If you step off Sydney Road, Brunswick, and onto Michael Street, you might have noticed the lush, plant-filled front windows of Acapulco Social Club. The plant store is by former high-school economics teacher Tony Weir, whose initial motivation was to offload some of the cacti accumulating on his apartment balcony.
“I had the idea that if I found a space, I could open a plant shop – and [eventually] a bar or a cafe – with friends, and that idea just developed,” he says.
The wine bar hasn’t been ruled out, but for now, it’s clear that Weir’s passion is plants. He got into horticulture while living and teaching in Mexico, and the shop’s name is an homage to the coastal region of Acapulco, where he lived.
“Everyone had plants in their places, or on their balconies, and out on the street,” he says. Acapulco Social Club is open three days a week, from Friday to Sunday. From the outside it looks a bit like a garage sale, with a few tables holding small potted plants, but inside it’s full of life.
One corner is dedicated to vintage crockery and homewares, and another to old gardening books, but the rest of the room is stacked with mostly easy-growing plants, including snow queens with green-and-white leaves, ficus midnights (hardier than the original ficus), fiddle-leaf figs, philodendrons, and small succulents and cacti.
“Going and getting the plants myself is really important. I love visiting the growers,” says Weir. “I grab their best and biggest for the shop. Ordering online can be a bit hit and miss.”
There are terracotta, glazed, ceramic and self-watering pots, and there'll always be a range of small plants around the $12 mark, too.
On the walls are prints of famous paintings, ranging from Van Gogh’s Sunflowers to Australian landscapes by 20th-century Indigenous painter Albert Namatjira.
Weir says the shop is popular with residents in surrounding apartment blocks.
“It’s kind of taken off as a community thing,” Weir says. “Other people in the neighbourhood have started doing community rain gardens [low-maintenance gardens that help filter stormwater] and we’ve got plans to build on that, to green up some of the area.”
Once you get your plant home, Weir has a few tips. “Very few plants sold [in Melbourne] are native – most are from the tropics – and it’s hard to keep them going. The most common thing I tell people is you don’t need to water your indoor plants that much.”
The most important thing when looking after indoor plants, he says, is their location in your home, and the seasonal changes in light. “Be careful about apartments heating up during the day, as so many aren’t properly insulated. Think about what it’s like in there when you’re not in there.”
As for outdoor plants, he says most prefer indirect sunlight, but he’ll happily offer plant-specific tips when you stop in, too. One of which includes limiting the amount you buy – or you might end up with a plant shop of your own.
Acapulco Social Club
1A Michael Street, Brunswick
0405 113 146
Fri to Sun 10am–5pm