The power of romantic love as a motivating force behind new business is a real thing, but rarely has it been on more beautiful display as it currently is on 44th and Nicollet this fine spring. The former home to 44th Street Nursery is where Nan and Steele Arundel have set up shop for their 10-year-old design landscape business Landscape Love, whose slogan goes, “Mindful landscapes for modern families.”
“It started on a bit of a lark,” said Nan, 35, sitting with Steele outside the couple’s new digs Monday afternoon. “I quit my desk job, and Steele got inspired by my newfound freedom and quit his job.”
“We were in love, starry-eyed, and I just wanted to follow her wherever she was going,” said Steele, 34. “This was in April when all this happened, so springtimes have been big times of change for us throughout our history, and every year we’ve grown. It’s grown from me and Nan working out of the back of a Volkswagen station wagon to a pick-up truck to now we have six trucks running around and machines and crews. It’s been 100 percent word of mouth.”
The growth of Landscape Love mirrors the growth of the couple’s marriage, which thus far has produced a toddler son, Junah, and a business that allows them to travel in the winter and, until now, was run exclusively out of their Regina neighborhood backyard shed. But by this time next year, Landscape Love will be a funky fixture and welcome addition to a booming neighborhood that already includes the Driftwood Char Bar, Roadrunner Records, and Bull Run Coffee.
“Nature is perfect,” said Nan, a yoga instructor and co-founder of Gorilla Yogis. “It is so inherently beautiful, and Mother Nature does everything right: the trees, the plants, the bulbs, and I feel like part of our work when we’re actually physically doing gardens is, ‘What can we do to most honor what’s already perfect and right?’ Another ethos is just that everyone who has ever worked for us becomes part of our family. So the ‘Love’ in Landscape Love is true. It’s rooted in Steele and I, who are in love, and we have been for 10 years.”
Nan and Steele both grew up in South Minneapolis, where the abundance of lakes, creeks, flora and forest made a lasting impact. That experience, along with summers spent at their families’ respective cabins on the North Shore and Canada, proved inspirational to their professional dreams.
“I grew up playing down at the [Minnehaha] Creek, so all summer we would just be out in the forest down by the creek, building forts and being outside. That’s what we did, you know?” said Steele, a gifted songwriter who recently released his debut CD “Cloudhouse,” and who performs in the Hammsmen with his father and fellow gifted singer/songwriter/restaurateur Jeff Arundel. “So you’re right in the middle of the city, right in the middle of South Minneapolis, and you’re in nature. That’s one of the coolest things about this city.
“Just being outside in Minnesota is kind of the ultimate. So we were like, ‘Man, if we can do this… If we can make this work, and we can be together, this would be really special.’ And I think that’s been the undercurrent running through it: This could be awesome, so let’s make it awesome.”
For now, the lovers’ vision is just coming into focus. But if hanging out with them for even just an hour is any indication, good energy and good times via Mother Earth are on the way …
Nan: “This corner needs life again. We want to feel out what this lot is going to be, and what the community wants it to be. Should it be a little ice cream shop, or a garden, what should happen on this corner? Should the Farmer’s Market move over here?”
Steele: “From our travels, we’ve just seen a lot of weird awesome places that don’t fit. You go to Portland, or Austin, or Bangkok, and there’s weird collections of funky stuff, like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome: there’s garden stuff for sale here, and there’s also like some sort of party scene over here.’ I think this corner is a big canvas for us to do some really cool stuff with.”
Nan: “There’s a palpable feeling around here about the springtime. Like this past weekend when it was nice, everyone was out and everyone was so excited. And what’s fun with our work, we feel like we get to help people with that feeling, like ‘What else can we do?’ We can eat this season up. We can feed ‘em.”
Steele: “To go back to the nature metaphor, these seeds were in us somehow, and as the conditions have presented themselves, of time and sticking with it and response from the community, we’re blooming right now and this corner is sort of our blossom that we’re working on.”
Nan: “Love is at the center of it. Everyone who works for us, we want them to be up to what’s good for their hearts, too. And hopefully the landscapes are good for people’s hearts, too. That’s totally what we’ve felt this spring, and you can feel the ripples. If you start with something good, it does ripple out from there.”
Steele: “I’ve always loved what [writer and mystic] Carlos Castaneda said: ‘All paths lead nowhere, so choose one with heart.’ Meaning, a million paths open up to you, and a million options are open to you, and you know when it’s a path with heart and you know when you’re on a path that doesn’t have heart, and you don’t have to stay on it. This is our path with heart.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at [email protected]