Sean Hegarty’s bathtub kept him from getting soaked.

It was the early spring, and Hegarty and three business partners were preparing to open High Wire Hydroponics in Raymond with dreams of exotic plants growing under a warm, artificial glow. They priced out the display pond of their dreams.

Even with friendly pricing for stonework and some donated labor, a 5-by-5-foot pond – plus the hydroponic gear to run it – could have cost the upstart operation $3,000 for custom masonry and a pond lining.

“It was going to be a rather expensive endeavor, potentially,” Hegarty said. “We had visions of grandeur, for sure.”

Enter: The tub.

Salvaged from a home renovation project in Portland, the heavy, claw-footed example was a comparative steal at $200, Hegarty said.


A few coats of paint later, the large vessel was ready for its in-store debut.

“I don’t remember when or why, but we thought a claw-foot bathtub would be pretty cool,” he said.

After positioning the piece in his Murray Drive showroom, he found the compact size of the tub was a more appropriate fit for his space, Hegarty said. Such displays are standard in the hydroponics business, which teach people how to grow plants without soil in nutrient-rich environments. The demonstration units often contain exotic plant varieties.

Hegarty, however, wanted a simpler approach, using his tub-based system to grow edible examples of his products. Herbs such as basil and vegetables such as string beans so far have flourished, he said.

Some products even took off too fast for the compact tub system to handle.

Tomatoes, for instance, grew out of control, while microgreens such as lettuce are a mainstay.


And instead of raising and harvesting a dozen tilapia, the tub has but a few guppies more appropriate to the tub’s size.

“We wanted it to be unique, and we wanted it to be a working hydroponic system to show people at the store how simple it can be,” he said.

With lights and plants included, the whole system cost him about $500, which he called “substantial savings” over the pricier pond model, he said.

“Two-thirds of the people who come in have something to say about it,” he said. A few have even asked for near-identical systems for their homes.

The lower cost left Hegarty with more cash to stock his shelves for the company’s May 1 opening.

Since then, sales have grown every month, even during the summer, which is typically slow for hydroponic suppliers.


“Pretty much every bit of profit has been turned right back to inventory,” Hegarty said.

His tub is only one example of product displays that utilize reused materials.

Seed racks and product shelving were constructed from salvaged wooden shipping pallets that have been given a singed, rustic finish.

The backbone of his business relies on the burgeoning ranks of medical marijuana growers who require specialized mixes of nutrients that he stocks, Hegarty said. But he wants to begin targeting traditional gardeners who want to experiment with hydroponics during the winter, or as a way to jumpstart their flower and vegetable patches before snowbanks ebb every spring.

The grow shop is Hegarty’s second business endeavor. The first – Wheely Good Bike Rentals, a bike-rental business with 20 bikes – was a side gig, but it gave him a taste of what entrepreneurship was like.

Hegarty distributed the bikes, helmets and locks to his customers from the back of a truck. Instead of having customers return the rides when they were finished to a conventional bricks-and-mortar shop, Hegarty would set an agreed-upon place to lock up the bikes, which he would fetch at his convenience. It was a grind, he said.

“I did it for three years, bartending at the same time,” Hegarty said. “It was a good understanding of the time and energy it took” to run a business.

With plans to expand and refocus his marketing strategy next spring, Hegarty said he is ready to continue to grow – just like the lemon basil in his claw-foot bathtub.


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