With a growing need for green spaces in urban areas, one Bronzeville native is bringing walls to life.
Mac Gordon, co-founder and executive director of Grow Fancy, started the California-based company last year. It creates customized vertical gardens, also known as “living walls,” from which vegetation grows either indoors or outside.
Gordon, who graduated in 2013 with a law degree from Purdue University, said his green thumb didn’t emerge until a few years ago. With a minor in forensics and entomology, he took horticulture and botany classes, which sparked an interest in the environment.
“I really didn’t develop a green thumb until the last couple years or so,” Gordon said. “It’s a learning process, but that’s what life is about.”
Rather than go the traditional route of getting a job after college, Gordon chose to walk a different path and start Grow Fancy with his three Purdue classmates.
“I’ve put the legal thing on hold for a little bit,” he said. “I’ve still got my degree. It’s not like I’m going to lose that…It’s more so just following my heart on this.”
What began as a casual discussion between his three friends about the renewable energy sources turned into the business know plantscaping and living wall, Gordon said. With each client, the team works to create a living wall with customized according to size, plant selection and location within or outside the structure.
Though it’s primary business is in California, one of its latest projects is for the company is for the Raffaello Hotel in downtown Chicago. The company will also be working with State Representative Ken Dunkin (Illinois 5th district) to setting up living walls not just for businesses, but for communities as well, Gordon added.
“A lot of companies use it as an artistic type of feel, but what we wanted to do was … not make it seem like it was an amenity that only companies have access to but everybody can bring it indoors,” Gordon said.
Getting the company started in California was easy due to multiple cities having issues with smog, but the company is still developing other projects in Chicago in hopes that it’ll catch on in other cities, Gordon said.
“Chicago’s one of those cities [that is] always at the forefront of development,” Gordon said. “Once people start seeing it they won’t see it as a Midwest thing or a West Coast thing, this is something that can be done everywhere.”
One of the hurdles to implementing living walls is cost. The cost for a small wall could be a few hundred dollars, but it could be used to grow vegetables at home, ultimately saving costs in the long run, Gordon said.
For lower income communities, the living walls would be more of a teaching tool to learn how to develop a garden and maintain plants, Gordon said.
Ultimately the goal for Grow Fancy is to give sustainable living walls to clients and help bring a breath of fresh air for urban communities. Although Grow Fancy is a business, Gordon sees it as more of a team effort aiming for a better environment for all.
“It’s not solely on living walls that we’re focusing on, but more so having more fruits and vegetables and clean air available,” Gordon said. “It has to get done sooner or later. And if it doesn’t the lifespan is going to be decr