We met Marco, owner of Alapash New Home, at the Ravenswood Art Walk a couple years back and have been bumping into him ever since. We’ve watched him grow from street fairs, to opening his first boutique and now settling into his much larger space. Alapash offers one-of-a-kind curated terrariums and proudly collaborates with talented artisans, crafters and companies that produce unique products for your home. We had the pleasure of spending some time in the shop as Macro prepared plants for new homes and helped his customers. If you have the opportunity to visit his shop, we highly recommend it. You’ll be inspired by everything, trust us.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
My name is Marco Chavarry and I am the owner and creator of Alapash New Home. I am originally from Lima, Peru and have been in Chicago since January 2000. I started Alapash five years ago with my terrariums. After a year of showcasing my terrariums in street fairs and art shows, I decided to open a brick and mortar. I opened my first shop on Montrose in March 2012 and in March 2015 we moved to a much larger store on Damen Ave.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Marco.
My days are never the same. Usually I start with a cup of coffee at home and I'm out the door by 8:00 am. Most days I start working at the store but often meet with clients and/or vendors. Lately, I've been spending mornings in my new studio, taking photos and organizing inventory. If I don't have to work in the store, I spend the day there working on the website and social media. I try to stop most of my work by 7:00 pm and head home to spend time with my partner and two dogs. I like to be at home at night. My home was designed for pure relaxation so it is the perfect place to end my days.
Where do you find inspiration?
It’s really hard to pin point where inspiration comes from. When I was just making terrariums, most of my inspiration came from traditional landscape design and Zen gardens. Now that my job is to curate the shop inspiration really comes from random places–magazines, books, blogs, art, conversations, you name it! I have my eyes and senses open at all times. Also, since I started working on the website and social media I enjoy visiting Japanese art blogs. I love their aesthetic–clean yet imperfect, very wabi-sabi.
How do you make time for creativity and collaboration?
I enjoy working, a lot. I find it gratifying and invigorating. I always hear how people get their high from traveling or eating out. I get my fix from my work. I love to be part of every aspect of my business. I am the maker, the curator, the key holder and whatever else I can do. I truly enjoy bringing my vision to life. I love to be the shopkeeper as much as I enjoy creating content for our Instagram. I am a bit stubborn and still refuse to delegate certain projects.
What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started?
I think the best advice to someone who is just starting would be to cherish the challenges. I know it sound a bit sadistic but I still enjoy my business the most when there is a big challenge. I think I actually create more challenges everyday so I can take them on. I am not a believer of easy things. To me the beauty of a project lays in its complexity.
You wear many creative hats–do you have a favorite?
I don't think I have a favorite hat really but I enjoy working at the store because it allows me to interact with our followers and to create meaningful connections with our visitors. I've made so many good friends with some of our customers. I love to be part of my community and being at the front of the store has allowed me to do so. I've seen many couples become parents and their children grow. I've welcomed many people to the neighborhood and seen other people go. Of course I still enjoy making my terrariums and working with my plants. They are a huge part of my business and I always try to honor that tradition. Lately, I've enjoyed working on the visual part of Alapash. I have discovered a passion in photography and I hope one day I can actually work in that field.
If you could live the life of another creative, for a day, who would it be and why?
I would love to work and learn from a professional photographer and a stylist! I devour magazines and blogs and I'm always mesmerized by the images. I would love to learn about lighting and editing. I would love to see how those magazine spreads are created and developed. I think I am more intrigued with interior design but would also love to spend one day working on a fashion spread. Although I don’t know a thing about fashion.
What keeps you motivated and making?
To start, it is my job and my only source of income!
Being a business owner is a huge challenge and I think the challenge is what keeps me motivated. I think many people have a misconception of what having your own business really means. The success of my business really dictates my life. I started Alapash with my own money. I didn't have a loan or a financial partner so I had to make this work from day one if I wanted to survive. It was extremely difficult for me to go from three incomes (yes, I had three jobs before I started Alapash) and a secure bank account to literally zero money. I invested every single penny I had on Alapash and I knew I had to get a return soon. For me that challenge kept me awake and motivated to work. For two years I worked in the store 7 days a week, no days off, no sick days, no holidays. When help became available things didn't change much, I challenged myself to take on more projects so we could grow and move to a larger location and pursue larger dreams.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think there are two pieces of advice I have received in life that have change my perspective. Both came from the two people I love the most!
The first came from my partner and I think he heard it from Oprah! "There is no such thing as luck, only preparation for opportunity." This taught me to keep working and be ready at all times because you never know when the big chance will knock at your door. I think at the beginning of Alapash, when it was difficult to stay motivated on slow days, this advice kept me going to create more and work hard, even if things were not moving fast. I do feel lucky to have Alapash, but the amount of work I put into it is more than I ever imagined and I have had to sacrifice a lot to make this happen.
The second advice came from my brother: "There is always a way." Whenever I feel the challenges are to big or impossible to tackle I always think of my brother. The truth is there is always a way. We just need to be in tune with our inner voice and the higher power to connect all the dots and find a solution.
Photography by Mike Killion