Nursery With Purpose
Succulent garden helps those with special needs
By Zack Sherzad
Part of the magic of The Prickly Pear is finding this hidden treasure as you stroll down U Street in Southside Park. Follow a path into the backyard of a historic two-story home, weaving through arches of wisteria and fairy lights.
The manicured succulent garden opens up like a scene from a semi-arid fairy tale. Amethyst geodes and signs pointing toward Narnia, Westeros and Hogwarts keep company with a pair of pygmy goats nibbling mischievously on the leaves of an overhanging pineapple-guava. Underneath a broad awning of corrugated plastic, a who’s who of popular succulents dominates the space.
The Prickly Pear owner Mona Bahraini was working as a dental hygienist in 2017. A self-described succulent nerd, she spent her free time driving for hours to buy plants out of people’s backyards. “My husband and I were in the cutest little 500-square-foot apartment in Midtown, and I had 300—literally over 300—succulents and cactuses in that tiny apartment,” she says. “I was such a hardcore collector because they’re the most beautiful plants. They’re sustainable, they’re healing, they’re prehistoric.”
Later that year, Bahraini was involved in an accident that left her on disability. She was told to take a year off for surgery and recovery. “I decided to build a do-it-yourself little tiny greenhouse.” She purchased a carport from Home Depot, called it her shop and opened it to the public on Sundays.
Bahraini considered holding events similar to paint-and-sips. But instead of painting, guests would pot their own succulents to take home. “Personally, I don’t like paint-and-sips,” she says. “I’m not a good painter. It’s hard! But pot-and-sip? It’s not hard to put a plant in a pot!”
She started booking birthdays, bachelorette parties and other events. The business grew quickly. Still, she felt it was not quite where she wanted it to be. “My goal was eventually to have a space where I could do therapeutic activities for adults with disabilities.”
In 2018, the woman who owned The Prickly Pear’s current U Street residence was looking to sell. “She’d lived here for 25 years, loved the property, and wanted to sell it with purpose, with intention,” Bahraini says. “She sent a friend to my Sunday public hours to vet me. She watched me interact with my customers, and then came up to me and said, ‘My friend wants you to buy her house.’”
Bahraini and her husband moved into the century-plus-old home. The property includes a barn that was used as a wood shop. In keeping with her policy of sustainability and intentionality, the space is decorated with interesting tools and reclaimed materials found during the remodel. The tables in the main event room are made from the house’s original doors and beautifully mottled with the character of age.
Keeping with her goal of giving back to the community, Bahraini created a community garden geared toward adults with disabilities. Pre-COVID, “every two weeks they would come plant some vegetables and herbs, and every few months we would sell the produce on Sunday public hours,” she says. “With COVID, we had to stop. But when it picks back up, we’re going to do that same thing again.”
Bahraini also is offering those pot-and-sip events now where guests drink locally sourced wine as they pot a succulent and enjoy either small bites, juice tasting or a full dining experience.
Everything in The Prickly Pear speaks to Bahraini’s passion for intentional, sustainable and local living. She has clay succulent pots made by Sacramento artists, local wine and kombucha on tap in the event room, all-natural skin-care products, and soon (she hopes!) a line of biodegradable bamboo clothing.
“From the very beginning I’ve called it ‘A Nursery With Purpose.’ I want to sell plants, but relate it back to where they come from. The Earth provides so much beauty for us. It’s therapeutic, it’s helpful for all people,” Bahraini says.
“My ultimate goal is to create a culture through Prickly Pear that is embraced nationwide. I want to be an example of what a small business can do if you focus on your talents and pursue them in the right way. It will get you where you want to be, and who you should be helping.”
The Prickly Pear is located at 816 U St. and open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information or to shop online, visit thepricklypear.com.
Zack Sherzad can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.