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Friday, March 24, 2017

Botanica Springs to Life at the Farm

On February 1st, Botanica, the latest addition to what store manager Lisa Morley calls the Farm at South Mountain enclave, opened its doors.

The new store rounds out a series of businesses nestled on the 12-acre plot of land just south and west of 32nd Street and Southern Avenue known as the Farm at South Mountain.

Botanica joins restaurants Morning Glory (breakfast and brunch), The Farm Kitchen (lunch) and Quiessence (dinner only) as well as local grower Maya’s Farm, and The Retreat (a healing center) among others.

In keeping with the rustic and rural setting in the middle of South Phoenix, Botanica is, according to Morley’s co-manager Rosemary Walsh, a little wild itself and with an urban twist.

Working with Pat Christofolo, the catalyst behind many of the Farm’s successes including Botanica, and her sister Rosemarie Christofolo, Morley and Walsh pooled their combined art, marketing and retail skills into creating a new store to fill the empty space that was once  Garden Territory.

As the retail expert and former art gallery owner, Morley had a clear vision for what she wanted shop-goers to feel when they walked into the store.

“I wanted it to be inviting as they walked in,” said Morley.

She also wanted the space to be open, airy, welcoming, and full of colors and textures and space so guests would be tempted to wander around and touch and taste and smell.

“The tactile experience forms an intimacy with the client who’s coming through,” Morley said.

The store showcases an array of goods including local art and food items, soaps and lotions, home décor, linens, patio décor and gardening.

When asked what her favorite part is, Walsh admits it’s the smell of the store when she first opens the door in the morning.

The herbal soaps, honey-infused lotions and uniquely crafted candles with scents like tobacco bark create an intoxicating fragrance that invites the casual visitor into the space.

Botanica not only offers a delightfully fragrant encounter: shoppers and browsers alike will find plenty to treat the other senses as well.

For the eyes, the store features works by local artists, including black-and-white photos, framed photography showcasing Farm favorites, and other original works.  Unique items include beeswax candles made in Flagstaff.

Touch any number of creative craft items such as rings and pendants made of old watch pieces; a set of chicken feet candlesticks, and a group of flying pigs. Visitors will also find tote bags made from animal feedbags and change purses crafted from discarded seed packets.

Tasting is also a regular part of the Botanica experience.

“Almost 100 percent of our food items [among them salsas, pecan brittle and olive oils] are made locally in Arizona,” said Walsh in a recent interview.

Featured tastings have included gourmet sea salts from Portland, Ore.-based company The Meadow and bacon pecan brittle, the salty-sweet specialty made by local dessert guru Tracy Dempsey.

Morley’s vision has already produced success: after only one month, Morley and Walsh have seen a number of repeat visitors.

But the group is far from done.

“All four of us still meet each week to discuss where we’re going, new directions we need to take, inventory, tastings, events, etc.,” said Walsh, who also handles the store’s computers, operations and scheduling.

These talks have covered topics like what kinds of classes Botanica should host. The group has tossed around ideas such as canning and food preservation, herb gardening and watercolor painting. Such classes are a natural complement to the Farm’s existing schedule of events: a weekly farmer’s market, farming techniques and healing arts classes.

“Just this past weekend we started a six-week yoga series called Yoga in the Grove,” Walsh said.

Yoga participants stretch beneath the canopy of pecan trees once a week on Saturdays through early April.  Prices are $60 for the six-week session or $15 per class.

Botanica features a number of Arizona-made items you won’t necessarily find anywhere else in the Valley.  But equally compelling, is the authentic ambience of Botanica, set against the backdrop of the South Mountain preserve, tucked among the pecan trees and gardens of the Farm at South Mountain – a welcome and inviting oasis in the desert.

“Pat (Christofolo, the Farm’s owner) has often said that people say the Farm reminds them of home: No matter where home might be,” said Walsh.

Botanica is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30am until 3pm September through May.  For more information, visit online at www.thefarmatsouthmountain.com.

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