The change might not yet be obvious to customers walking by Johnny Ruth and Living Planet on Water Street, but Living Planet is under new ownership as of May. Mark Adams, Living Planet’s manager of the past year, recently purchased the business with his husband from original owner Dave Hopley.
The decision to purchase Living Planet intially came from the heart, Adams said. “Being told it would close/change hands was sorta like being told a really good friend was moving far away,” he said. Since moving to St. John’s about five years ago, Living Planet has been Adams’ main employer, and he couldn’t imagine it changing completely or shutting down altogether.
Adams and his husband (and new business partner), Allen Walbourne, had considered a few entrepreneurial ideas over the years, but never pulled the trigger on any of them. That is, until the opportunity with Living Planet came up. “Investing in an already familiar place like Living Planet seemed like our safest way to owning a business,” Adams said, adding to the appeal of the opportunity along with the emotional reasons for his interest.
One change the pair are considering is an artist residency program with Living Planet. The company owns a secondary press that isn’t often used in regular production, and it has often been used by different artists–local and otherwise–for various projects. They hope to eventually secure funding to bring artists in as guests for a period of time, to work on their own ideas among others in the city’s creative community.
“It’s great because fellow artists bring in new perspectives, techniques and stories we wouldn’t otherwise hear unless they printed with us,” Adams said of working with new artists. “It feeds us with inspiration, has us using more of the studio and helps the artist with developing their projects. it’s a complete win-win.”
Living Planet plans to maintain their existing retail locations, as well as promote the wholesale end of the business. “It’s a large chunk of our business and something we are already used to doing,” Adams said. They also plan to expand their online retail offerings beyond what is already available through Johhny Ruth and Living Planet onto their own site (http://www.livingplanetstudio.com/), where they’ll sell small runs of new designs. “I like to think of it as an incubator for new designs, to see which ones people respond to,” Adams explained.
On the whole, Adams and Walbourne plan to maintain and expand on the quality and creativity that Living Planet was built on, while bringing in new ideas and infusing more of the city’s creative energy. “We’re gonna provide the same level or quality and care we always have, but we’ll explore more territory,” Adams said. “Bring in new product, collaborate with members of the artistic and business community, and give more opportunities for people.”