Saturday, May 28, 2022

DIY without boundaries: Create a living terrarium and personal connections at town center’s Hinterland Trading

From the slow-growing, dust collecting air plants suspended from urchin shells to succulents lining the sand surrounded by colorful mosses and driftwood, the options unlocking the creative mind at Hinterland Trading are endless.

The brains behind Hinterland Trading’s DIY studio come from the mind of 20-year-old Bailey Ryan, daughter of owners Elizabeth and Kelle Ryan. Bailey’s business idea transformed the family business from importing and selling air plants from Central America and around the globe to retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Zulily, into another successful venture in the growing DIY market.

“We went to Atlanta for a plant buyers market, and Kelle boosted Bailey’s Facebook post about a terrarium workshop in our warehouse,” Elizabeth said. “We had to grab a flight home when over 85 people signed up.”

Terrarium creation at Hinterland Trading (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading)
Terrarium creation at Hinterland Trading (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading)

DIY Decor

What started as a small pop-up spot in their plant distribution warehouse off North Hampton led to hundred’s of people coming out to create their own living terrarium. Knowing they were growing and needed a place to house the new branch of their business, the Ryans were approached by Town Center to lease a pop-up space at 172 Central Park Avenue where they’ve been up and running since July 2017.They extended their lease in August and got their ABC license.

“We are a family business,” said Elizabeth who’s husband, daughter, and son, Austin, all play key roles in Hinterland Trading.”We’ve created a place where everything else is forgotten, and our customers spend an hour for themselves.”

Having grown up on farms in Roanoke and Montana when the family had to do everything just to eat, Elizabeth feels her life has come full circle.

“We did everything with our hands back then,” Elizabeth said. “Now, here we are again.”

Tipsy Terrarium night. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading)
Tipsy Terrarium night. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading)

Life-changing Tragedy

A love for interior decor design came about tragically for Elizabeth.  After being struck by a car in Washington, D.C., she endured a cycle of endless surgeries and rehabs to help repair her crushed legs. After the difficulties led to leaving her job as a contractor, Elizabeth found a passion in interior decor.

It was a turn of a page in her father’s seed catalog that led Elizabeth to integrate air plants into her design process. Hinterland Trading got their first plants from Florida, and in 2010 they became the first live plant distributor on Amazon. After finding the contact to the air plant farm in Guatemala on the packaging, the Ryans now import a half million in air plants a year.

Remote air plant farm in Central America. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading).
Remote air plant farm in Central America. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading).


Open seven days a week, customers can either come into the studio during the day and create a living item to gift or for their home or office, or join one of the weekend classes to design with a group of others.

Large wooden tables are strewn with a variety of items to assist customers in the process. During the jellyfish class, a variety of mosses, sands, rocks, shells, plastic plants, driftwood, sea stars, bamboo sticks, netting, and other decor items are at the fingertips of each patron.

Hinterland also welcomes patrons to bring objects from home to add to their creations or even their own vase to create the terrarium.

After receiving directions from Elizabeth, the Ryan family and assistant manager, Bri Speelman, interact with class participants as they make their living creations. Each class ticket also comes with either two glasses of wine or a beer.

Air plant and succulent design options at Hinterland Trading. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading and Southside Daily staff)

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In The Moment

Hinterland also hosts birthday parties to private team-building events, allowing people to work together while making something as a team.

“From the moment people come in I don’t see a cellphone until they come out to take pictures of the final product,” Elizabeth said. “At first everyone looks around wondering what’s going on here, but by the end, everyone is sharing ideas. It’s an organic creative process.”

From boys and girls starting at 6 years old, to men and women up to age 85, Elizabeth hasn’t seen a set demographic at the studio. Kids have come in for birthdays or with their parents and those projects range from $7 to $12.

“There’s something special about watching the kids and their parents doing this together,” Elizabeth said. “We give them a space to do what they want, and the parents encourage them and allow them to do anything while they both enjoy doing something together.”

Date nights are popular at Hinterland Trading as well. Some couples come in for the lively tipsy terrarium class to make multiple small projects together, or at the new date night class when they jointly design a large one.

Date night at Hinterland Trading. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading).
Date night at Hinterland Trading. (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading).

Hinterland Trading also sells many of their designs, plants, and other gift items. The layout of the studio and store features an eclectic mix within its cozy space.

“We have a lot of fun and weird stuff everywhere,” Elizabeth said.

The company also assists with weddings, creating everything from bouquets to centerpieces and larger arrangements. Air plants and succulents are rented or purchased for guests to have something to take home that will go on living.

Hinterland Trading wedding bouquet and centerpieces (Courtesy of Hinterland Trading)

No Wrong Way

There’s no right or wrong way to design the terrariums at Hinterland Trading.

“No matter what you do, everything is beautiful,” said Jen Leary, a customer at the Hinterland’s jellyfish terrarium night.

“Well, it’s art,” added patron, Nate Pencook. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Learn more about Hinterland Trading by clicking here.

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