Make the beauty of bonsai permanent
COLTS NECK – Rich Taylor grew up seeing his father’s interest in bonsai. They also piqued his interest. It won’t be long before Taylor incorporates his own adaptation, called Agapi Trees.
“I’ve always had this fascination with them,” Taylor said, referring to bonsai, a Japanese art form that actually creates miniature trees. “My father was passionate about bonsai and I watched him buy and handle them. As they grew and evolved he would work with them and go through the whole process, always bringing it to fruition. It has always been a daily regimen and it takes a lot of time and effort.
Taylor honed his artistic side at a young age in school.
“In high school, I won with a lot of art lessons,” Taylor said. “I then went on to study architecture at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas, where I grew up and lived most of my life. I quickly learned that I was not the best student in school, but I always had an affinity for art and I loved doing it.
“The most amazing part for me was the design and concept aspect of it,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, I quickly realized that finishing it just wasn’t in my cards and gave up after a short time there.”
Moving to the East Coast
While studying there, Taylor worked for a time in the mailroom of an accounting firm, where he ended up meeting his future wife.
“She had transferred from New York and I was still in school at the time,” Taylor said. “We fell passionately in love and quickly decided that we would both go back to the east coast where she came from and that’s it. I said, ‘Let’s go!’ and I was immediately there.
Once in New Jersey, Taylor tried his hand at school again, attending the New Jersey Institute of Technology for a semester, but it didn’t last long. Once again, Taylor was back to square one.
“After things didn’t work out at NJIT, I was a little disheartened to say the least,” Taylor said. “After talking to my wife and thinking, I decided to give school another try. I enrolled at the Architectural Drafting College in Edison, New Jersey. I spent two years there and got the equivalent of an associate’s degree.
After graduating in 1994, Taylor got a job at an architectural firm as a junior craftsman. At the same time, the family of Taylor’s wife, who worked in the shoe business, offered the couple the opportunity to open and run their own shoe store.
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“I accepted the shoe store’s offer because I was a young man with a lot of ambition and wanted to do something interesting that involved having my own business,” Taylor said.
“It was exciting and exhausting at the same time,” Taylor said. “It was a learning experience on how to run a business. I was responsible for everything including how to deal with customers and suppliers and how to order the product, how to hire employees, how to manage my inventory, etc. I also made all the mistakes and was responsible for learning from those mistakes. It was a crash course in becoming a business owner.
Art returns to his life
After working at his company for a while and juggling his responsibilities of raising a family, Taylor still had a burning desire to do what he felt he was naturally meant to do.
“I was out for dinner with my wife one night,” Taylor said. “Across the street there was a bookstore. We had time to kill before we ate, so we went inside. I went straight to the art section and came across a picture book. The blanket had this wonderful photo of a bonsai tree and I immediately wanted to have it. My wife told me that she thought I could definitely do some because of my past with them.
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Taylor took the book and went through it. The next day, he returned home and found that his wife had bought him a box of clay, which would become the main source for developing his own interpretation of a bonsai, which he calls Agapi Trees.
The word is a play on the Greek word agape, which describes God’s unconditional love for people and vice versa. He says his mission statement can be found in the Latin phrase “Soli Deo Gloria” – the glory of God only.
“She told me she wanted me to make her one of them and I forced her,” Taylor said. “There is a process of making these Agapi trees and it’s called a mold and cast technique. It’s a bit like model building with old-fashioned car sets. I make the main parts like the trunk and the body out of clay and I solidify them with a pouring liquid. Once these pieces are created, I assemble them with an epoxy, which is an artistic glue.
He tried to sell his Agapi trees in different ways, but was unsuccessful and had to go back to the drawing board. Taylor still had responsibilities to his family, so he got a job with Whole Foods.
“I had no idea what Whole Foods was like at the start,” Taylor said. “I went to apply at the Marlboro store, which had just opened there and worked in the specialty department. While I was working one day I happened to speak to someone who was a salesperson there. I told him to do something a little different from where I was then.
Taylor got a job as a salesperson for a Whole Foods sales and marketing group. Taylor started talking to people about his Agapi Tree business while working as a salesperson. Soon after, word spread and people began to understand his passion that became his business.
Trees typically sell for between $ 95 and $ 195, depending on the size.
“People would get these trees for their girlfriends or their wives,” Taylor said. “It got so big that I needed a bigger space to accommodate these trees which I was selling at a rapid rate. Words go fast and I’m doing very well with the business now.
For Taylor, COVID-19 really hasn’t affected his business because he doesn’t have a lot of foot traffic. His location is primarily an art studio where he makes the trees and sells them to clients through word of mouth and art and craft shows.
“COVID-19 hasn’t really had any effect on my business anyway, but I still maintain contact with my customers and it’s the same one-to-one interaction as if COVID-19 didn’t. never existed, ”Taylor said.
Taylor wants to continue to grow and develop the business through more customers and to market his Agapi trees to more people.
“I’m happy to be where I am now, but there is always room to do better,” said Taylor.
Site: 317 Route 34, Suite 207B, Colts Neck
Hours: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends