LINCOLN PARK/WICKER PARK — A tiny cactus given to the owner of Southport Cleaners in Lincoln Park by a customer 22 years ago has grown to nine feet — and is pressing through the ceiling.
And at Wicker Park Cleaners, the plant-packed window includes a Crown of Thorns that is estimated to be over 60 years old.
Both Wicker Park Cleaners, 1250 N. Damen Ave., and Southport Cleaners at 2823 N. Southport Ave. are co-owned by a woman who calls herself "Lisa Wicker Park" or "Lisa Southport," depending on which location she is working at that day.
"A friend gave it to me 14 years ago when she moved to Florida because she could not take it with her. It was given to her by her mother-in-law," Lisa said of the Crown of Thorns, which has held court in the southeast corner of the shop since it opened in the early aughts.
Lisa said that she has no plants in her home because she and her husband spend 14 hours each day working at their two locations. There are about 16 plants in the window of Wicker Park Dry Cleaners and at least one dozen at Southport Cleaners.
In addition to the fast growing cactus at Southport Cleaners, there are several slower-growing jade plants along the windowsill. Those jade plants all originated from a jade plant that had been discarded in the alley next to Southport Cleaners, Lisa said.
On a recent afternoon between customers, Lisa said that the cactus was three inches tall when it was given to her in 1994 as a present by a customer.
"When the lady gave it to me, I had no plants at the time, She said, 'Here is something for you to enjoy. We just gave it a haircut" so it does not push through the ceiling tile. By haircut, Lisa means a trim.
When asked what the secret to the thriving plant life at both locations is, Lisa said, "It's just a happy environment."
The tall cactus is such an attraction that people strolling by will stop and stare into the window.
The shops are a hit with some Yelp reviewers.
"Can I just talk about how insanely nice these people are? My couch cushions were recently ruined (the horror) and they did an amazing job cleaning them," a Yelp member raved of Wicker Park Cleaners.
And at Southport Cleaners, another Yelp member said that she continues to go there even though her new residence is closer to other dry cleaners, citing Lisa's husband, Kim. "He is a perfectionist and makes sure every item is perfect, even if it means dry cleaning it several times."
Thriving plant life at Wicker Park and Southport Cleaners. [Photos by DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
The jade plants in the windows were rescued and re-potted from a salvaged plant found in alley over 20 years ago, co-owner said.
Wicker Park Cleaners storefront.