How we started....
There was a time where we drank coffee and some bagged tea occasionally. Attempts to make green tea in the microwave was a failure. However, to pursue better health we improved our diet and gave tea a second look. We started cooking at home extensively. We also researched the proper way to make tea and also upped the quality by seeking out loose tea. Once we discovered the loose tea world, we never looked back.
Yeah ok - but how do you and your wife go from working in Manhattan to starting a tea business?
New York City was our home, and both of us had successful careers in IT and Fashion design respectively. But we eventually decided to look at other options. We both had the entrepreneur spirit tugging at us, but what kind of business? We decided to do something together, combining both of our talents. We looked at franchises, but they were all taken in the areas we were looking at.
A relative mentioned visiting a tea store in Germany and that got us thinking - there aren't many tea stores around. Then around the same time a co-worker who knew I loved tea showed me a class being offered on 'How to open a tea shop'. That got us thinking, could we develop a business around tea?
We researched, took the class and decided to take the plunge!
Opening the first location
The city we wanted to move near was bustling and had undergone a resurgence. There were lots of people and a couple of popular coffee shops. But two kids coming from the city didn't stand a chance. We approached landlords who thought we wanted to open a 't-shirt shop'. Any retail vacancies were off the market quicker than the time it took us to go up and see the space. We had the plan in hand but none of the local connections.
We drew a circle and found the little sleepy village of Ballston Spa. It had seen better days but there were some dedicated people that wanted to see the village thrive again. We got the chance at a spot with beautiful brick walls and a good downtown location at a great price. This was it! We quit our jobs and moved!
Change of plans
Our original concept was sort of a tea bar with a limited selection of baked goods, sort of like a typical coffee shop. In addition we would have a whole section dedicated to loose tea and related accessories. But our new space was too large just to sell tea and pastries. We had to change our concept to include sit down dining. Two people with little to no experience opening a restaurant. Recipe for failure right? We had to figure it all out, but luckily we were able to do it under the radar until we worked out the kinks. We also opened a few months before our first child was born. Talk about pressure!
Every year we got a little better. We refined our menus, our tea selections...and eventually we made it in to Top 10 lists such as 'Best Lunch Spot' - considering we had thousands of restaurants to compete against, that was a pretty high honor.
We always maintained a way for customers to order teas on-line directly from and over the years we expanded our customers to places all over the world. And we found, that interacting with customers face to face gave us a lot more experience and ways to help customers that live thousands of miles away.
After a good ten years we decided to try our luck with opening a 2nd location, and again we were thankful to be a part of the resurgence of Troy, NY.
We also added a new warehouse we called the 'Blend Lab' to handle storage and shipping our teas to both wholesale and retail customers.
We started out by sourcing teas from only the most reputable suppliers who had the experience and boots on the ground to make sure the teas were all vetted and tested for contamination. Later we added our own unique creations and now import many teas directly from the farms. We've always had the philosophy of providing all different types, flavored and pure, conventional and organic so we can offer a wide scope of teas that cover most of the bases. And we always will special order teas if we don't stock them.
In addition to selling accessories from leading tea ware manufacturers, we also now produce our very own line of unique custom products.
We have lot more coming down the pipeline - new teas, locations and products!
Thanks for visiting!
Bachelors Degree in Computer Engineering Technology from SUNY IT.
Worked in IT (Information Technology) for Sony Entertainment and financial institutions such as ING Barings and ABN Amro.
Switched from IT to Tea and never looked back.
Hobbies include home brewing (both tea and beer), economics, history, sci-fi & fantasy, strategy games, aquariums
My Favorite Teas
Bachelors Degree in Fashion Design from Florida State University
Worked for Rubies Costume Company and Kids Headquarters in the Design and Spec Tech departments
Hobbies: Interior design, Architecture