Blue-collar worker with a green thumb — local business plants roots on TikTok

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By Angie Escalante

Laughter and big welcomes are some of the things to expect when arriving at a “Succs 2 b you” pop-up.

That big personality, the beautiful greens on sale, the burning incense and the vintage vinyl records on display first went viral on TikTok. And the post’s success helped catapult the Riverside small business.

Jesus Alemán, also known as Jesse Monstera, was born and raised in Riverside — Casa Blanca to be exact. It was a tough, working class neighborhood and Jesus had to work in concrete with his dad and brother at a young age.

However, Jesus showed a passion for creativity and pursued DJing when he was 14 years old. But concrete was a family business and had to focus on blue-collar work.

“Concrete was a dream killer,” Monstera said. “It felt like fighting Mike Tyson every day and expecting to win but you never would.”

Monstera, now with his own family to support, was constantly upset and tense as a concrete worker. Susie Alemán, Jesus’ wife, saw the pain her husband endured and felt like something had to change.

“He was unhappy,” she said. “He didn’t resemble the guy I had met anymore but I knew he was still in there.”

She encouraged her husband to pursue a hobby which led to going to plant stores with him. Jesus began bringing plants home and the family agreed it made everything feel homier. Susie said the impact plants had on Jesus made him seem “more alive.”

He would work on little succulent arrangements and it helped him relax. The more he did it, the more he wanted to learn. He began to share what he learned about plants with his family.

Monstera began spending more time with his wife, Susie Alemán, and bonding with his daughter, Genevieve Alemán.

“We got into this and it brought us closer as a family,” Susie said.

Monstera knew that he had to leave the concrete industry even though he was comfortable there.

“I was afraid,” he said. “During the pandemic, people were getting sick and I was afraid I would die doing concrete. I had dreams.”

So he quit his job and began his own plant business. At first, he worked with succulents and made custom arrangements. Now, he offers various plants and selections from a record collection.

In December 2020, Genevieve began posting about her dad on TikTok. The feedback Monstera got motivated him to keep pursuing his dream.

“A lot of times, things are scary,” Genevieve said. “(Like) posting videos, doing these pop-ups — but just do it. Without opening the door, you’ll never walk through.”

The Alemán family is very passionate about their plant business.

“We’re not in it for the money anymore,” Susie said. “We’d rather see the smiles on people’s faces.”

 Eventually, Monstera wants to have an art gallery with all of his arrangements as well as a shop.

“Plants softened my heart, I’m so much happier,” he said. “When people come to our plants it’s a blessing, we get to share our happiness and encourage them to shine.”

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