SPRINGFIELD, Mo- A building on W. Walnut Street known in the past for auto repairs, has transformed into a home for bonsai trees.
Chris Cox, the owner of The Bonsai Guy, started his bonsai journey after nearly ten years in the military. He served eight years in the Marines then spent a year overseas in the Army.
“This started off as a therapy for me after Afghanistan, I wasn’t doing so hot. I checked myself into a place in Topeka, Kansas, to get some help. Long story short, they had horticulture therapy, and I kind of took to it like a duck does water. One therapy became a hobby, and a hobby became a business, but it’s still always been a therapy,” says Cox.
Cox started his business in his backyard and would travel to trade shows to do business. Due to high demand and high bonsai tree count, Cox opened a store downtown.
“We got this place in February, here I am I got all of these trees moved inside and keeping them warm. My dream is happening, and then all of a sudden, COVID happened. And I’m not going to lie I certainly thought about tucking my tail and running for the hills,” says Cox.
He says when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, every business avenue for him was shut down.
“All the trade shows I was going to were now closed, the farmer’s market was closed down. And then obviously I didn’t think anyone was going to go to the front door because no one was going in anywhere, you know. So I was really kind of scared, but then we started doing some outdoor classes, and it’s sparking some energy,” says Cox.
When Cox moved in, the property was sprinkled with car parts and an overgrown lawn. He says the overgrown lawn was intentional when Dodson Williams owned the building before the business moved right up the street.
“They let the place really get bad, because they quietly had a supercar auto detailing, so Lamborghinis and above were coming in here. So they made the place look like it was a big pile of nothing,” says Cox.
He says he is happy he moved his shop to downtown and is happy to see W. Walnut Street clean up.
“This is a labor of love; you have to put the work in, but it’s very, very rewarding,” he says.