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a person cutting a plant

The Artful Evolution of Yura Vine Brothers

They’ve come a long way from volunteering at the community garden. From small market roots to a thriving plant haven, explore their journey of growth, resilience, and biophilic artistry.

By Lorraine Monteagut
Photos by Adrian O’Farrill

In Quechua, the language of their native Peru, the word “yura” literally means plant, but to Aaron and Samuel Rodas, it represents strong roots and a relentless survival instinct. Since launching Yura Vine Brothers a few years ago the Rodas brothers have adapted from a small outdoor market operation into a full-service plant shop that spreads the beauty and resilience of plants to their local communities.

It was younger brother Sam’s idea to go into the plant business, after years of being a horticultural hobbyist. He’d been volunteering at the Tampa Heights Community Garden growing herbs and vegetables, and from there he discovered house plants. He started selling his own clippings, and at one point, had more than 100 plants in his studio apartment. As his knowledge grew, he realized the opportunities house plants could offer and decided to quit his steady job as an analyst at a Fortune 500 company.

a close-up of a forest

His older brother, Aaron, was the voice of reason; he advised Sam to start small and joined him in creating a scalable business model. They complemented each other’s talents. “Sam handles logistics, and I’m the people person,” says Aaron. “We’re a great team.”

Just like that, Yura Vine was born in early 2020. The brothers started the year strong, working all the farmer’s markets in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Ybor City, Seminole Heights, Westchase, and even as far as Safety Harbor. Their Instagram following steadily grew. And then Covid happened. The brothers took a few months off to assess the landscape.

“When we realized Covid wasn’t going away, we built a greenhouse in my yard,” Aaron says. Barely breaking stride, they started offering contactless delivery, dropping plants off to people who suddenly found themselves working from home. The plant business boomed during lockdown as people sought to make their places into green sanctuaries.

“That’s when things exploded,” Aaron says.

a building with glass doors and a sign
a close up of a potted plant
a wall with plants and plants on it

The brothers’ rising star attracted investors. Grow Financial approached them through their “Grow On Us” program, which aimed to help small businesses during the pandemic while building community. They bought $10,000 worth of plants for Yura Vine to give away. In two hours, Yura Vine donated 1,000 plants to eager residents, attracting more publicity. The momentum led them to opening a brick and mortar, and after a series of starts and stops in different spots, they settled in Water Street Tampa in October 2022.

Since they opened the new place, Yura Vine has expanded from house plants into living walls and “biophilic art.” The art gives the shop a whimsical feel as you walk among the plants, finding two centerpieces of preserved moss and large art pieces—detailed landscapes of forests and swamps, made of real natural materials like mushrooms and bark. The star of the show is the huge installation behind the counter, a truly striking aerial view of the Everglades.

a wall with plants on it
a room with plants on shelves

At first impression, you might guess Sam is the creator of these pieces, with his love of nature and attention to all the little details of plant care. But while Aaron is usually the business-minded one of the two, with a long history in sales and customer service, he is also the force behind the art that sets Yura Vine apart from other plant businesses.

“Biophilic design is the process of transforming natural components into art,” Aaron says. This new craft came as a surprise to even him. He was inspired by an installation of preserved moss that he saw during a trip to New Orleans with his nine-year-old son. They came upon a giant wall of moss art at the mall, and Aaron fell in love. “Dad, you should do something like that,” his son told him, seeing how his father’s eyes lit up.

Aaron now creates the biophilic art pieces out of his own studio, which is located near the shop. There, he is inspired by real landscapes and loses himself for hours in abstract forms. He has built a strong local client base for his pieces, and he currently has 70 displays in places around town, including other businesses in Water Street Tampa. He loves creating art based on his clients’ personal stories and where they are from. “I’m always trying to do things that relate to them somehow,” he says.

He is particularly proud of a piece he recently created for Blind Tiger, a local coffee shop. The owner is from Panama and loves the jungle. Unfortunately, illegal poaching and deforestation threatens the natural landscapes there; Aaron imagined bleeding waters as he worked. So, he incorporated a river through the piece, dyed in Blind Tiger’s signature orange.

a wall with plants on it
a person walking through a window
two men standing in front of plants

As the brothers celebrate their one-year anniversary in Water Street, they feel like they’ve lived up to the name Yura Vine. Over the last year, they’ve strengthened their brand and evolved into a full-service shop. They now ship plants out of state, offer concierge service to local apartments, design and install zeroscape yards, and hold events and workshops. They’ve come a long way from volunteering at community gardens and working small markets, but they haven’t forgotten their roots, often offering free workshops for kids at local county schools.

“We are always looking for ways to grow,” Aaron says. “But for now, we are just really enjoying this moment.”