Photo by Kanika Oung
Inside the Water & Light plant shop on Cypress Avenue in Ridgewood.

Roy Paar and Milana Naumenko are employees of corporate America by day, and plant lovers by night. Their Cypress Avenue apartment in Ridgewood is packed full of plants that can be described as works in progress as the couple tries to figure out the best ways to care for them.

Below the apartment inside a street-level space, however, the products of their green thumbs are sprouting a unique new weekend business.

Water & Light, Paar and Naumenko’s plant shop, opened to the public on June 1, and the weekend-only store has gotten off to a promising start. On a conference call with QNS during their lunch breaks from their day jobs on June 19, Paar and Naumenko said they have been encouraged not only by the sales in their first three weekends, but by the crowds they are attracting.

“We’ve had a lot of people from not only our building, but all over the neighborhood, and we’ve even had some people say that they’re from Bushwick, which is a 20-minute walk,” Paar said. “The first weekend we had a party, and a lady said she was from Flatbush and drove like 45 minutes to get here.”

Paar was in North Carolina during the phone call, where he travels every week for his job with IBM, while Naumenko was in Manhattan at her job as a supply chain manager for a fashion company. While they like their jobs, the two love to travel and knew they wanted to do something else on the side, Paar said. What started as an idea for an Instagram page about plant care quickly evolved into something much greater.

Naumenko could be considered the resident expert, but she said her knowledge of plants is self taught from her childhood and building her own collection over the years. Her research of lighting and watering practices only increased when the couple decided they were going to open the shop, and Naumenko said they are still “learning as we go.”

Inside the shop, the selection of plants and modern display combine for a unique experience. Naumenko said that the most healthy specimen from their apartment/garden above make it into the shop, but their collection as a whole also takes into consideration the fact that most people in New York are living in small apartments with not a lot of light.

“We try to bring a lot of very easy-care plants, but there are also some exceptions that are more needy,” Naumenko said. “We always try to bring something new every weekend so people come back and it’s not always the same plants.”

“Even just in the three weeks we’re starting to get an eye for what will sell,” Paar added.

The space is filled with natural light from the large glass doors and windows along the street, and the plants are spread throughout, hanging on the walls and resting on specially designed shelves. Naumenko said that they were going for a gallery style display that wouldn’t overcrowd the shop because it makes for a better shopping experience, rather than “walking into a jungle.”

Water & Light also offers a few unique sales opportunities. The corporate-savvy owners have full procurement and delivery of plants for offices, apartment buildings or other corporate clients. They also have a made-to-order option for customers, allowing them to request a certain type of plant that they want to see in the store.

Paar and Naumenko also hope to collaborate with other local small businesses to host workshops and events and share products. For example, Paar mentioned connecting with a local shop that sells unique pots for plants.

In the long term, Paar said online sales are one of their goals depending on suppliers and the particulars of shipping across state lines. With his background in IT and her background in supply chains, Paar and Naumenko also have many ideas to merge those skills and use technology to get plants to people easier and keep them healthy longer, Paar said.

Ultimately, Naumenko said of the possibility that the business can grow into a full-time gig, “That’s the hope, that’s the dream.”

For now, Water & Light is open Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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