Tucson Oddity: Churchlike building's mission is plant sales

2011-11-28T00:01:00Z 2014-09-01T17:13:30Z Tucson Oddity: Churchlike building's mission is plant salesPhil Villarreal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 28, 2011 12:01 am  • 

Plants for the Southwest owner Gene Joseph says some customers are sure the building at 50 E. Blacklidge Drive used to be a church.

Many times, customers who have no idea what the quaint structure is used for stop in out of curiosity. Joseph said the building's architecture works as a passive way to advertise.

"People will stop in and say, 'Wow, I always wondered what this place was,' " Joseph said. "With the plants and the older building, people wonder what's in there, and some of them stop in more often than not."

The shop - which is off Stone Avenue, between Glenn Street and Fort Lowell Road - specializes in plants from deserts around the world, as well as succulent plants.

"I suppose it could be construed as a very small church," Joseph said. "It's got kind of that mission-style architecture. ... It's got a peaked main roof, parapet walls and white stucco. It has a general sense of 'that old church.' "

The store sits on a commercial acre of land. Built in 1933, when Stone was a two-lane dirt road, the greenhouse was sold to Inglis Florists mastermind Tom Inglis in 1936. It became the Garden Flower Shop in 1948, and Joseph's wife, Jane Evans, bought it in 1978. The couple decided to open a nursery in 1986 and closed the flower shop in 1990.

The curiosity factor, combined with the struggling economy, has worked in the business's favor. Joseph says economic struggles have forced homeowners to scale back massive home improvement projects, and made people settle on sprucing up their living spaces with vegetation.

Joseph says some days at the business are slow, while others it's busier than ever.

Although it's not a church, Plants for the Southwest maintains its decades-long tradition of serving as an altar for plant appreciation.

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Call the Star newsroom at 573-4232 or send an email to oddity@azstarnet.com

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Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com

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