Friday, March 3, 2017

From Bricks & Mortar to CyberSpace

Our lovely final version (of 4 incarnations) of Elaine's Tea Shoppe that existed in the physical world has now closed.  June, 2016, we were  forced to come to the decision after our landlord refused to address serious plumbing problems in the building.  So, we have been transitioning into the cyber world exclusively.  We have had our web site for over 14 years, but it will now be our only connection to our tea customers. 
We entered into this semi-retired phase quite willingly, but we sure miss the day -to-day contact with our customers.  We still bring a superb collection of premium loose-leaf teas to our customers, but no face-to-face sampling before you buy, no sitting down over a cup of tea and home-made scones, no knitting circles, no browsing through our extensive collection of tea ware and tea related sundries.
So, we transition to the virtual world, and most contact is simply over the phone.  It makes things more difficult, distanced, and less hands-on.  But, most are adjusting to the new, and we are happy to still bring tea to the area.  Elaine has had several speaking events, so it is enjoyable to talk to a group in person again and share the beauty and health of tea.  Perhaps the fates will allow for special tea events/parties/tastings in the future.  We'll see.

And as Murphy's Law would dictate, our web site, has suffered a fatal crash, could not be retrieved, and is now floating, lost forever in cyberspace.  So, we have been madly building a new site.  The learning curve was pretty steep in the beginning, but we've got it under our belt now, and our new site should be up soon.  

Sweet Shalom Tea Room in Sylvania, OH
In the meantime, Elaine is now trying to settle into semi-retirement, finally getting to join friends for tea at other tearooms as pampered guest.
Transitions are tough, but we've learned to go with the flow and know that this is the right place for us to be at this time.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Signs of Spring

I've had two large hibiscus plants since 1997 when my mother passed.  They are much older than that, having been started by my mother, a good 15 or so years earlier.  So, by now, they are over 30 years old!  

They are now quite pot bound and haven't bloomed in over a dozen years.  I keep them at the tea shop, and they add lots of life and oxygen to the air.  Customers always remark on how nice it smells and how clean and fresh the shop is.  Live plants instead of tired old artificial ones will do that to a place.

I don't feed them because the greens grow so profusely that I'm always having to cut them back.  I try to get new plants started but always fail.  I'm happy I've been able to keep these old ones alive for so long.  It's the last living thing from my mother, and it is kind of like having a bit of her life energy still with me. 

Well, a few days ago, we noticed a flower bud on one of the plants!  I was elated and hopeful that this time we'd actually get a bloom. They are double tropical hibiscus, so their blooms are quite flashy and spectacular.  Yesterday when I came into the shop, the bud looked like it had tried to open a bit, but just wasn't going to make it.

 It looked like it was drying out, and I thought I'd killed it by not watering enough.
But then,
miracle of miracles
when I came into the shop today...
A great big frilly bloom!
Spectacular and Stunning! 

And so, for at least a few days, the tea shop is graced with this beauty.
A sign of Spring and renewed hope that there will soon be relief from all this
cold and snow.
When it does finally fade away, I wonder if I can dry the petals
and make some hibiscus tea?  That would be extraordinary!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sitting at my desk having my morning cup of tea, and thoroughly enjoying the fall nip in the air.  The leaves in the stand of trees across the street are just starting to turn, and it is sunny, crisp, and beautiful.  Iced teas are all but forgotten, and I'm loving the warmth and comfort I get from a nice steaming cup of tea. 

I got distracted by a couple of customers, and my Dragonwell sat in the press for about 30 minutes. Ruined, I thought!  But, I wasn't going to throw out this exceptional organic tea, so I decided to drink it anyway.  Besides, I thought, all the antioxidants must be steeped out by now and I'll get them all in one cup.  So, I tasted--and, surprisingly, not bad.  A hint of bitter, but nothing like I expected, and still quite drinkable.

As I look around the shop, I catch the display of my custom t-shirts we have designed over the years.  The 1st has a large contemporary heart design and says "W.O.W.! (Wild Orchid Woman)" for our brand Wild Orchid Teas and "Wild Women don't get the blues." under the heart. The 2nd has a woman steaming in a hot spring and has the famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote: "A woman is like a teabag... you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water."  And the 3rd one is our first design with a cheery tea lady wielding her teapot, and it says: "This isn't your Grandmother's Tea Room!"  All fun, and a great way to celebrate tea when casual attire is in order.  If anyone has an interest, please call the shop at 419-885-1515 for pricing and sizes available. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tea Time Days Are Here Again

We're comfortably back in the groove again. Well, except for those few boxes of stuff that you always have after moving.  Where did it come from?  How did all of this fit in the old place? 'Cause I sure can't find room for it here! 

