Walking into (drips) botanical elements is like walking through an enchanted forest. From floor to ceiling, the store is covered with hefty leaves, creeping vines and prickly cactus hairs, broken up by rocks and crystals sprinkled between the plants. Under beaming natural light, the scent of flowers and local handmade candles consume the air as customers approach the back where a man with shoulder length blonde hair and full sleeves of tattoos stands over a terrarium, looking out at his sea of green and waiting to greet whoever walks through his door.
From a coffee shop, to a venue, to a plant shop, 52 year old Tres Johnson, owner of (drips) botanical elements, has not only switched his store merchandise, but also his location, surviving everything from multiple floods to a pandemic. But through it all Johnson has found a way to keep going that’s rooted in the oasis of greenery he surrounds himself with on a daily basis.
“I’ve had bad days and there’s been bad business days, but I just have to continue to work and being surrounded by plants, I mean, it’s hard to not be happy here,” Johnson said.
Before (drips) botanical elements, Johnson, an Omaha native, managed the former Homer’s Music store on 132nd and Center Street and another Homer’s Music Store in Lincoln, from 2007 to 2009, while also selling his original paintings on the side. In 2013 Johnson took a trip to San Francisco, where he wandered into a pour-over coffee shop. Johnson came back to Omaha inspired to open his own, starting the business with the money he made selling paintings. On July 1, 2013, Drips coffee shop officially opened in Council Bluffs.
The business thrived and five years later Johnson expanded to a building in North Omaha that also had space to hold shows with DJ’s and small indie bands. In March 2020 COVID-19 forced Johnson to shut down before he ultimately lost the space in a flood around Christmas that same year. But having time off made Johnson rethink the concept of Drips and what he wanted it to be in the future.
So Johnson went where he always does when facing a tough decision: he sat among the trees behind his house looking for answers.
“I was sitting in my forest as it was coming alive in the spring, and [I] decided that I really didn’t want to go back to being a coffee shop,” Johnson said.
To get by during the hard COVID times, Johnson started making and selling small terrariums and packaged coffee grounds out of the trunk of his car. Johnson spent quarantine days turning glass bottles into terrariums and selling them over Facebook.
After months of lugging mini ecosystems and coffee in his girlfriend’s car. A friend at O’leaver’s Pub on Saddle Creek offered Johnson a space behind the bar. In September 2020, Drips returned not as a coffee shop but now a plant store, although it didn’t last long. In the summer of 2021, another flood ripped through the area and destroyed his store.
“When I got there all of the shelves were knocked onto the floor, anything that was touching the floor was knocked over and there were just plants everywhere,” Johnson said. “There was two feet of water inside the shop and then there was three feet of water outside the shop all the way around the store.”
Johnson salvaged every plant he could, selling them outside the front of his store while still cleaning the mess the flood left behind. But still, he knew it wasn’t the end of his business.
After a couple months, Johnson moved up Saddle Creek a block to 1110 South Saddle Creek Road. Once again, in Oct. 2021, (drips) was open for business.
Johnson said one positive thing that came from COVID was the increased interest in owning house plants. With more time spent indoors, people became more curious than ever about how to bring some greenery into their living space. He’s started to see more and more customers since he’s been open.
“I feel like we get new customers every day and we get a lot of repeat customers,” Johnson said. “We have regulars that come in every single week, some a couple of times a week.”
And despite all the setbacks and business reinventions over the years, Johnson is more optimistic for the future than ever. He has big plans for his shop, like possibly investing in a food truck that would park outside of the store and have the pour-over coffee he once sold. But like the twisting vines and stately leaves filling his store, Johnson ultimately wants to let necessity decide the direction (drips) grows. Whether that’s something he can predict now, or an opportunity that has yet to come along, he’s ready and open to whatever life’s next challenge is.
“I just want to keep growing,” Johnson said. “Eventually, I hope that we have our own space that we can build what we want and have everything we want there in one space.”
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