A pot to plant in_ north naples garden shop celebrating its 10th anniversary

Katie Hart, of The Planted Pot, arrives at a client’s home on her electric bicycle, which she points out has the same rights as pedestrians or traditional bicycles, on Oct. 28, 2015. The bike runs on electricity and can only go as fast as 20 mph. (Carolina Hidalgo/Staff)

Getting around town (and the country) in unusual ways is what works for the owner and an employee of The Planted Pot in North Naples.

After opening in October 2005 on Old 41 Road, the 1,700-square-foot garden shop, nursery and design studio celebrates its 10th anniversary in operation this year.

How owner Andi Sipe, a Texas native, arrived in Southwest Florida 35 years ago makes for an interesting story in its own right.

“I’m from Houston, where I owned a cleaning business,” said the avid sailor, whose husband works in the marine industry. “My husband and I were sailing to the Keys for Fantasy Fest on a 22-foot sailboat before we moved on to the Bahamas.”

Spending some time on the west coast of Florida along the way and becoming familiar with the area in the process, Sipe said she and her husband eventually made it to the Keys. But upon arrival, they decided to scrap their plans for the Bahamas and buy a larger boat instead.

A boat they lived on for eight years.

“We ended up staying in Florida, and eventually relocated to Fort Myers,” said Sipe, no relation to the former Cleveland Browns quarterback, who led ‘The Kardiac Kids’ to the AFC Championship game in 1980, the same year Andi Sipe and her husband relocated to Florida.

Although Sipe started her business with a strict focus on container gardening, she said the economic downturn forced her to expand her offerings or else watch her venture wither and die like a neglected plant.

“We started out as a container gardening design studio, and that went well for the first few years, but then the economy tanked,” she said. “At that point, we knew we needed to reinvent ourselves.”

Sipe said that reinvention included the introduction of specialized landscape work and summer-maintenance programs for snowbird clients.

“There’s a rather large umbrella to what we do now,” said the former 16-year employee of Beautiful Plants of Naples, whose business sells a large selection of pottery, tropical and flowering plants and gardening gift items. “Everybody who works here has a very artistic eye, and they’re all quite talented.”

One of those talented workers comes in the form of Catie Heart, who utilizes an electric bicycle to make her landscaping rounds in North Naples.

“The top riding speed is 20 mph,” said the Illinois native who moved to Southwest Florida 12 years ago. “It looks a little silly with a watering can strapped to it, but I don’t need to pay for gas and parking is never a problem. It’s a great, green way to travel.”

Heart, whose grandparents owned a condo in Naples when she was a child, said she wouldn’t trade her occupation for any other.

“I love my job,” she said. “I’m an outdoorsy person, so this is the perfect job for me. I love bee-bopping around to different houses on my electric bike, and it’s just very satisfying to take care of all the different plants on a weekly basis. Andi is a fantastic boss, and business is good all year round.”

Clients Elaine Perna and Susan Pike, who both live in Mediterra, said they couldn’t be more pleased with the service they receive from The Planted Pot.

“Andi helps choose me choose the right plants for the right locations,” said Perna, a client for the past two years. “I learned about her from some of my friends, who have been using her for longer than I have. And now I tell my other friends about her.

Pike, who splits her time between Cincinnati and Naples, said Sipe’s summer-maintenance services provide a perfect fit for her snowbird lifestyle.

“Andi’s services are invaluable,” she said. “We’re not here for five months of the year, so she takes care of my plants and fish pond when we’re gone. She just keeps everything taken care of, and if there are any problems she notifies me right away.”

Sipe said endorsements such as those make her job a real pleasure.

“Eighty-five percent of our clients are repeat business, and seeing the customers come back year after year is very satisfying to me,” she said.

The Planted Pot is open 9 a. m. to 4 p. m. Tuesday through Friday. It is open Mondays by appointment and closed Sundays.

For more information, call 239-514-7633 or follow the store on Facebook.