But, for the most part, days are back to normal.  Unlock door.  Plug in water urns.  Set up computer.  Turn on scale.  Check out stock that came in yesterday.  Straighten some shelves.  Make toast.

Aahhh... the water's hot.  Now, for my very favorite thing.  That first cup of tea for the day.  Today I'm tasting an Organic Korakundah Estate Nilgiri.  Lovely.  May have to bring this one on board.  I like Nilgiri teas.  They are light and not too astringent.  Good any time of day, and a gentler, kinder morning tea than any breakfast blend.  A great way to start the day, to my notion.
So glad all the insanity of opening is finished.  Just finally got an OK from the city to put out our teapot sign.  This is much needed as our very large sign on the front of the building is blocked somewhat from both directions.  Still trying to get it official so that no-one else can come along and try to make me take it down again.  It's an enigma to me why a city would want to make life difficult for its small biz owners.  But, that's just the unfortunate reality in my town. 
The patio is bare, winter has come early this year.  But I'm brightened every time I look out and see the teapot telling all who drive by where they can get a good cup of tea.  Gearing up for the holidays--they'll be here soon!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Birth of a Tea Room - Part 7

The Phoenix Has Risen!
We are back!  Well, we are re-opening tomorrow, whether ready or not!  We still have a few teas to bag, but we'll get caught up in the next week or so.  But, the shop is basically back together, and ready for customers.
 We only had room for two tables--that's 8 chairs, but with and extra two chairs we could pull in, we can seat up to 10, plus we have the tea bar.  So, plenty of room for larger tea tasting classes.  And, with the fresh batch of made-from-scratch scones I baked tonight, we are ready to go! 
 I know my husband and brother and other helpers will be glad to get back to normal schedules, and I am happy to be able to offer fabulous teas to my customers once again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birth of a Tearoom - Part 6

It's all starting to come together now...
We moved over our massive stock of tea--over 150 types mostly in 2 kilo bags!  These shelves are actually quite bare compared to when we are fully supplied.  We sold so much tea before we moved, that we have to put in another order as soon as time permits, which has to be soon since we are totally out of some of our most popular teas.
So, the tea cottage is now full of tea, and the lettering overhead finally came in and was mounted on the wall. 

And we've now got a good start on packaging tea for the shop shelves.

Merchandise is in the un-packing and slowly re-appearing on the shelves.

The outside sign got mounted on the front of the building.  Got our name and hours posted on the front door.  It looks great when lit at night, and this street gets so much traffic that we've even gotten several calls from new customers in the area who want to know when we are opening. 

My favorite Priscilla tea set is back at home on its charming old tea cart.  It's rickety and wobbly, but the old tea set somehow looks right sitting on the glass tea tray, just waiting to serve a lovely tea to some eager tea lover.

The health department came today and granted my license without much ado, and it looks like we will actually be ready to open this Saturday!

And Einstein rests again above my desk, inspiring me on so many levels.  His quote, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds..." somehow helps me to deal with all the challenges of running a small business. 
Almost there...whew!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Birth of a Tearoom - Part 5

Pack, Move Out, Store, Find New Space, Build Infrastructure, Move In, Add Character
Finally--the fun begins!

We've started to move in all those things that make our space "Elaine's Tea Shoppe". Even though we had most of the basic fixtures and furniture in place last week, we've now started to bring our character in.  There's a front entryway where we mounted our old screen door.  That and a few prints warmed up that boring white space.

Next, we added our signature latticework to the front of the building.  It was so, so drab before--just aluminum and glass.  But after a brush of hunter green paint, the lattice really stands out. Can't wait until we get out sign on the brick above.

And then, we brought in my teapot collection.  And all of a sudden, it came alive!  I can't adequately describe the warmth and energy those teapots added to the space. 

Next came the two large hibiscus plants and our philodendrons.  We're crazy enough to regularly water real plants, just to make sure we get all that good chi that plants bring to a room.  The hibiscus are near and dear to me.  One was my mother's and the other was one she'd rooted and gave to me years ago. She passed in 1997, and I've kept them going all these years, though they haven't flowered in years.  Pot bound and I keep forgetting to feed them. But, in this new place, I'm bound and determined to get them to bloom.  They are double tropical blooms, and when they flower, they look like great big frilly reddish/pink roses.  They're beautiful, and when they do flower again, I will be posting photos to be sure.  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Birth of a Tearoom - Part 4

Glitches Galore
Making progress, but it seems like I'm in some bizarre game show called  "Fix This Glitch"!  The first big one was my old desk just wouldn't fit.  No how, no way.  So, I figured that a corner type desk would fit best in the space.  Went on line to find exactly what I needed, and it had to be ordered.  None of the three office stored in town carried that model. 

