Our Friends of Far Afield series continues. Each season, we’ll visit some of Brighton’s best businesses, to talk shop with the staff and find out what they think makes our city so special.

Part Two takes us on a trip to the Seven Dials area, where we sat down with Maya – manager of houseplant extraordinaries, Hi Cacti.

Firstly, can you give us a brief history of the store and a roundup of what it is you do as a business?

Hi Cacti was founded by Sabina Palermo back in 2015. She started by making small concrete pots on her dining room table, and using them to plant cacti – hence the name. Then—as the business grew—she moved to a bigger studio, before finally finding a permanent retail space. That allowed us to start stocking a broader range of products; from large houseplants and gifts, to homeware and art pieces.

I’ve seen that you guys host some really cool events. What’s been going on recently and is there anything else in the pipeline?

We’ve become quite well known for our classic margarita nights, that we host throughout summer. We team up with two other local businesses: Mama’s Cocktail Bar and A Tribe Called Veg, who supply the booze and burritos. They setup outside the shop and we offer discounts in-store. We basically create a bit of a street party, and it’s a great way let our hair down with the local community and our loyal customers.

You mentioned the word community there. For those who don’t know much about the Seven Dials area, how can you sum it up in a nutshell?

It’s an amazing area. We love the Dials? We’ve been a part of this community since the business was founded. We started off selling pots in local cafes, and we’ve hosted lots of workshops in nearby shops. And of course, we now have our own store here, and we couldn’t be happier. All of the independents support each other, and the locals seem to love the diverse range of businesses that can be found here. I’d describe it as an extension of the lanes, but with more of a village feel.

I can see that Sabina has published her own book, and I believe you run your own business, too. Can you give us a little insight into what it is you guys do?

I run my own ceramics brand called Uschie, and I sell my own products in Hi Cacti. We’ve been collaborating for a while now and we support each other in all of our business ventures. Sabina has written her own book, which came out last August, called ‘Hi Cacti: Growing Houseplants and Happiness’ – for which I did lots of illustration work and designed the front cover. The book is all about the relationship between self-care and plants, and the benefits that living in a green space can have on our mental wellbeing.

It sounds like you guys are a force to be reckoned with. Did that relationship help at all when it came to navigating through the pandemic as an independent business?

Covid hit just before the store opened, so we had a little taste of it and then everything changed. Transitioning from owning an online business to an actual physical space is incredibly hard as it is, and so that combined with the pandemic was a hugely challenging. Luckily, though, Sabina is very creative and was able to adapt quickly to the changing times. We started by doing home deliveries in the local area, before offering pick-up from outside the shop – and this seemed to be extremely well received by the local community. It was a super hard thing to go through, but we’re out the other side now and things are going great.

And finally, what do you think makes Brighton so special as a place in which to live and run a business?

I think Brighton is a really, really special place. It has a gravitational pull for creatives from around the world, which is why I’ve ended up here, as a Brazilian. The local community really understand the importance of independent businesses, and show their support as a badge of honour – I think that’s why you see so many one-off stores in the city. It’s a unique place in the sense that the ‘high street’ is much smaller than all of the lanes combined. In most cities, the opposite is usually the case.

For more info about Hi Cacti, you can visit their website here or follow them on Instagram here.

Photography by Damien O’Donnell
Words and styling by Charlie Gardiner

Tags: Community