Jungle House owners Jhami and Rachel Guffey hope that when customers walk into their new pop-up shop in downtown Lawrence, they experience “over-the-top holiday magic.”
Having previously worked at The Toy Store on Massachusetts Street, Jhami grew to love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The Guffeys have dabbled in both pop-ups and holiday-themed store décor before, but for the first time, they’re combining the two this year.
“I just think the energy around them is really fun,” he said. “It feels very magical to me. It’s something we’ve got to do a little bit at Jungle House, but this is the kind of thing where we can really take it over the top and really have fun with it.”
The new holiday pop-up shop, Jingle House, opened this week at 6 E. Seventh St., the former location of the Raven Book Store. Jingle House will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
On top of the holiday theme, the pop-up is different because it features some gift or décor items that Jungle House hasn’t been able to feature before. It’s also slightly more accessible for those who might be browsing and learning, Rachel said, whereas Jungle House might draw more customers who are seeking out specific plants.
This is Jungle House’s first branch into downtown. The Guffeys are passionate about customers leaving the store with new knowledge about plants, Rachel said, and getting to bring that education downtown is exciting.
“We’ve already gotten people in that have never heard about Jungle House before,” Rachel said. “Being able to invite them over to our store where they can get more of a plant-immersive experience — whereas this is a little bit more of a curated experience — is pretty cool. A big heart and soul and core part of Jungle House is education, and I want to carry that over to this space as well.”
This expansion comes as Jungle House owners ring in their third year across town at the store’s original East Lawrence location, 924 Delaware St. Over that time, Jungle House has gained 23 employees and plenty of community support.
“It’s wild to think of where we’ve been over the last three years,” Jhami said. “Just looking at those three years and thinking about how far we’ve come feels really humbling.”
Jungle House was born out of two passions. For Jhami, it was entrepreneurship, and for Rachel it was plants. They decided to find out if there was a market for plant enthusiasts in Lawrence. After starting an online store in January of 2018 that mostly sold pottery, they tested the waters by selling plants at a pop-up shop at downtown Lawrence’s Wonder Fair that August.
The sale was supposed to last all weekend, Rachel said, but it was cut short by the high demand they experienced almost immediately.
“I had my arms full of plants, and I’m not joking — people were literally running up and taking them out of my arms,” she said. “I knew right away it was going to be successful, but what I didn’t predict was that we’d be totally sold out by the end of the evening.”
Months later, the Guffeys signed a lease and Jungle House moved into its current storefront. Outside of assisting customers, a typical day at Jungle House involves a lot of production and heavy lifting from things like repotting plants, unloading new plants and merchandise, and bagging and mixing soil.
From the business side to the plant side, Jhami said the two of them have learned a lot as the store and its staff have grown. The Jungle House staff has been enthusiastic about being along for the ride, whether that meant quickly jumping into pandemic deliveries or planning the store’s holiday-themed expansion this year.
Building a team has been the best part of operating Jungle House, Jhami said, and they’ve worked hard to give their staff a rewarding work experience.
“I really love being able to help develop them and help them develop us,” Jhami said. “Some days it’s really hard, but it’s a good challenge. It’s a challenge that I want to do.”
In reflecting on Jungle House’s three years in Lawrence, Rachel said one of the first things that comes to mind is how the store weathered the pandemic year. Like much of the local business community, Jungle House faced challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but customers helped them stick it out. After the store shut its doors in March 2020 and pivoted to online curbside and delivery sales, orders for plant grams with messages of encouragement quickly rose.
“When I reflect on that, it just makes me so teary-eyed to think about,” Rachel said. “It was so touching that people believed in us and spent their dollars with us during the pandemic and kept us going. I think it’s incredible that the community supports us that way.”
Jingle House will be around until at least the end of December, and the Guffeys have a few ideas for what will happen beyond that, including possibly extending the pop-up to February and implementing a Valentine’s Day theme. In the meantime, Rachel said they’re excited to give customers a new experience.
“We’re just excited to see what the community talks about,” Rachel said. “If they’re still really digging this and wanting to enjoy it, we’re totally game for being a part of that.”