Oak Park business keeping it green, inside and out

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

At Green Home Experts in Oak Park, the policy is BYOC.

Bring your own chickens? Not quite. Rather, bring your own container.

Although the quaint environmental store can equip Oak Parkers with the tools to raise those urban chickens, the shop on South Boulevard, just west of Oak Park Avenue serves as an oasis for one-stop-shopping for green lifestyle goods, sustainable building materials, and its newest spring addition since moving to the new location in January: the eco-garden center.

The small parcel of cement behind the shop used to be a miniature parking lot. It's now full or organic plants and herbs, flowers and soil, home composters and whatever else a yard can sustain in the unpredictable Midwest weather.

"It's amazing," Maria Onesto Moran, the store's "queen bee" and owner said about the new space. "I'm loving it."

The small yet diverse garden center tucked behind the shop at 811 South Blvd. is seeing success in its first season on the block. The street view appears as though the store expanded from its last location, but besides the extra 1,350 square feet, the 700-square-foot garden center has added new life to Onesto Moran's second home.

Customers can utilize that "bring your own container" philosophy by making selections and letting staff do the dirty work by setting up those new plants. They're also able to offer expertise about what types of species are best during each seasonal change.

Onesto Moran spends as much time as she can on the patio area where she, too, can engage in her favorite pastime.

"Gardening is a connection to each other," she said. "It's good for the soul. It's low-cost therapy."

Besides just offering an array of indoor and outdoor garden goods, inside the shop are shelves full of items for the going green veteran. Diapers, soaps, containers, kitchen utensils, office materials and cleaning supplies are just a few of the offerings. Other unique picks like containers of lady bugs, worms and kits for beekeeping also are available. The theme continues with the eco-friendly flooring, paints and countertop surfaces for building and remodeling projects.

"Hopefully, people are figuring out your house and yard can be harmful. But you can create a beautiful non-toxic home," Onesto Moran said. "You don't have to care about the planet to care about this stuff. What's good for the planet is good for us."

The space, albeit an improvement, is still small, but keeps quality control intact by sheer necessity. The high turnover of products ensures people are getting freshly planted items that haven't been uprooted long.

"The plants don't sit on the shelves long," Onesto Moran said. "Just like you don't want products at your restaurants, you don't want that at your garden centers either."

Products are not only flying off the shelves, she said, but her staff is now in individual departments which have become more self-sustaining. Onesto Moran was putting in 70-plus-hour weeks when the store started, but now she's found time for her toddler son and her own gardening. This includes raised beds of vegetables and herbs, a patio area, rain barrels, two composters and a native garden.

"It's actually really fun. I'm enjoying watching my staff blossom and manage their individual departments," she said. "I'm ready to sit back and finally celebrate."

That's an attitude her shop visitors embrace, too. "Our customers are really enjoying being part of our growth. People are genuinely joyful to be in a bigger location," she said. "It's reassuring to know that it's working."

To learn more about the mission of Green Home Experts, visit the shop at 811 South Blvd., or check out the website at ghexperts.com.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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