Grieving to Growing: EHS Alum Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

A Call From Eagles Out of the Nest: Peter Dario



Peter Dario ’15 poses with a plant at Terrace Plant Shop


Losses caused by the COVID pandemic left many people feeling hopeless, but what about those people who decided to create something out of nothing?  

Peter Dario ‘15 lost his grandfather and father within days of one another during March of 2020; however, he decided to take these losses and create something beautiful out of them.  Although Dario was severely discouraged by the deaths of two people that were close to him, he decided to open Terrace Plant Shop because plants were an outlet of happiness and hope throughout his life. His shop has been thriving for the past few years, and Dario hopes that it is still a symbol of hope for anyone who feels like loss has left them incomplete.  

EE: What was your favorite part of high school? 

PD: I was never the best student; I didn’t really get good grades or anything like that. But I was really good friends with every group of people, which was really cool, and it benefited me in the future. I think knowing so many people was the best part—I had a really good time with that. 

EE: Was there anything else you wanted to pursue after high school? If so, what influenced your decision not to do so?

PD: When I was growing up, my mom used to own a restaurant. This was when I was really young. From experiencing that, I was always immersed in the world of business just from learning through my mom. Growing up, I always felt like I always wanted to start a business. I never had any plans of opening up a plant shop right after high school—it was very unexpected. But I knew I wanted to open up a business in general. 

EE: A major part of your decision to open your shop was due to the death of your family members during the COVID – 19 pandemic. Oftentimes, we find ourselves struggling to move ahead because of grief. How were you able to channel your grief into something that has helped you grow?

PD: I think what really helped me was my parents. My dad and grandpa raised me to always keep going, and that’s really what was embedded into me as I grew up. They were immigrants from the Philippines, and no matter what happened, they felt the need to keep going and work hard for the family. When that tragic time happened for me and my family, I felt like I couldn’t just stay still. I had to do something to support them and myself, and I wanted to honor my dad, my grandpa, and all the others who passed away during COVID. 

If you fail and hit rock bottom, that’s okay because out of every failure is a lesson learned. And you can take these lessons and add them to whatever you want to pursue next.

— Peter Dario '15

EE: What struggles did you face while opening your shop? What struggles did you not expect?

PD: I think there were a lot of struggles, and even to this day, I have a lot of struggles. But I think the number one struggle was ego. Not a lot of people/entrepreneurs talk about that. When we opened up the business, it was incredibly successful, and I thought we were just going straight to the stars from there. But I was so blinded by early success that I never got to focus on the more important things. I think overcoming ego and practicing humility was the hardest thing for me.

EE: Why might opening a store/creating be the best career path for some students? On that note, why might you not recommend it to others?

PD: For students that are looking to start a business or be an entrepreneur, I think opening up a brick and mortar business is the perfect way to understand who your customers are. You can do that with an online store, but you don’t really have that interaction with people. And there’s definitely two sides to this. People who want to open a business have the freedom of doing whatever they want, in terms of their own schedule. On the other hand, I have to deal with responsibilities 24/7. People don’t need to open up a business because you can enjoy life way smoother, and you can still make an honest, amazing living working for someone else. So, there’s definitely two sides to that. 

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EE: What are some important skills/lessons that opening your shop has taught you? 

PD: Definitely humility. My head was definitely in the clouds before, and when I realized I needed to put my ego aside and practice humility, I learned a huge lesson. That would probably be my number one lesson. It was just better for the business and better for my personal life. Even back in high school I never wanted to ask for help. I felt like I could do things on my own just because I felt like I could do it better. That thinking stabbed me in the back in the future because when you take on too many things, your mind just explodes. So, another thing I learned was to just ask for help. Put your ego aside because it takes a village to run a store, whether it’s a small business or a corporation like that. It takes a lot of people, you can’t do it yourself.

EE: Why do you think so many people neglect plants and toss them aside? Do you think it is possible for people to change their perceptions of plants, and if so, how?

PD: I used to kill a lot of plants before, way before I opened up a plant shop. My mom and my grandpa were farmers back in the Philippines, and we’ve always had plants at home. It was something I wasn’t good at during that time. I neglected them, I threw them in the trash. I ignored them if they were sick because I thought it was just too much work. As time went on, I started to care more about plants; I thought it was just a self reflection of yourself, whether you have one, two, or fifty plants. For example, if your room is dirty, that means your mind is unorganized. So, I feel like if you can take care of a plant, you have the ability to take care of yourself as well. I let people know that plants are not just a thing or an object—they are just another way to help mental health. They are also another way to make sure you focus on self care. That’s one of the things I advocate whenever we sell plants at the shop. 

EE: Finally, what advice would you give to EHS students who also aspire to create their own business? What advice would you give to those students who feel like they have hit rock bottom?

PD: For the people who really want to open up their own business (or just pursue something that they’ve never done before), the best piece of advice that I have to give is to honestly just do it, and stop worrying about how to do it or how the process is going to be. There’s a bunch of stuff in business that will just slap you in the face because it’s uncomfortable and it’s just something no one will ever understand unless they’ve opened up a business. If you fail and hit rock bottom, that’s okay because out of every failure is a lesson learned. And you can take these lessons and add them to whatever you want to pursue next. 

Check out @terraceplantshop on social media!

Know an Eagle out of the nest who has a story to tell? Email contact information to [email protected].