Business Review – July 2008

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Business Review July 2008.

The Playful Garden
by craig smith

Mimi Glavin, owner of The Playful Garden at 1001 Caymus (west of Main, near Shackford’s and The Learning Faire), tried to retire once, but it just didn’t work out as envisioned. She and Mike, her husband of thirty-nine years, sold their business, bought the big RV, and hit the road. After two weeks, they were bored to tears. “We missed contact with people, and realized we really like working,” Mimi laughed, as she often does. “So, we chose to give up retirement.”

Mimi didn’t just want another job. She wanted to pursue work that is related to her passions in life, which include an appreciation of art and gardening. She combined those two, knew humor was also an important ingredient, and created a mission statement for her new venture, The Playful Garden: “To bring laughter and playfulness into the home and garden.”

The Playful Garden begins to express that statement before entering the store, where guests are greeted by a 5 ½ foot tall copper, overall-clad gardening frog (for which Mimi plans to hold a naming contest at some point). The frog stands next to a “succulent chair,” which Mimi describes as being for “people with flair.” (You have to see it to understand!) Step inside the store, and be greeted by one of the many whimsical items she carries – an extremely realistic looking, croaking frog. In a juxtaposition The Playful Garden pulls off seamlessly, objects like the frog are mixed with beautiful art pieces, many of a playful nature, that would look good in any garden or home. Sprinkled throughout is a unique array of garden furniture and fountains.

More than just a garden shop, The Playful Garden is also part art gallery, although a relaxed, accessible one. The Playful Garden features lots of one-of-a-kind pieces from artists worldwide. Objects come from as close as Nevada City and San Luis Obispo, and as far away as Brazil and France. Nothing in the store can be found anywhere else in Napa. Visitors will not feel like they are in a gallery at all, but in a delightful, easy to enjoy environment. Regardless of how you feel walking in, you are likely to leave smiling.

The idea for The Playful Garden was born four years ago. Two of Mimi’s sisters, who live in the state of Washington, are accomplished gardeners and artists. The three siblings used to talk about how they could all start a business together producing specialty gardening items. Although Mimi hadn’t planned on opening a retail store, it seemed like the only practical way to accomplish their dream, given the geographic distance between them.

After “retirement,” the Glavins moved to Napa to be closer to their first granddaughter. Mimi spent two years searching for artists and merchandise while looking for just the right place for her business. One section of The Playful Garden features art by renowned mosaic artists Solomon Bassoff and Domenica Mottarella of Faducci. Local artist Kathy Dennett, who created the mandalas adorning the walls of the restaurant Pearl, also shows there. The work of a Tucson based artist, who only makes whimsical bird nest sculptures, can be found at The Playful Garden. A Martha Stewart listed faux bois artist has provided pieces. And the work of several of her talented family members and friends, which sells like hot cakes, is evident throughout.

There are some pieces Mimi won’t sell. A beautiful stained glass parrot window one of her brothers created is one of them. Another, a display table that the Grateful Dead often sat around to play music, also stays.

Mimi is the first to admit that she was very nervous about getting into retail, something she has never done before, and says she couldn’t have done it without the support of her husband Mike. Taking big chances, like the time she zip lined in Belize, has always paid personal dividends, and she knew she had to open the store. Like other new adventures, it has been a very positive experience that has helped her grow as a person. Mimi encourages everybody to do something, “that takes them out of their comfort zone, whether for a day or for life.” She isn’t suggesting that everyone open a store. It could be doing something for your community or city, but Mimi suggests to people, “be proud of what you are doing. It always extends outward.”
The Playful Garden is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30AM to 5:30PM. Call 258-8880. Better yet, stop in.


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