Semilla in downtown Fullerton is the plant shop you won’t want to leave

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Cesar Duran is prohibited from starting further business.

At least, that’s what his siblings joke about. Cesar loves the rush to start a company from scratch – fresh ideas, frantic hours, hard work to create something sustainable. And, of course, the fun that comes with bringing his siblings, Carla and Juan, along.

Duran’s latest endeavor is a quirky botanical shop nestled in downtown Fullerton, where they’ve turned an old dance studio into a bright community center. Semilla opens in March 2021.

As the trio recline on the navy blue couches of the store’s “calathea lounge,” their resemblance is undeniable – curly hair framing a smiling face, glasses perched on their noses. and their laughter rang out like a bell at the front door.

Living room with blue couch and potted plants on the table.

The store’s “calathea lounge”.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

“At first, I said, ‘You’re crazy. Like, we can’t do this,” says Carla, Pothos N’Joy letting the leaves dangle above her. “But it was like, the three of us together. We each brought something very different to the table. And we’ve gotten so much closer together in this regard, and I love how this has helped our family grow and develop. “

While Carla was at the forefront of the business, Cesar and Juan focused on construction, including handcrafted wooden tables and shelves. That’s how the three work, rounding each other to form a strong team. Cesar is a creator, spreads ideas and is not limited by limits. Juan is a problem solver who is always thinking clearly, always ready to help when his siblings are struggling. Carla brought them both in, adding a voice of reason to her brothers’ antics.

“I am very realistic,” Carla said. “I try to keep things very -“

Cesar interjected, “She made a list. She makes lists about making lists.”

Juan jumped in. “Carla, it’s like, if you describe her, it’s like she’s the only one in the family who looks like she has a real job.”

“Because I do, and everyone laughs,” says Carla. (Her other job is working for the housing authority in LA.)

Music hums through store speakers around a working tape recorder, Al Green’s “The Greatest Record” emerging from the cabinet below. Without seeing the face behind the register, it’s easy to tell what music Duran is working on. Carla loves old soul and hip-hop, while Cesar loves funk and mambo. Juan would do anything for Bad Bunny.

A turntable rests on a handmade box, flanked by photos of Calatheas and Polaroid customers at Semilla.

A turntable rests on a handmade box, flanked by Calatheas and Polaroid photos by customer Semilla.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

More powerful than their opinion of music is their opinion of plants. Cesar raved about the purple waffle while Juan and Carla burst out laughing.

Cesar smiled and looked at them. “I guess it’s the kind of plant that nobody else likes here,” he said. “I like it. It’s great.”

“The best part is that Cesar bought 20 of them,” Juan says of the wrinkled purple-tinged perennial. “We never buy a stock of 20 plants when. We usually buy 10 or 15 at the most, but Cesar for some reason liked this plant so much that he decided to buy 20, and there are now 20 purple waffles in the entire store. “

In addition to Cesar’s fascination with purple waffles, Carla also loves cactus – a passion that grew out of family trips to Baja. Juan points to his leg, smeared with small ink.

While plants are the star of Semilla, there’s more to the store than just greenery. Souvenirs from the Duran family dot the space, from a sewing machine given to them by neighbors to their mother’s homemade candles.

A potted Dieffenbachia rests on top of a chipped Craftsman toolbox, a nod to Durans’ love for cars. For the mechanic who is the father, they all have the habit of restoring old cars. A glance at the back of the store could mean you see Juan’s ’63 Dodge Dart convertible or Cesar’s 1970 Mercedes Benz. Then there are the spontaneously bought – and supposedly ugly – old low-class limos that they mainly use to get to the Home Depot.

In the calathea lounge, potted plants surround an old camera from an antique store in Oklahoma, a la American Pickers. Behind it was a childhood typewriter that the Durans had learned to type on, paying homage to their uncle’s work repairing typewriters.

“Sometimes we would put paper and write like silly little messages to each other, just because it looked cool. You know? Like…” Juan started laughing. “Like a fake ransom note.” His siblings lost it.

Aerial image of a brown typewriter surrounded by trees

A Smith-Corona typewriter is surrounded by Calatheas in the calathea lounge at the Semilla botanical shop.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Above the register is a faded, framed map of Sinaloa, Mexico, where much of the massive Duran family still lives. Cesar’s parents Carla and Juan immigrated to Southern California before they were born, but the family often returns to visit. The siblings grew up in their Fullerton home, rooted in the community long before business.

Their home should have been the first indicator of their botanical future. “Mini TJ” with fruit trees and fragrant lavender bushes to create a rainforest in the backyard reminds them of Sinaloa. Socorro Duran warns her children to take care of her plants while she’s away, and Mother’s Day brunch is forgotten because of a nursery trip. Once, during a solar eclipse, she convinced them to move a 10-foot avocado tree to the other side of the yard because it looked so sad, Cesar said.

“I swear I dug a lot of holes for trees when I was a kid.” He laughs. “My mom would say, ‘We’re going to put an avocado tree in the backyard, do you want to dig a hole?’ And you’re like a 10-year-old, ‘Okay, I’ll help,’ and then you realize it’s hard work. Like I just got trezled. “

A woman wipes a rubber tree.

Socorro Duran, mother of three, cleans a rubber tree in the back room of the Semilla botanical shop.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

On Mondays, Socorro goes to Semilla to water and sing in front of the foliage. The small store, its heart is constantly beating by six employees: the Duran siblings, Socorro, Cesar’s girlfriend Ana, and Juan’s girlfriend Vivian, who rush in to open the store.

“They are clowns, and they are barbarians,” Carla said of her brothers and joked, “Juan’s girlfriend works here – he fires her at least three times a day. day.”

Juan shrugged. “Before my first cup of coffee, I have to fire her.”

“He has no right to fire,” Carla said.

The close-knit family creates a vibrant atmosphere in the store, organizing events unique to the community. In the “Pot & Sip” program, aspiring plant parents make their own terrariums while drinking. Other days, Durans wears a white coat and scribbles on prescription notes for “Plant ER,” where people bring in their dwindling plants for inspection.

Perhaps the biggest symbol of the community? Pool table at the back of the bar. Regular customer – Durans recently hosted a billiards tournament where challengers battled it for a 10-inch male fish.

Polaroid photo of a customer with their tree on display

Polaroid photos of customers with their plants on display at the Semilla botanical shop.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

By the end of the summer, a second store will spring up in Florida’s South Beach, just two blocks from the coast. The siblings will take turns flying there to operate the new venture. Eventually, they will hire and train Florida locals to run it full-time. After all, there was one family rule that Durans always adhered to: No one was allowed to travel farther than 50 miles.

“We will definitely be here in Fullerton,” Cesar insisted. “We love it here. This is our home; this will always be our flagship store, even if we’ve opened 10 locations, won’t it? It’s like our baby.”

A woman with her arms around two men with trees in the background

Sibling owners Juan Duran, 22, left, Carla Duran, 34, and Cesar Duran, 32, at botanical shop Semilla.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

When the Durans decided on the store name, they knew two things. They want a Spanish word, and they want it to mean something to them. After sifting through the ideas, they decided semilla – the spanish word for “seed”.

Carla recalled the Spaniard saying, “Hoy semillas, mañana flores, “Meaning” Today’s seed, tomorrow’s flower”. Carla says that’s Semilla’s goal: to create a beautiful future for everyone. Cesar’s vision of a business where his whole family can be involved goes beyond DNA.

“We feel like the concept of Semilla is really cool,” says Cesar. “It’s like we plant our seeds in the community that will grow and help the community to grow too.” Semilla in downtown Fullerton is the plant shop you won’t want to leave

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