Right now, 2423 Langford St. isn’t much more than a gravel lot with some patches of grass. There is a tent in the back corner serving as a greenhouse, a hint of what’s to come. In one of the few patches of shade, the tent has rows of succulents, pots of tiny prickly plants, and a small forest of towering Peruvian apple cacti, with their cut-off limbs drying out on the ground behind the makeshift shelter.
The half-acre lot is the new headquarters for Cactus Queen. Wedding photographer Payge Stevens launched her exotic cactus shop in 2020 after the pandemic halted all events and froze her income stream.
Stevens had fallen in love with rare cacti years ago during a trip to San Miguel de Allende and her new shop catered rare species that aren’t native to Texas. You won’t find prickly pears among Cactus Queen’s wares. Instead, Stevens shops unusual picks like boob, blue myrtle, golden barrels, and rainbow cacti, which are better suited as indoor potted plants than outdoor landscaping in the Dallas climate.
In March 2021, she opened her first storefront inside a loft at Southside on Lamar, but the spot had its difficulties. “It was a wild time getting all the cactus up there,” Stevens says. The shop was up on the third floor. To get enough light for the plants, they were on the far side of the building. “We were literally the farthest from the elevator that we could possibly be,” she said. Anytime a customer bought one of Stevens’ potted cacti, she’d help them carry across the building, down the elevator, and out to their cars. “It was not fun,” she says.
In the new spot, Stevens can just pull her trailer directly into the lot and unload. “It’s amazing.” And although the Trinity Groves location is only a 10-minute drive from Southside on Lamar, it’s far easier for people to get to.
Stevens signed her Trinity Groves lease in late April, and it’s been going well so far. The lot is right across the street from The Langford apartment complex. “We’ve had lots of people come over from there and buy a cactus already,” she says.
Although Cactus Queen is just one tent right now, Stevens wants to cultivate her shop. There’s “lots of room to expand,” she says. First off, she plans to build a checkout shed this summer to get her employees out of the heat. Stevens says she wants to make the spot cute, so customers can have a photo-op with their brand-new cactus.
Later this year, Stevens wants to set up more greenhouse tents on the lot. “We’re going to be more like a typical nursery now,” she says. Besides the plants Stevens finds while out on scouting adventures to the desert, she’s also propagating new cacti from the ones she already has. Those cactus limbs drying out behind the greenhouse tent? Those will eventually be repotted to grow more cacti.
As Cactus Queen establishes its reign on Langford, Stevens is also working to hire more employees to keep the store open longer. Right now, it’s only open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays. But before any new hires can start, Stevens wants to train them properly on the plants so they can help educate customers. “People ask so many questions” about cacti, she says.
Education is key for Stevens, who’s cutting back on her wedding photography business to go all-in on Cactus Queen. She wants the shop to be more than a standard nursery; she plans to teach her customers about the new plants they’re taking home. Although it’s hard, you can, indeed, kill a cactus.
“I don’t want people to just take a cactus home to die,” she says. “I want them to let it be able to live for years and thrive.”
To learn more about Cactus Queen, visit its Instagram page.