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Plant Cartel Grows the Downtown Community
By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Kayla Broadway

Last November, longtime Jonesboro resident and plant enthusiast Jen Nobles brought a new kind of retail store to the downtown area when she opened Plant Cartel, an eclectic nursery, gardening and gift store with a focus on supporting artists and artisans and bringing the outdoors inside.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, even when I was a little kid,” said Nobles. “I’ve always been into being creative and being my own boss and making my own money. I have an art background, as well. I have known for the past 20 years of raising my kids that I wanted to open a business like this. My youngest graduated last May, so I decided it was time.”

She spent the summer of 2018 coming up with a concept, found a space in March of 2019 and opened in November of 2019 on Union Street in Downtown Jonesboro.

“It’s years of pent-up ideas and creativity,” said Nobles. “I saw a void in Jonesboro that I’ve seen my whole life. Now, I have the time and the energy for Plant Cartel. … I wanted a name that was cheeky and rolled off the tongue. I’m a bit edgy myself. I think it will be more fun than anything.”

Nobles attributes her love for plants and growing things to an experience in her early 20s where she lived off the grid in an intentional community. There, in an experience she says truly shaped who she is today, she learned to use medicinal herbs, planted gardens and was very much immersed in nature.

Back in Jonesboro, Nobles learned about and worked with plants in a variety of different ways. She worked at local nurseries, in landscaping and in flower shops. Before opening Plant Cartel, Nobles worked as an herbal medicine maker, as well as in the Herbarium at Arkansas State University. She also did lab work and grew and examined plant specimens at the Arkansas Biosciences Institute. 

“I have a pretty broad range of experience in the plant world in general,” said Nobles. “I have a lot of training and education in plant medicine and using plants for our benefit, whether in food or medicine. I have also studied ancestral skills like fermenting, natural building, permaculture, wild foraging and seed saving all over the country.”

Because of her knowledge of plants and herbs, Nobles received frequent calls and emails from people in Jonesboro who wanted advice and consultations about how to treat certain medical issues with plants. Those calls made her realize there was a need for a different kind of business in town, particularly in Downtown Jonesboro.

“Plant Cartel is a great fit for Downtown Jonesboro, because we match the vibe and energy of downtown: lively, creative, fun, photographable, unique, cultural and easy to access on foot,” said Nobles. “We came in at a great time, too, as Union Street is undergoing a revitalization, which is something we’re delighted to take part in.

“I’ve personally been embedded in the downtown community for decades, so to have a store located here, where I also work, eat and play, is a natural fit. Plant Cartel is proud to contribute to a thriving downtown area, which is vital to a healthy city, and we look forward to many years of doing just that.”

Plant Cartel is stocked with a wide variety of household plants and plant-based products. Nobles spends hours curating the store’s inventory, picking out only the best plants to offer to her customers, along with pots, planters and other garden-related items.

“I really love tropical plants, because they are so unique and beautiful; they make for a nice touch of green,” says Nobles of her favorite plants in the store. “As far as unique plants, I love orchids personally, but I only carry them on special occasions. I also love the ponytail palm, as it is technically considered a succulent but has stunning structure and reminds me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book.”

For beginners who are new to caring for live plants, Nobles recommends starting small and taking the environment into account.

“Don’t buy 30 plants all at once, because they all have their own little nuances, which can be overwhelming,” she said. “Get used to the plants you have, and then add to it. Don’t be afraid to try something new. The plant is going to grow itself and do its thing, you just have to nudge it along. Everyone can do it, you just have to believe it and take the time.

“And I think people have to consider their environment. It’s one of the key factors when you think about taking care of a plant – light, temperature, if there are electronics around, a vent blowing, things like that.”

The gift portion of Plant Cartel is also plant-based, with a large focus on the arts. Nobles doesn’t carry anything that is mass-manufactured or otherwise commercially available.

“I carry local art in there; I want to support that community,” said Nobles. “I’m a part of it myself, and I have an art background, so it’s very close to my heart. I have medicinal and herbal teas, and I have a huge collection of dried herbs you can purchase.

“… As far as gifts go, I have really artistic greeting cards that come from artists all over the country. There is nothing mass manufactured. It’s very unique. They’re not things you can find on Amazon. I tend to go towards women-owned companies that are socially and eco-conscious. Even when it comes to the seeds I carry, I carry Baker Creek seeds, which is a very wonderful heirloom brand that people are really familiar with. I also carry other seeds where the seeds packets are actually made by artists. And I carry local pottery. It’s very much centered on creative, plant-based living.”

Going along with the purpose and mission behind Plant Cartel, the store carries a variety of low waste items, such as metal straws, reusable cotton rounds, beeswax wrap, reusable tote bags and more.

In the future, Nobles says she will be adding additional services to Plant Cartel’s offerings. Although she is not currently taking new clients for her other recent endeavor, Plant Cartel also works hand-in-hand with Nobles’ eco-landscaping business, Artisan Eco Solutions. The installation of sculptural art, a green wall and a new sign are also in the works.

“We will be adding additional services such as in-home or in-business consultations, where I will advise on what plants would work with your lighting and space,” said Nobles. “We will also be doing delivery and workshops eventually.”

Since opening seven months ago, Nobles says the support from the Jonesboro community and others in the downtown area has been tremendous.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “That’s why I decided to open my first store in Jonesboro. This community is amazing. I was a single mom in this community for many years, and I got so much support through that. It’s been above and beyond.

“I had no idea how the community would receive Plant Cartel, and I’ll tell you what, it blew my mind. As soon as word got out, it blew up. The reception has been tremendous, and I’ve had so many opportunities to work with other great local businesses and position my business to be a community leader in the green movement. I love Jonesboro’s energy; they are bringing it for this.”

For more information about Plant Cartel, located at 211 Union St., call (870) 819-1826 or find Plant Cartel on Facebook or Instagram @plant.cartel. Plant Cartel currently offers curbside pickup Monday through Saturday from 2-4 p.m. and has free delivery within eight miles of Plant Cartel; orders can be emailed to jennobles@plantcartel.co. Potting service is free with every plant and pot purchased at the same time.