North Oakland’s Moss & Spade plant shop grew from owner’s hobby

Buzzing around like a plant propagator or pollinator at Moss & Spade, Jessica Wicha’s multisensory-pleasing shop on North Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue, one might never guess that the owner was once completely averse to all things leafy and green.

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Growing up in Thailand, Wicha’s parents were medical professionals pushing their one daughter and her younger brother to pursue medical school and assigning household chores.

“At home, I was to care for the plants,” Wicha recalls. “I hated it and told my mother that one day I’d live on my own and never garden again.”

Ironically, she says one of her favorite memories is of the rural area where her grandparents owned and operated a one-acre banana farm. The slim proceeds supported their frugal lives and had been largely applied to funding her mother’s education.

“During summer breaks, I spent time there. In Thailand it is very hot in the morning so we’d go to the farm extremely early. We’d cut piles of banana leaves for their clients who wrapped food cooked in restaurants and then cut bananas to sell also. I loved that.”

Wicha first visited the United States in 2014 during her third year in college. She needed a break from rigorous academia, attended a language school and learned about American culture.

“People here walked like they owned the world,” she says. “It fired my imagination. Being a woman here — I realized you could be a leader, work in the male corporate world, say something and people will actually listen, even if you are younger, a woman, have pride and define yourself in many different ways.”

Beaming that energy forward, Wicha acquired interior and brand designing skills, followed by a return trip stateside to Casper, Wyoming. Wicha says she and her family ran an adequately successful restaurant, but her life was reduced to work and home and nothing more.

“I lived in an apartment in a nursing home because it was close to the restaurant. I had one table and a couch. It snowed. And snowed — it was depressing.”

In 2019, she jumped at an opportunity and moved to nearby Alameda to help relatives at their family-owned Monkey Thai Restaurant and Bar. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and government lockdowns in response halted in-person dining, Wicha decide the time was ripe for a hobby. Online, she saw a fig tree.

“I ordered it, and it made my apartment look great, so I started to read books and watch YouTube videos. I jumped down the rabbit hole and went 100% ordering more plants. I ended up with 10, then 20, then more. I was totally obsessed, but obsession made me calm. To think I could grow these things? It made me forget work, people who were mean and cold, gloomy weather that made me feel blue.”

In the shop, Wicha says she is cheered by greenery. She sees new growth every day and says the sight tells her she’s doing something right and that the shop is important not only to her but to the community.

“Plants give good energy that can lead to a person having a good, productive day. There is the sense of caring for something and during COVID, when people were so isolated and felt lonely or afraid of dying, plants gave them something growing, and they found joy in that.”

Wicha’s enthusiasm for botany and sophisticated but minimalist design fused with her interest in supporting local BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People Of Color) women business owners. Sourcing the pots, tools, dried flowers and other accessory items available at Moss & Spade, Wicha developed a tightly curated list of suppliers and co-designed or independently designed — and creatively named — the shop’s inventive interior and package designs.

Pots from Oakland’s Jen Miyako McGowan are small-batch, with lively stripes and shapes inspired by her Asian American heritage. Dried flower bouquets from Idlewild Floral Company are handmade and seasonal, with changing color schemes ranging from elegant off-whites to soft pastels to bolder expressions of texture and tones such as magenta, burnt umber and more. Among what some consider the most delightful products are gift boxes designed entirely by Wicha such as the “Aloe You Very Much” series for special occasions such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

“I had thought of them for a long time but was too busy until last Christmas. I love giving and receiving gifts, and a box combining our best-selling products was perfect. People come, see it, grab one, go.

“The boxes make everything fun with the names, and then we can modify them for every season by changing the candle or the dried flowers. There’s also ‘I Beg Your Garden,’ with gardening supplies that all come from minority-owned companies and a DIY miniature house kit that’s fun but also beautiful.”

While designing the shop that opened in June 2022, Wicha determined that her priority was to carry all indoor plants; from standard houseplants that start at $5 to rare plants that may cost as much as $500.

“We don’t do outdoor plants. Our prices are generally higher than Home Depot, but we’re a small business, and I don’t want my employees to be unable to make rent.

“We love and care for each plant, wiping each leaf, making sure every plant is healthy before it goes into your home, servicing customers with a chatbot. I encourage people to contact us and answer every email, text, call or question. We want people to succeed with our plants.”

The shop sings — and swings — the same eager, welcoming tune, literally.

“I wanted it to appeal to all the senses and everyone. We’re pet-friendly, the scents are great, there’s water sounds, and we have a piano. I saw it online for free and thought it would be good for displaying plants.”

The piano turned out to work, and the family who donated it gave her cake for picking it up and had it tuned. When customers ask, “Can I play it?” the answer is always “yes” because music adds energy and happiness to shop, Wicha says.

With her imagination still firing on all cylinders, Wicha’s long-term dreams center on acquiring additional space to host terrarium-building workshops or Plant Care 101 classes.

“I want to be a community hub that grew out of a small, local business with plants for everyone,” she says.

For more information, visit or call 510-817-4023.

Lou Fancher is a freelance writer. Reach her at

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