Bees on a Bicycle: Creating Beauty on the Southside

By Hailey Tielkemeier

“Foster community; create beauty.”

That’s the Bees on a Bicycle motto, and after stepping through the gates of the garden center on Market Street, it’s clear that beauty and community are two things they’ve got in spades.

I first had the pleasure of visiting Bees on a Bicycle for a Morning Joe -- a networking event hosted by the Southside Council of the Chamber of Commerce.

At the event, Bees on a Bicycle’s owner and founder, Cath Shaw Truelove, stepped up to say a few words of welcome and explain the business. Cath spoke about moving from Virginia to Chattanooga and opening a space where anyone -- from apartment dwellers to people who live on multi-acre homesteads -- can come to learn, connect and bring a little greenery into their own space. Her zeal for the Chattanooga community was on full display as she spoke passionately about bringing native Tennessee plants into her customers’ lives. As someone who is also a Chattanooga transplant and plant lover, I was intrigued.

I sat down with Cath to learn more about why she chose Chattanooga, what starting a business here was like, and what she sees for the future of her business. When I asked her to give me three words to describe Bees on a Bicycle, she confidently replied: comforting, urban and beautiful. After hearing the rest of her story, I have to agree with her choices.

-- Comforting --

Before starting Bees on a Bicycle, Cath had a few different careers. She, of course, has quite a bit of experience in gardening and horticulture, but she also studied to be a math and science teacher. While teaching, she worked with inner-city youth in Washington D.C. to plant gardens and educate them about where their food comes from.

“For a lot of them, it was their first time ever putting their hands in soil.”

That educational spirit continues at Bees on a Bicycle. Cath hosts workshops and seminars, and she sees every visit to the garden center as an opportunity to learn and grow -- specifically when it comes to native plants. In fact, she says, “everybody that comes in, I take over to the native plants section.”

To Cath, “learning will never stop because the plant kingdom is huge.”

And there’s no shortage of Chattanoogans who have that same desire to learn about the plant kingdom. The store has become a comforting resource for gardeners throughout the Chattanooga area who are eager to grow their gardening knowledge. Not to mention, the sound of the fountain and the smell of greenery makes for a peaceful experience.

-- Urban --  

Cath didn’t actually come to Chattanooga with the intent of opening a garden center. After a friend put the idea in her mind, she was inspired by the space at 1909 Market Street. According to Cath, she happened upon the site when she was “driving around looking for housing.” After seeing the location for sale, she “kind of just sat on it and let it percolate.” When the space went up for auction on Feb. 24, she bid on it. And as we know, Bees on a Bicycle has been operating in that location since.

When asked what’s great about starting a business in Chattanooga, Cath mentioned the enthusiasm from the surrounding community. She says, “it’s almost like I’m a frontier woman. There are some boarded up buildings around here.” But Chattanoogans are passionate about seeing their city grow and thrive, and that was no exception in Cath’s case.

“That’s the Chattanooga spirit,” she says.

-- Beautiful --

This descriptor harkens back to Bees on a Bicycle’s motto: “Foster community; create beauty.”

There’s beauty in bringing greenery and plant life to the apartments, condos, bungalows and estates of Chattanooga. There’s beauty in providing a well-curated collection of products that bring joy to the everyday life. And, perhaps most significantly,  there’s beauty in creating a community space where Chattanoogans can grow, learn and connect.

When standing in her Southside oasis, one can’t help but feel that community and beauty are grown there each day. Cath Shaw Truelove has certainly brought both to Chattanooga, and we’re grateful that she did.

To keep up with Cath and Bees on a Bicycle, follow @beesonabicycle on Instagram and find them on Facebook.