Then there was the challenge of putting it together.  With me reading the directions, and the TeaMan wielding the screwdriver, we got it together on two nights.  Big one off the list. 

Part of the reason we chose this location, was that the plumbing all seemed to be right in place, and, naturally we thought that would save some money in plumbing costs.  So, at the right point, I set out to find a plumber.  The one I used last time turned out to not be licensed in our county, and I found out after the fact that that's required on top of the state license.

So, I started calling for estimates.  The first one came in at a shocking $2500 just to hook up 3 sinks and my ice machine.  Called around some more, and found a reference for a plumber that was supposed to be much more reasonable.  His estimate came in at $2585 plus permit fees not included!  A rough figuring of how long the job should take minus materials yielded somewhere between $300-400/ hr.!  Highway robbery!  And glitch city! 

If I've learned one thing in the years I've run my own business, it's to have tenacity.  And after lots more searching, we finally found one who would do the job, everything included, for $1800.  Still a pretty penny for the minor amount of work involved, but with time running shorter, I scheduled him to do the work. 

Then, when we tried to place the hand washing sink in the only area it could go, my old sink was just too big.  Off to the home store circuit again to find the right sink.  My brother built a custom counter to hold it and fill the gap left beside the 3 compartment sink, and now I have a little more work space than I expected. 

The under counter refrigerator has to sit on a platform (6 inches off the floor), because the appliances have to be able to be cleaned under.  We measured the counter height carefully in the plans, but when we went to place he fridge under the counter, it was two inches too tall!  We cut down the platform, and now it's a perfect fit.  Keeping fingers crossed that the health dept doesn't notice.  I can still easily clean under it, so you'd think that would be OK, but sometimes the health dept is a stickler for the letter of each regulation, and totally ignores the reasonable practicality.  Like I said, fingers crossed. 

Almost every display fixture had gotten nicked or scratched in the move, so it took the better part of a day to touch everything up.  Not a difficult job, but time consuming.  Several of the fixtures, in the new configuration, were sitting too low, and we spent a weekend building boxes for them to sit on.  With painting each with two coats of paint, it really did eat up a whole weekend.

I have a very nice two-piece custom built cash register counter, which, in each of the other locations, fit nicely.  But, of course, here they are just too big and were taking up too much space.  Finally I figured that they could be nested closer together with a notch cut out of one of them.  Enter carpenter brother Dave again.  With his handy saw and careful measurements (carpenter's mantra:  measure twice, cut once), problem solved!

I imagine there will be a few more glitches before all is said and done, and we're into that nerve-wracking stage of only a couple of weeks until opening.  But, we've gotten through before, and we will again.  At least things will get more fun from here on out as we start to decorate and bring the merchandise in--and the plants--and my antique tea cart with my favorite Priscilla patterned tea set on it. 

We're getting there...we're getting there...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Birth of a Tea Room -- Part 3

Tea Shop in a Box!
 Since we had to vacate our old shop before we found the new one, we had to pack up the shop and stuff it in our garage and garden shed.  It's a jumbled nightmare!  But we've begun to dig out and started to create the basic structure at the new location.  Not sure every fixture will fit in the smaller space on Sylvania Ave., but it looks like most of the critical pieces will. 

The Tea Cottage is hung on the wall.  My new desk is all put together.  This weekend we moved most of the furniture, and are still tweaking to find the best fit.  But it's exciting to see the space starting to fill. TeaMan, Phil, takes a much needed tea break while we waited for the downpour outside to let up!  Thankfully we got everything inside before the rains came. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Birth of a Tearoom -- Part 2

It's slooooow going, but we are making progress!

After scraping the floor in preparation for the linoleum tiles, the support wall was installed for the tea bar counter top.  Then the opening in the wall to the back room had to be filled in.
 And the walls in the tea service were painted with a paint color named--I kid you not--Teatime! 


 And after that, the tea bar could be mounted in place.
I can almost see the bar stools and tea sippers now!

