Tucked on the edge of First Avenue, a local shop is transporting shoppers and gardeners to a green, jungle-like escape. Stuffed to the brim with house plants and accessories, Kiwi’s Garden Center is every plant lover’s dream.
Opened at 100 N. First Ave. on Oct. 15, 2020, by Kayleigh “Kiwi” Iwamoto, Kiwi’s — with help from kitten turned assistant manager Momo — offers the Tri-State adult and starter specialty plants, garden accessories and tools, and home décor.
“We specialize mostly in indoor plants,” says Iwamoto. “One of the fun things I’ve been able to do is really help people with those wish list plants. These fun, funky unusual plants that you can’t find at big box stores.”
Iwamoto is an expert in her field, conversing passionately with veteran gardeners and making the transition to plant parenthood smooth for beginners. But Kiwi’s success didn’t sprout overnight.
Iwamoto began her plant-based career track in high school overseeing the Future Farmers of America’s greenhouse. The Mount Carmel, Illinois, native then worked at Lily Pad Gardens in Lena, Illinois, where her boss inspired Iwamoto’s dream of entrepreneurship. She made her way to Evansville with her husband who she married in May 2020, working at SWN Garden Center and finally at Lowe’s as a live nursery specialist.
Besides being her dream come true, Kiwi’s has allowed Iwamoto to incorporate her other interests, including her five trips to Japan and artistic abilities, in the shop’s products.
“I’ve been overwhelmed and incredibly blessed to have been as successful and as supported by the community as I have been, especially given when I decided to open,” says Iwamoto. “It’s so special and exciting to be able to help people in this capacity.”
Still in its first year of business, Kiwi’s is getting settled. Iwamoto hopes to expand the plant selection to include more seasonal and tropical plants. She also wants to renovate the back of the store into a coffee and tea spot when social gatherings can be safer. No matter what the future holds, Iwamoto is certain her plants will be a part of it.
“I found over the years that plants accompany people in all aspects of life,” she says. “It creates a sort of joy and happiness that takes you away from all the other things going on in the world and gives you your own space where you’re able to unwind and relax.”