Howbert & Mays
Dublin Store 16 Clare Street, Dublin , IE
Monkstown Store 27 Monkstown Crescent, Monkstown, Co. Dublin, IE
- Indoor and outdoor plants, shrubs, trees, and climbers.
- Gardening tools and supplies, outdoor furniture and accessories.
- Goods for the home including art, rugs, pillows, ceramics, and books.
16 Clare Street
27 Monkstown Crescent
WHAT WE LOVE
With a keen eye for a fixer-upper, Detroit native Anthea Howbert saw the potential of a dilapidated former tool-for-hire shop in Monkstown. In 2012 together with her husband, Tig Mays, the landscape designers and gardeners reimagined the space into a wonderful indoor-outdoor garden shop. The addition of their Clare Street shop in the former Greene’s bookshop has allowed them to expand their vision into art and homewares.
In 2021 the couple opened a second store in the former historic Greene’s bookshop with its decorative ironwork, glass canopy and green shopfront. Established in 1843 just off Dublin’s Merrion Square, Greene’s bookshop is a Dublin landmark.
Spread over two floors plants and home goods have replaced the shelves of books. Howbert & Mays has done incredible justice to this wonderful space. Green and flowering plants crowd the shopfront, under the glass canopy, creating a wonderful palette of every shade of green. Stepping inside customers are greeted by a space filled with all manner of garden supplies. Then to the rear is a dark green room filled with orchids and pots.
On the second floor there are homewares, and of course more plants. There is a lovely selection of rugs, art, furniture and decorative accessories enhanced by the stunning architectural details.
"We evolved from estate gardeners to landscaper gardeners to garden designers to shopkeepers. In fact, we still do a bit of everything, as well as being delivery drivers, Christmas tree sellers and street sweepers."
Howbert & Mays garden center in Monkstown, was founded in 2012 by horticulturists Anthea Howbert and Tig Mays, who already had an established garden design business. The husband and wife team recognized the potential in a tool hire center, tearing down walls and converting the interior and exterior spaces into a shop for indoor and outdoor plants, tools, and furniture. The majority of plants are sourced from nurseries around Ireland. Irish-grown plants thrive in the climate, have travelled less, and are available for next day delivery. Indoor plants come from Holland, and Anthea and Tig enjoy traveling to overseas trade fairs sourcing interior items from Germany, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Portugal, and Switzerland. Constantly adding shelves to display more product, they say Howbert & Mays has transformed from an airy gallery-like space when they first opened to what feels more like an Aladdin’s cave today.
Do you have a mentor? Our business partner Richard has instructed us in the ways of business: not always an easy task for him. One or two former design clients – now friends – have been advising and supporting us weekly since before we opened. Some of our suppliers, who have been in the business of growing and selling plants for years, have been very generous with advice. Nobody knows more about what grows well in Ireland than the behind-the-scenes specialist growers.
What inspired you to become shopkeepers? The empty, semi-derelict shop had our name all over it: but only we could see that. We were also running our online shop from our kitchen table and our house and garden was filling up with stock. We needed a shop.
Before you were shopkeepers? We evolved from estate gardeners to landscaper gardeners to garden designers to shopkeepers. In fact, we still do a bit of everything, as well as being delivery drivers, Christmas tree sellers and street sweepers.
Did you follow any area of study or apprenticeship? We both have degrees in totally unrelated fields. In both cases, we went on to study horticulture: Anthea at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, where she graduated from the ‘Professional Gardener’ program. Tig studied at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, and spent a year at Longwood, where ‘Howbert & Mays’ met.
What was your journey to become shopkeepers? When planting gardens of our own design, a passer-by or neighbor would often try to buy some of the plants we were installing. We quite liked this, and enjoyed the sale without the effort of design. So we put a few hundred of our favorite plants and tools onto a website and started selling things online. To our delight, this took off, and we found we were selling all sorts of things to people we had never met, all across Ireland. Our website (then called dyg.ie, standing for Delivering Your Garden) got too big for our kitchen table and ended up needing a space of its own: thus our shop in Monkstown.
Who inspires you? During years of delivering plants and meeting non-professional gardeners, we came across so many people who gardened for the joy of it, often with brilliant results. There are hundreds of people, some of whom are our customers, whom we learn from every day. Gardening is an activity that thrives on tips, conversations about plants, exchanges of information: so over the last few years we have been inspired and educated by our customers.
What do you love about having a shop? The simple and time-honored exchange of goods for payment. Nobody has to buy anything, but we try to make it a fair exchange that both parties are happy with. We also enjoy the creative effort that goes into making people’s shopping experience both pleasant and inspiring.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
"We hope retail survives the e-commerce revolution, and think it will. Shopping has turned from necessity to luxury, from task-to-be endured to leisure activity. Buying plants in a shop offers a feel-good factor that’s hard to reproduce online, despite our best efforts. Spontaneous gifts and impulse buys, as well as the wealth of knowledge that can be imparted in a conversation, make us feel positive for bricks and mortar shops. If we were selling electrical goods or plane tickets, we might feel differently."
Select photos of Howbert & Mays, Clare Street by Simon Watson.