Then the tea prep counter and cupboards went in and the floor was able to be laid.  
The slat wall to hold those 1000+ bags of tea waiting to be bagged has gone up too! 
And later this week, my two best workmen in the world will put up the tea cottage which houses the tea tins for tea service. 
The visions that have been floating in my head are actually starting to take form, and slowly, slowly, we are making a tea room.  I keep reminding myself--it's the slow and steady turtle that won the race. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Birth of a Tea Room -- Part 1

So, where do I begin?

Here we go again.  Lease signed.  Sigh deeply.  Gather all the puzzle pieces.  Get set...Go!
Right away the utilities have to be put in my name.  Gas and electric--check.  The phone lines and internet will have to come later, when enough is done that I am there every day.  In the mean time, the shop number floats in cyberspace as a virtual number that rolls over to my cell phone.  It's pretty neat what they can do these days with technology.
Start drawing out the finished floor plan.  We'll need to close in the window to the back room, and build a support wall for the tea bar.  The carpet will have to come up in the tea bar service area.  My fantastic husband, Phil, dubbed The TeaMan, gets the horrible job of scraping the old glue off the floor in preparation for tile.  Trip to carpet warehouse to find tile...check.
Get exact measurements for countertop for the Tea Bar so that it can be ordered...check.  Measure this...squeeze that.  Holy crap!  My desk just won't fit anywhere!  I mean any which way you look at it.  OK, get on line and find a new desk and file drawers in the right dimensions.  Check. 

Think about health department regulations.  Walls in the service area will need to be painted in washable paint.  Ceiling tiles changed to washable tiles.  The rest of the carpet is serviceable but will need a good steam cleaning.   We'll need a counter to prepare tea at.  Sketch in...check.  Cabinets for storage under the counter would be nice.  Trip to Home Depot--yea! cabinets are on sale.  Buy two cabinets...check.
Thank heavens electrical is all right where we need it, and so is the basic plumbing.  But a call to the inspectors downtown tells me that we can't install the sinks and ice machine ourselves, and have to find a licensed plumber to do the job.  Call around for estimates...check. 
Order new business cards and postcards announcing our new location, plus a nice poster for the front window announcing that Elaine's Tea Shoppe is Coming Soon!...check.  Call the sign company.  Make sure they can install my lighted sign on the front of the building at least a couple of weeks before opening.  Have them make new lettering to go on the wall above the tea cottage...check. 
While my brother and husband continue to prepare the space, I think I'll take a breath here while I wait for estimates, tile and countertop to come in.  Whew!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Birth of a Tea Room - Prologue

I thought I would chronicle the move from our wonderful shop on Monroe St. to our new location on W. Sylvania Ave.  It's not quite as simple as moving from point A to point B. There's so much to be done in order to prepare the space.  I thought it might be interesting for others to see what all happens to bring a new shop into existence.
So, here's a shot of what our beautiful shop looked like right before we had to start tearing it down.  Within a matter of days, we went from this...
to this!!!
We sold all but about a dozen bags of tea (we usually have over 1000 bags on the shelves)!  It was cold, nasty and the end of February when we had to move.  And, since our planned new location fell through at the last minute, everything--merchandise, supplies, appliances, shelving and fixtures, sinks, tables and chairs, plants, signs, my desk, files and office equipment, over 150 teas in kilo sized bags, my extensive teapot collection, and everything else--had to be stored until we found a suitable new home.  Nightmare is the word that comes to mind!
But, we were determined to rise from the ashes again, and the search was on to find our new home.  The first place was quite nice--we met with the owner, agreed on all the details, and shook hands on the deal.  Later, he backed out, leaving us in a spot.  A hand shake used to mean something--so much for integrity. One perfect spot 4 doors down from where we were wouldn't rent because the building owner didn't want to put the money into it to replace the broken furnace.  I even offered to do that in lieu of rent the first year, but they just dragged their feet so we moved on.
One by one another dozen or more potential places fell through.  One was a medical suite broken up into lots of small rooms.  The owner thought he would "sit on it" until another medical business came along.  Another great location had the space broken up between main floor and downstairs, where the bathroom was.  Too many steps for my (and others') arthritic knees!  Others spaces were too large or too small or too expensive. 
And then, one day, my wonderful brother (a retired carpenter who has helped me immensely with each shop incarnation) and I checked out the W. Sylvania spot.  The square footage was listed as almost exactly what we had on Monroe St.  A beverage type business had just moved out, so the plumbing for all the required sinks and ice machine was already in place--a major plus.  Upon measuring it out, we found it was actually over 100 sq. ft. smaller!  But, with lots of floor plan revisions, we decided we could make it fit. 
And, so, it begins...