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From seedling to big idea: Planting wishes at the succulent bar

Jul 21, 2023

Jul. 30—The hardest decision for most customers at Zinks Town is which pot to choose. A medusa head? A miniature bathtub? Or a small, round pot whose mint color could coordinate with a plant?

Before choosing a pot, customers pick a succulent, something with overflowing bubble-shaped leaves, a tall twisting cactus, or even a tiny succulent with violet tinged leaves. After pot selection, the customers settle in at tables covered in a layer of faux grass. A pink-aproned employee plays a singing bowl or hits a note on a steel-tongued drum to start the magic. Then for the thing that makes the succulent bar more than a plant nursery — the magic — customers make a wish or manifestation that can grow with the plant they pot.

"I lead them through the entire process of making a manifestation or a wish, whatever people like to call it — we're not picky here," said owner Hillary Zinks. "And then once they make their wish, they get to pick magical crystals and flowers that complement their wish. The idea there is basically to watch your succulent and your wish grow together. So, you have a physical reminder of a manifestation, and when you see your plant, you can meditate on your manifestation."

After planting wishes and succulents, customers can landscape their pot with tiny dragons, miniature ducks, gray glass brains, or any number of other tiny yard ornaments.

The store offers more than a pretty plant. Zinks Town is an experiential business, which plays host to school field trips, workplace team-building, bachelorette parties, and fun nights out.

Zinks didn't expect her succulent bar to blossom into the bustling store she runs today.

She picked a tumultuous time to open a business. In 2020 COVID was shuttering businesses, Zinks' work as a special effects makeup artist in film and television halted, and she was going through a divorce. Zinks and her mother Terri Leone had bad credit, but they decided to open an art gallery anyway. The pair found a storefront they could afford without a business loan and where they could work and live.

The succulent bar was just a small feature in the front window — an experience where customers could pick a pot, a plant and make a wish. At first, no one had much interest, but each paycheck Zinks expanded the succulent bar little by little.

"It just grew. Instead of me having a big idea, it was such a little seedling. And then we just kept evolving it."

Then Zinks advertised on social media. She was flooded with customers. Soon the succulent bar became the entire business.

Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to just start.

"No matter what you're going through or what you've been through, you can start with what you have," she said. "I started this business, I'm not joking, from paycheck to paycheck, and from Dollar Tree and Amazon. That's how I started my business. And if I can do that, I know other people can too. You don't need a business loan. You don't need a huge idea. You just need to start on something."

Zinks Town is located at 2314 Wisconsin NE and open Wednesday through Sunday.