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Street Vending

Meet ‘Succs 2 Be You,’ the Street Vendor From Moreno Valley Who Quit His 22-Year-Job Pouring Concrete to Sell Plantitas

[dropcap size=big]J[/dropcap]esse Aleman, owner of Succs 2 Be You is a former concrete worker turned plant vendor whose life changed drastically about three years ago when he decided to quit his job to start his own plant business. 

When you first meet Aleman, the first things you may notice is his smile and welcoming energy.

“Where do you want to start?” he said as he placed some plants in his front yard. “Oh, you gotta check this one out!” he continued with a burst of excitement.

As he began to name what he calls his “plant gang,” the 41-year-old plant vendor expressed how he hasn’t always been the joyful man people have come to know. “If I’m honest, I used to always be really cranky and mad. For a long time, my life was all about work,” he said. 

Jesse Aleman.
Jesse Aleman. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

Aleman has been working since he was 12 years old, and before stepping into the concrete world, he worked with plants but in a different way. In high school, he remembers picking oranges in the fields alongside his parents. Growing up, he said he lived in a tough neighborhood which only made his parents want to keep him busy and away from trouble. 

“During my summer vacation from school, we would work. We would pick oranges. My dad was the type of person where he just worked. He always wanted something better for us, so he pushed us,” he said.

“They’re like us, we have our bad days, but the moment we begin to care for and ‘water ourselves,’ we realize no matter what, we’re gonna bounce back from whatever we’re going through, just like plants,” said Aleman. 

At the age of 16, he eventually entered the concrete business, a tradition of work passed down by his father, who also left the orange fields to work in concrete. For over 22 years, Aleman worked a laborious job, working 16-hour shifts and six days a week. He noticed his career began to strain him, his mental health, and his growing family. He said he started to fall into depression, and every now and then, he would find himself lashing out at home because of how tired he was. 

It’s a personal story that he and his daughter Genevive often share on their TikTok, in which Aleman states that he left his two-decade-long job to give himself a shot at happiness.

“While working in concrete, I was surrounded by no life, I didn’t feel like I saw color, and my life literally felt grey and dark,” he said as he flipped through a photo album. “It’s a very tough industry because of how much time you spend away from family. I didn’t even get to see my daughter too much when she was little.”

So he quit and reunited with plants but this time for joy, healing, and peace of mind. 

Aleman has a photo album where he documents how his life has changed since leaving his 22 year-old-job as a concrete worker.
Aleman has a photo album where he documents how his life has changed since leaving his 22 year-old-job as a concrete worker. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Aleman and his 19-year-old daughter Genevive sit in their garden oasis located in their backyard where they display over 30 different types of plants that they have grown and taken care of together. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

He eventually built his now-iconic plant cart, complete with roof shingles and small compartments to put and hang his plants from. He said the cart is a tribute to the traditional street vendor cart. “It’s not completely done, but it’s getting there,” he said. 

As for the time he felt he lost with his daughter, he said he is now experiencing everything he wanted when his daughter was a child. They both have been able to bond over their love for plants. Often going back and forth about whose plants are better, they say it’s turned into a friendly competition between the two. 

“Now, being fully immersed in the plant world, we get to spend time together,” he said. “It’s a memory we will both have forever.”

Plantitas. Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

His daughter Genevive helps her father share his plants and story on TikTok and Instagram and said working with plants has also helped her get out of a dark phase in her own life. During the pandemic, Genevive also fell into a depression. But through sharing her story online and selling plants, the 19-year-old said she has been able to connect with other people her age. People who have also found healing with plants. 

“Depression is one of those things that hold you down, so even the act of getting up to water a plant can be life-changing for some,” she said. “And meeting people who can relate to that, I mean it literally felt like God was like: ‘Here’s a friend for you, they need someone too.’”

The father and mija team said humans are very similar to plants because when they aren’t attended to, a person can notice a plant’s leaves go down. But as soon as you water them and give them the proper care, they rise back up. 

“They’re like us, we have our bad days, but the moment we begin to care for and ‘water ourselves,’ we realize no matter what, we’re gonna bounce back from whatever we’re going through, just like plants,” said Aleman. 

He and his daughter are currently selling their plants at pop-ups from their house and working on a website. Anyone interested in visiting or purchasing any of their plants can simply send them a message on Instagram. They sell various plants from cactuses, succulents, house plants, and they also sell little gardens made in small pots with figurines like lowrider models and even spray cans. The plant vendor said he hopes to one day to own a plant shop where he can host workshops, serve some of his two-time award-winning tamales, and overall create a peaceful environment for everyone to enjoy. 

“These plants have basically changed our lives, so for us, it’s not just about selling plants. It's about helping people with their mental health and life,” he said. “It’s about sharing knowledge and happiness through plants.” 

Follow @Succs_2byou on Instagram to purchase his plants.

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