,” Dooley says. “The aspiration to be a good plant parent is not unattainable. It’s not crazy either. I try to bridge the gap of information on houseplants so my clients can have the tools, info and confidence to keep their plants lush and happy.”
Moving forward, LoKey will be offering video tutorials on plant care and more nationwide shipping on items, as well as hosting more virtual planting parties in lieu of the in-person ones that gained popularity before the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, Dooley hopes to hone in on the creative adaptability she admires in her plants and continue instilling that in others.
“With the studio, I have the opportunity to take my business in a lot of new directions,” she says. “I can showcase my plant love and passion for home décor in a way that inspires people.”
LoKey Designs, 2207 S. 39th St., St. Louis, lokeydesigns.com