By LUCY GUANUNA
ECHO PARK — The lulling sounds of a Buddhist chant box invite passersby to peep inside the small store at the corner of Echo Park and Scott Avenues. Inside, in an otherworldly setting, a wild variety of cacti displayed on cinder blocks are jammed into the 350-square-foot shop, illuminated by red light bulbs that decorate the walls. Welcome to Echo Park’s cactus shop.
Actually, the shop, known to some as the Cactus Store or Hot Cactus, does not have an official name.
“The store intentionally doesn’t have a name,” said co-owner Carlos Morera, “We felt the neighborhood didn’t need anything that was branded, it just is what it is. We wanted it to feel like you’ve wandered into another dimension and, if it had a big name outside, it wouldn’t feel like another dimension, dimensions don’t have names,”
Morera has collected cacti for more than 18 years. After leaving a Los Angeles design firm to start his own self-funded projects, Morea saw the small space open up down the street from his house. Within two weeks, Morera opened the cactus store on December 5 , along with four partners and fellow designers, and his uncle, Johnny Morera, who manages the store.
The 350-square-foot store has a collection of more than 150 cacti that have been handpicked for their quality or unusual shape. Prices range from about $25 to $750.“All of the owners are designers and we are all involved in different projects that try to blur the lines between what we are,” Morea said.
A “Devil’s Run” is what Morera calls the trips to the California/Mexico border where they handpick their new stock at hard-to-reach cactus farms. The trip is usually taken by one person and a trailer hitch along fire roads that are not maintained by any jurisdiction, Morera said. “You really have to keep your confidence on these trips, but when you get back it feels like a major accomplishment, like coming from hell and back with badass cactus!”
They recently built a greenhouse at Morera’s house and are looking into hiring a horticulturalist to crossbreed and propagate different species of cactus. They hope to offer their own “weird species” soon.
Lucy Guanuna has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.