Kriss Pullen is the matriarch of an arty family that has been running a fluid and funky retail business under one name or another in the old motorcycle garage behind the Fleetwood since 2007. First it was Geechi Bleu, owned by Gigi Bennett, Pullen’s daughter, and Bennett’s husband, Maurice Archer. Geechi was an exotic gallery and gift shop open late (sometimes very late, taking on the afterglow of the clubs on First Street). Then it became Gro Blue, owned by James Humphrey, Pullen’s son, and specializing in hydroponic gardening supplies. Now Gro Blue has moved a block west to the old Stollhaus furniture store (which some will remember from the 1970s as a health food store called Applerose, and more will place as the backdrop of the flaming car crash in the 2009 Michael Cera movie Youth in Revolt). Pullen has now become Gro Blue’s main proprietor. Bennett and Humphrey are still involved, she says, but Bennett is pursuing an artistic career and Humphrey is “in the nonprofit business.”
Most hydroponic gardening stores meet the marijuana question (at least when pitched by reporters) with a wide-eyed “Who, me?” innocence, but Pullen answers it head-on, with a level gaze. “I’m a patient and a caregiver and have been since the law went into effect,” she says. “I do talk to patients if they have cards.” (Medical marijuana patient cards are issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health.)
That being said, it turns out a lot of people who come into Gro Blue really are interested in the old-fashioned kind of hydroponic gardening: “Bonsai, roses, orchids. We work with the [Ann Arbor] Bonsai Society,” says Steve (“just Steve”; he says he’s an unofficial employee “kind of helping out, carrying boxes”). As Steve explains, “Temperature regulation and humidity are pretty big things with indoor gardens because outside you have natural circulation, but inside it’s really touchy. If you have too much humidity, you might start getting some bugs or fungus,” which is why lights and fans make up such a large part of the hydroponic inventory.
As for the old store, it’s become Humphrey’s nonprofit business–the HEMMP (Health and Education of Medical Marijuana Patients) Center. Not fully up and running yet, the enterprise, according to Pullen, has the mission of trying to “make more information available to the community and prospective patients, serving as a kind of a resource center, so they can find out what they need to know to get a card and what’s available.” Pullen says the HEMMP Center will also have a small store selling hemp products.
Gro Blue, 300 W. Liberty. 913-2750. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.