In a “funky, hole-in-the-wall corner” of Beverly, Cheryl Rafuse runs a plant shop with flair.
Opened in December, Plant Magic Gardens sells native seeds, classic annuals, and springtime favorites like sunflowers and cosmos. There’s also a mish-mash of merchandise from queer artists: “Kill Your Lawn” T-shirts, “Compost the Patriarchy” bumper stickers, and “Flowers are Bisexual” tote bags.
“The town doesn’t have anything like us,” Rafuse said. “This is my effort to fill that gap.”
But the retail element is only a fraction of the business. A longtime lover of nature, Rafuse also installs gardens and performs maintenance for residential and commercial clients alike. That means curating indoor greens, shooing away invasive species, and sourcing native plants to decorate homes and offices.
“The native plant movement is huge, and that’s where my passion lies — in helping people understand that their backyard is a habitat,” Rafuse said. “They’re not separate from the ecosystem because there’s a fence between their yard and the rest of the forest.”
She started consulting on indoor plants part time in 2019. When demand skyrocketed during the pandemic, Rafuse created a formal business and found an office space next to Soy Much Brighter, her friend’s candle company. Eventually, the office space shifted to retail, too, though her desk and papers are still scattered about.
“The candle-making next door means the place always smell delicious,” Rafuse said.
Now, she has nearly 20 maintenance clients and will install 10 gardens this year — each with at least 70 percent native plants.
285 Rantoul St., Beverly, www.plantmagic.shop
It’s not a subway station. It’s Balenciaga.
The French luxury brand designed its first Boston boutique with an unusual aesthetic: public transit. The gray shelves resemble places to pack luggage on long-distance trains, said associate store director Cahn Le. And the racks holding up tracksuit pants and distressed jackets? Not unlike the metal bars on the T that passengers can hold onto.
“Doesn’t it almost feel like you’re underground?” Le asked.
The store opened in Copley Place in late March to sell Balenciaga’s street style collection to the people of Boston. It borrows from the “Raw Architecture concept,” according to a press release. That means there are exposed cables stretched across the ceiling, stained wall panels, crushed fabric couches, and industrial-style lighting. “Over 306 square meters of poured concrete floor underline a greyscale of deliberately unfinished and deconstructed displays,” the release reads.
The grungy look contrasts the high-priced items for sale. There’s bat rectangle sunglasses, hip clothes, and crocodile embossed bags in a sampling of neon colors. The center of the room is largely reserved for Balenciaga’s noteworthy shoe collection, including the sock-like Knit Sneaker and heeled Crocs. And purses from The Hacker Project, a collaboration between Balenciaga and Gucci, are displayed near the door.
The boutique is the latest addition to the high-fashion hub off Huntington Ave., where it will settle in with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Fendi. Two watch retailers — Tag Heuer and Grand Seiko — will open a few doors down from Balenciaga come June, said Copley Place general manager William Kenney. The Dior store is expanding, too, by 2,000 square feet in order to sell menswear.
While Boston edges toward summer with most pandemic restrictions eliminated, the mix of openings and expansions “is an indicator of the appeal of the center and the strength of the business,” Kenney said.
100 Huntington Ave., Boston, www.simon.com/copley-place
Book lovers, rejoice: There’s a new spot in town.
Wendy Dodson will open Hummingbird Books in Chestnut Hill on April 30, or Independent Bookstore Day. It’ll be a safe haven, she said, for readers looking to enter a world of fantasy or fictions — and leave the electronics behind.
“We’re chained to our phones, and it leaves us in a state of continuous partial attention where we don’t focus on anything for too long,” Dodson added. “When you read a book, you leave all that behind. You go into a different world and learn.”
Dodson grew up in Lincoln and worked in nonprofit fund-raising around Massachusetts before making a pandemic-inspired career shift. She bought the Valley Bookstore in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2020 and is returning to her local roots with Hummingbird.
The store will feature children’s and adult titles, as well as games, gifts, candy, and stationery. Story times and signings are on the schedule, too. In the center, Dodson — and her co-owners Andrea Chiang, Clarissa Murphy, and Rachel Walerius — erected “The Great Oak Tree,” a lifelike installation for patrons to lounge around (or gather for events.)
“Not in our lifetime,” Dodson said, “has there been a more important time for people to read.”
55 Boylston St., Suite 5510, Chestnut Hill, www.hummingbirdbooks.com