By means of: Annemarie van de Vreugde
Sat Feb 3, 12:00
In her tiny house in the center of Middelburg, De Bode joins Femke Vos De Wael. Over a cup of tea we talk at her kitchen table about the Vegetable City Garden Shop and the plans for the future. “I am very proud of the fact that we can expand the store.”
What a great house! What is it like to live on 50 square meters?
“We have been living here for four years and it is very nice! We have a lovely spot here where the three of us (Femke, friend Arend and son Lieven) have enough space to live. We were able to convert what started as a shed into a house with a garden including a trampoline and outdoor shower. And it’s bigger than it looks. We had a great time celebrating Christmas dinner here. If we unfold the dining table, twelve people can sit at it.”
You’re not from Zeeland, how did you end up in Zeeland?
“I grew up in Brabant. When I finished my florist training, I wanted to travel. I was eighteen and wanted to go to New Zealand. I had arranged everything, I was ready, I was really looking forward to it. My mother had always been in poor health and around the time I wanted to leave she became ill. I wondered if I should go after all, but that didn’t feel right. Then I would have been worried about her on the other side of the world. But I did want something different. During my training I had done an internship in Middelburg, and I was able to start working at that internship company. I didn’t leave Brabant for New Zealand but for Zeeland. Very different, but I immediately loved it in Middelburg. I came here in the summer, the terraces were full and there was a party atmosphere in the city. By October the party atmosphere was over and by January everyone was grumpy, haha! Yet Middelburg remained like a warm bath. I met nice people and felt completely at home here. I also kept the idea that, if I ever wanted to start something for myself, I could create something unique in Zeeland.”
You have succeeded in creating something unique.
“After working for a year and a half at my former internship company, I dared to take the plunge and started a flower shop in Goes. I did that for over four years. In 2004 I started ‘Artistic Breakfast, Design and Living’ in Middelburg. A place for breakfast and lunch and where the entire interior was for sale. If someone fell in love with a chair while drinking coffee, he/she could pay for it along with the coffee. Later I was on the market with Stall 913. I sold small interior items in a refurbished blue horse trailer. Special items for great prices.”
Did your own plant shop remain your greatest business wish?
“Yes, that’s why I was so happy when I was able to start the Vegetable city garden shop ten years ago. At the time I was still a single mother with a baby who was just six months old. Friends and acquaintances wondered why on earth I started this, caring for a baby and starting a shop. And if someone buys a plant, they won’t come back anytime soon, right? Why did I make it so difficult for myself? I could also work for a boss, right? In my head it actually made perfect sense. I always had Lieven with me when I was at work. I had made a room in the store where he could sleep and play later. Ideal. During the corona period I often thought about how well this construction ultimately worked out for us.”
Why do you love plants so much?
“Plants are great. In the store I try to show people that a plant is more than a means of decoration. A plant grows, goes outside the structure and does not fit into a straightjacket. I mention this in the store where I can. A plant may be ferocious, otherwise you should buy a non-ferocious plant. I think the plant deserves more respect. And in addition to plant sales, we do much more. We hold presentations, exhibited plant art last summer, do the furnishings at restaurants and hotels… Plant-based is more than just selling plants. This is how we distinguish ourselves as a store.”
Plant-based celebrates its 10th anniversary this year! Are you going to celebrate?
“I am very proud that I can celebrate with more space, I am going to expand the store. I had the opportunity to buy the building next to Plantaard. I am very proud of the fact that we can do that. There is still an awful lot to be done, it really is a project. Arend and I will undoubtedly want to hurt each other a few times while doing the jobs, but we still feel like doing it. Soon I will have a large south-facing garden. Vegetable is a city garden store and now I actually have one! In addition to the garden, there is room for a workshop. People may think ‘it’s nice to have a few pots and a few plants’, but we need a lot of space for the store. Now I have a workshop on the industrial estate that is full of, among other things, pallets of potting soil and dozens of bags of hydro granules. The fact that such things can now be stored near the store is ideal. And my colleague Marieke and I will soon have a lot more space to organize workshops, for example. We have so many great ideas. But the first big and important party we will celebrate is Lieven’s tenth birthday in March.”
Who would you like to sit at the kitchen table with?
“Difficult to choose. With visual artist Diana Scherer. She makes botanical installations, among other things. I would like to hear all about how she taught everyone to look at plant roots differently.”
Femke Vos de Wael
Owner of the Vegetable City Garden Shop
Arend and son Lieven in a tiny house in Middelburg
Camping in the woods and good food