Tropical plants, home-made creations and the smell of fresh chips and popcorn filled Robert Plante Greenhouses as part of the Navan nursery’s first Winter Market.

With dozens of vendors stationed around the greenhouses, the one-of-a-kind Ottawa market was a “tropical oasis” and an escape from the cold for hundreds of locals.

The day-long market was a chance for the community to support local businesses, just a month after Christmas and the holiday shopping season.

Robert Plante Greenhouses also hosted two other events in their greenhouses at the end of 2023. Greenhouses Manager Colin Matassa, said the markets were so popular they decided to do another — with a unique spin.  

“The wintertime is a nice time to come to the greenhouses because of the tropical plants. It’s nice to get out of the cold and out of the snow,” said Matassa. “People like to come and feel like they’re down in Florida, even though they’re still in Ottawa.”

Many of the vendors at the Winter Market were also trying to escape the cold and connect with the community.

Sarah Ladhani, owner of the small business Just a Thought, standing with her hand-painted glassware at her vendor at the Rober Plante Greenhouse winter Market.
Sarah Ladhani, owner of Just a Thought, brought her hand-painted glassware to the Robert Plante Greenhouses Winter Market. [Photo © Julia Power].   

Sarah Ladhani is the owner of a small business called Just a Thought. Ladhani sells hand-painted glassware including wall décor, mugs, vases and cups that are all dishwasher safe. She said she does not normally set up shop at markets in January, but decided it would be nice to get out of the house and meet people this year.

“With all the plants, it feels very tropical,” she said. “I’ve completely forgot that it’s snowing outside and gross and slushy. It’s just so happy in here, I love it and the atmosphere is awesome.”

January is a slower month for retail and post-holiday families. For that reason, Matassa said Robert Plante Greenhouses thought it would be the perfect time to host a market.

Large greenhouse full of dozens of vendors and shoppers.
Customers browse the offerings of the many different local vendors. [Photo © Julia Power].  

Christa Ramsay and her daughter are frequent shoppers at the greenhouses. Ramsay said she loved the atmosphere. She also makes an effort to support small businesses, so she and her daughter felt they had to check the market out.  

“We call this place therapy,” said Ramsay. “It is a bit of an oasis, summer or winter.”

Ramsay said she had never seen the greenhouses so busy, especially this time of year.

It’s nice to get out of the cold and out of the snow. People like to come and feel like they’re down in Florida, even though they’re still in Ottawa.”

Colin Matassa, store manager, Robert Plante Greenhouses

“They should have vendor markets more often, because it’s great merging a well-established business with local vendors that are trying to get established,” Ramsay said.

For vendors who do not have store fronts, the exposure and connecting with people face to face is really important for their business. This is the case for Sara Lauzon, owner of Little Dove Boutique.

Lauzon makes and sells jewelry and accessories in different sizes, colours and styles. While she does have a website, she said selling her stuff in person is so much better for her and her business.

“You get to talk to people and people get to see, feel and look at stuff,” said Lauzon. “So it’s much better because it’s right there and they can take it home right away and they don’t have to arrange for a pickup.”

Matassa said the market was so successful that some of the vendors sold out certain products well before the market was over.

“People kept coming up and asking if we are going to do (the Winter Market) again,” Matassa said. “One lady came up to us and she was saying she doesn’t just see (Robert Plante Greenhouses) as a store anymore, it’s more like a community gathering spot.”

Though the winter market only ran one day, Matassa said Robert Plante Greenhouses hopes to host the Winter Market annually and celebrate local vendors at other markets in the summer or fall.

For now, though, the store will use the extra space to start planting for the nursery’s spring production and vendors will need to find other ways to share their products.