Photos: Justine Wong

Public Land

Public Land has officially popped up in their new home in Curtis Park. Sacramento locals have been going crazy over their cactus selection and for good reason. The unique cacti, the simple pots, and that intentional branding hooked us all. And now, with the perfect location to tie it all together, we’ll all be shopping for cacti weekly.

Owners and couple, Mel Eligon and Austin McManus personally curated and sourced every aspect of the space, not only the products, but even the structure of the store itself. They envisioned a “fresh take on retail” for the store –– one with the perfect windows for the growing cacti –– and after 8 months of looking, found Public Land’s new home. And, fresh it is.

The aesthetic of the store comes from this couple’s love for the desert and with that, a fascination for its flora and fauna. While living in east LA, McManus and Eligon spent most of their time in the desert. “It was kind of a running joke –– that we lived in LA, but really we lived in the desert,” McManus says.

Every detail you find in the store has a purpose and a story behind it. What may seem like just a simple, nice-smelling candle turns out to be hand-poured by the Joshua Tree Candle Company, whose owner was born and raised in the canyons of the park.

Ask McManus or Eligon about any product in the store, and they will tell you about the owner, where the product is made, and how that small business uses sustainable practices and/or gives back to the environment in their own unique way. If that isn’t the definition of ethical sourcing, we’re not sure what is. They even milled the very wood that makes up parts of the structure of Public Land. This is all in part of their desire to create “a place for people to get inspired and enthusiastic about nature in general.”

The couple’s love for the desert especially shines through in their cactus selection. They work incredibly hard to make sure that there is the perfect cactus for everyone –– whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced collector. McManus doesn’t want first-timers to be “overwhelmed” by their selection, so these plants are picked to be more approachable. The terms approachable and cactus don’t belong in the same sentence, but these two make it work.

Over the years, McManus has made connections with growers from around the world. The store includes cacti from as far as Africa and as close as the American Southwest and Mexico. Point one out, and we promise you will get more backstory than you thought a little plant could have.

While they showed us their selection, McManus fussed over the wooden sticks placed into the plant’s soil that serve as price tags, asking for our opinion on the look of the display. He’s thinking about buying clear tags to put on the pots instead, saying the sticks might be taking away from the overall look of the cactus. Needless to say, these plants are cared for.

McManus also looks forward to curating art shows in his store space. Having spent the last 15 years in and around the art scene, including eight years with Juxtapoz Magazine as the photography director and an editor, he wants to “bring new exposure to Sacramento,” featuring artists from SF, Los Angeles, and New York, all cities the couple has lived in at some point.

The store’s second exhibition will feature Maxwell McMaster’s Down to Earth. McMaster resides in Los Angeles, but returns to his hometown for his first solo exhibition in the Public Land space. This is set to open on Saturday, July 21st.

Eligon, who grew up in the Colonial Heights/Oak Park area, is happy to join the close community of small businesses here in Sacramento. She says, “There’s a really strong sense of community no matter how much it’s changing economically. I think a lot of people are supportive of those that are trying to do things on their own here.”

McManus notes,

“I feel like it’s a really good time to be in Sacramento. The city is definitely having a moment –– there’s a lot of new energy going in.”

We’re thrilled to see Public Land join the neighborhood and look forward to many visits to come. Check them out at 2598 21st Street in Sacramento or on Instagram.

Photos: Justine Wong