Growing up in the Arizona desert with parents who harvest cacti, sisters Andanette Valderrama and Daniella Carrasco of Ponderosa Cactus have become bonafide cactus experts. “We learned about them whether we liked them or not,” says Carrasco. Ponderosa Cactus Highland Park
Back in Tucson, Arizona, where they grew up, their family owns a nursery specializing in cacti and xeriscaping. Because Carrasco and Valderrama grew up around cacti, they developed a passion for them. But that passion didn’t keep them in Tucson. After graduating from University of Arizona (a year apart), both sisters decided to make the move out to Los Angeles.
After the move though, their 9 to 5 conventional jobs left them feeling unsatisfied. “We didn’t feel like we were fulfilling our lives so much,” says Valderrama.
“We got conventional jobs. Our goal was just to grow our careers in the corporate world,” says Carrasco. “After a few years of that, we were like ‘how does this help the community, and how does it make us feel at the end of the day.'”
With their experience from their family business in Tucson and a severe drought causing unprecedented levels of desertification in California, Carrasco and Valderrama saw an opportunity to bring their cactus expertise to the community. “We saw how the drought was affecting California,” says Carrasco. “Since xeriscape is new to California, we thought it would be a great time to get out into the community.”
After presenting a business plan to their parents and with a lot of convincing, Carrasco and Valderrama opened a boutique shop, smaller than their family’s nursery in Tucson, and they introduced Ponderosa Cactus to Highland Park.
Highland Park was a natural choice for them. “We love Highland Park,” says Carrasco. “Everybody [here] supports local business.”
“It was growing at the time when we were looking, and we wanted to be apart of that change in the community,” says Valderrama. “We just started looking around the area, and it just so happened this place was vacant,” she says.
Their prime location on Avenue 64 and York Boulevard was a great choice. Being close to the freeway and within the vicinity of apartment complexes and other businesses, they get plenty of foot traffic – so much that Valderrama was drawn away from this interview to help the influx of customers flowing into the shop that afternoon.
For only being open a few months, their customer base is quickly growing, as are their customers’ needs. “Some people want just a small cactus for their work desk. Other people want large cactus for inside,” says Carrasco. “Some people want landscape, so we have to design their front yards, back yards.”
To keep up with the needs of their clientele, Carrasco and Valderrama are constantly updating and expanding their inventory. Most of their plants come from Arizona, but they also source plants from Southern California and beyond. “We’re always looking for unique pieces that you don’t see everywhere else. So we venture everywhere,” says Carrasco. “We’re always on the search for cactus.”
Despite their selection of plants being rare, eye-catching and stylish, they’re prices remain affordable. Take a look at their Yelp page, and you’ll see numerous testimonials of happy customers raving about the selection and prices at Ponderosa Cactus.
Besides offering a great selection and modest prices, Carrasco and Valderrama are also known for their customer service. They offer up their impressive knowledge of cacti to their customers and help them every step of the way – from choosing a plant to re-potting and, of course, how to take care of your plants. Their excellent service has customers feeling welcome and wanting to return.
With their extensive knowledge of cacti, Carrasco and Valderrama keep their customers happy and their plants even happier. They’ve also made their family proud of their success bringing the family business to Los Angeles. And although their family misses having the sisters back in Tucson, Carrasco says, “They’re happy that we’re doing something that we’re passionate about.”