Jeremy Westrum roots for people and plants at his Rochester store
"The universe threw me a bone with the succulents and the Window Wonderz products because I don’t know where I would have been without that," said Jeremy Westrum, owner of Rootz of Inspiration.
ROCHESTER — When nature beckons Jeremy Westrum, it’s for his commitment and dedication to rooting for people and plants.
His fingers soak in piles of soil, and water flows through new sprouting leaves.
“I did some tissue culture plants last spring. They’re basically in a Petri dish and you had to transition them into soil and normal humidity,” Westrum said. “And my eye is almost still twitching from it because it was so stressful to figure it all out.”
Now, a host of succulents and tropical plants breathe fresh air into Rootz of Inspiration at 1121 Seventh St. NW in Rochester. The retail store showcases local consigners and artists growing beside the plants and Window Wonderz acrylic window planters.
In the healthy and healing environment, pull up one of his flower-padded chairs and listen in for encouragement.
How did you get into the plant business?
I had a stroke, that would be January of 2016, so it’s seven years now. And I was very unhealthy. I was an addict and bipolar that was unprofessionally treated for over a decade, and that all just culminated into a stroke , and that sent me on a much different path (from a biochemistry degree and sales). …
I got into propagating succulents and then I filled up my entire apartment full of succulent clippings and then I came up with a suction cup idea just to be able to propagate more succulents while I was in recovery. And then everybody thought they were cool and thought I should sell some. And it took me a long time to figure that out. …
I was really passionate about what I did and passionate about propagating the succulents, passionate about the Window Wonderz products and I was very blessed that that came together the way it did. I say the universe kind of threw me a bone with the succulents and the Window Wonderz products because I don’t know where I would have been without that.
You’re passionate about propagating and growing plants. What makes you so passionate?
When I first got into the plants, it was just a) an opportunity for me to do something and b) there’s just something about it, the propagating of the succulents. You rip a leaf off a plant, roots grow from it, it grows a new plant. And for whatever reason, that resonated with me. I have a feeling there’s metaphors to be said by that with that resonating with me the way that it did. It just took off, you don’t have too many opportunities with what I was going through financially and otherwise.
On your website, it says this is a “for-cause store.” What are some of the causes the store stands for?
I used to work for ARSYS (A Road to Support YourSelf), Cardinal, PossAbilities. I was in that world, and I loved it. And moved to the Cities and I had a different life and then once I had my stroke, and subsequently, the Window Wonderz business, that was the dream was to have employees. To have an acrylic manufacturing operation and you need employees for that. And the only thing that made sense was to hire people with disabilities, people that have had chemical dependency issues, legal issues. And just give people an opportunity, give people a second chance.
In another interview, you said, “I’m glad that my recovery has ultimately created something good for the community.” What inspires you to root for plants and people because of that?
I like the idea of healing. People being healthy. To be healthy, it’s relative, right. It’s all relative, everyone has health issues, it’s just a matter of either physical or disabilities that you don’t see and stuff like that. I think to know that there’s healing opportunities with the plants, healing opportunities with my story.
It was hard for me to talk about my story to begin with and say that I have a mental illness on a business level, on an entrepreneurial level that I’ve had issues with my record previous. I think I posted that and took it off 10 different times when I was doing it. And in the end, it was if someone doesn’t like that, then they’re not part of the healing process that I want on a community level and otherwise.
We get a lot of people in (the store) that are healing practices within the crystals now too, like the metaphysical dynamics, Eastern ideas, holistic ideas, and so it’s interesting to see that in reference to Western (practices) considering we are in the largest, most well-known Western hospital in the world. It’s been very enlightening with those ideas. It’s a beautiful thing to see the contrast and what they can do.
What are some of your favorite items to create?
I’ve talked to a lot of people now that I’ve gotten into the rocks about being able to cut and polish and to lapidary ideas, to make jewelry. And so yesterday I got all the gear to be able to cut and polish stones. … It’ll be a new creative outlet for Jeremy with all the time he has. (Laughs) But it’ll come together. And I’m excited to teach other people to do that too. I think there’s something very healing … to play with the rock, to cut them, to polish them, to see what they do. And there’s a lot to be learned in the rock world.
This article has been edited for clarity and space.