Aurora Botanicals grows fun ideas, plans spring opening in downtown Aurora

Aurora Botanicals and two additional gift shops are coming to Broadway in downtown Aurora in Spring 2018.

Kristin Ludwig currently runs Aurora Botanicals from home, but she will soon be bringing the business to downtown Aurora. Ludwig plans to move her indoor garden, specializing in manageable decorative plants, edible and medicinal herbal extracts, tea enhancers and organic honey to 13 S. Broadway by next spring.

Ludwig, a biologist, plant biochemist and single mother, moved to Aurora’s West Side historic district years ago and “felt at home in a town for the first time,” she said. Before recently founding Aurora Botanicals, Ludwig started out her career in product development in plants, going around the globe finding and researching new plants for one of the largest horticultural companies in the world, Ball Horticultural Co. located in West Chicago. Ludwig then moved into the industry of cancer and medical diagnostics, taught horticulture classes at various colleges, moved from Aurora to Grayslake and back to Aurora again where she settled into the ventures of corporate development, launching businesses for clients and “helping to supply everything a business needs.”

Moving back to Aurora only within the last year, Ludwig took notice of the great beautification of the city, all the newly planted flowers in pots and storefront gardens. Having seen this resurgence first-hand, she decided, “I’m in,” she said.

Ludwig wants to target both decorators and seasoned gardeners, but also appeal to people who might not think they could have success with plants. Ludwig’s plants, though oftentimes exotic, require low maintenance. Her garden offers a multitude of soilless plants and plenty of bromeliads, or plants with no roots. And so, she added, her plants and plant-made artwork are perfect for apartments and urban settings.

Ludwig will carry a storybook theme throughout the building with Aurora Botanicals being an Alice in Wonderland themed garden shop. Eventually, Ludwig hopes to have a trio of shops in the location: Aurora Sweets, a Willy Wonka themed candy shop, and Aurora Gourmet, a gourmet foods store in the theme of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Ludwig said that Aurora Botanicals as an Alice in Wonderland themed garden shop is going to be a mix of the Tim Burton style “weird and wonderful,” while also sustaining vibes of a “Disney Classic.” Ludwig is working with her father, son, and brother to build sets and props.

“I want to focus a lot on the design of the store and the experience it provides in addition to the products being sold,” she said.

To try and provide guests with a memorable experience, Ludwig’s plans include a space to hold “mad tea parties” in the center of the shop so kids can sit or take pictures. She also plans on holding public workshops for making terrariums or planters, with the experience centered on promoting creativity and sharing fun facts about plants.  

The other two storefronts will be located on the Broadway side of the building. The Willy Wonka themed candy store is aimed at encapsulating all things funky, modern, cool, and delicious. With props and decorations built to mirror both the new Johnny Depp and old Gene Wilder versions of the film, this candy store is to be a blend of the two, with Ludwig citing how she loves the films’ “amazing soundtracks, colors, and craziness.” Aside from the futuristic and zany, Ludwig also plans to sell multicultural candy in the shop, aiming to represent, and explore the different cultures that make Aurora so diverse and wonderful.

The Narnia themed gourmet foods store plans to sell everything from simple, packaged foods, things to make dips, bread mixes, cookie and cake mixes, food for parties, appetizers and gift baskets, to fresh baked goods from local partner bakeries, prepackaged, homemade tea and organic herbal enhancers dried naturally and healthily in a way that retains their color and high potency, flavor, and long shelf-life. These enhancers, Ludwig explained, can go into teas or pastas, be put in humidifiers to improve the air and help you breathe as a sleep enhancer, and are all made for their health benefits, which, depending on the type, include boosting energy, reducing anxiety, finding a better night’s sleep and easing congestion, among others. They are sold in teabag packages and can be easily discarded. They can be added to boiling water to flavor soups or pasta, which allows for infusion of herbal flavors without having the little flakes of herbs mix with the food, which some people (and most children) don’t like. The store also plans to sell bottles of their all natural honey, which will come in varied flavors such as papaya honey, mango honey, coco nut honey, Mexican chocolate honey, as well more standard flavors like pineapple, lemon and lime.

“When you come into the store,” she explained, it will be “dusty, (with) wood floors, bare walls, and then a big wardrobe… You have to step through and on the other side it is perpetual winter,” and then you know you’ve entered Narnia.

Ludwig noted how her storybook themed stores were all “a little bit weird, kooky, edgy” and that she thinks that they’ll “fit right in with the culture of Aurora,” which she says in itself is little bit different, a little bit edgy, and fun.

So what spurred Ludwig’s ambition to grow? She says it was the combined warm-welcome and helpfulness of both the downtown’s local business owners and the city of Aurora who, she said, “makes it friendly for female business owners in that they set you up with the Women’s Small Business Association,” thus helping future owners with their business plans, products and needs. Ludwig further mentioned her appreciation for the help she’s been receiving from local businesses as she undertakes this new venture, pointing out how businesses seem to work together more as partners than as rivals and competitors, here in downtown.

An active participant in community festivals and First Fridays events, Ludwig acted as the head of the “Herbology Department” for the Harry Potter fest over the summer. She currently has plant products for sale at the River’s Edge Cafe, 14 W. Downer Pl.

“Aurora is a gardening community,” Ludwig said. So one of her main goals with Aurora Botanicals is to make having plants “affordable, accessible, easy,” and, most importantly, fun.

For more about Aurora Botanicals and their products, as well as updates on the progress of the new storefronts, visit www.auroraplants.com or their Facebook page at facebook.com/auroraplants.

Aurora University interns Brendon Kolodziej and Victoria Alexander interviewed Kristin Ludwig for this story.