By Lori Bricker, MS, RD
This fall marks the 10th anniversary of The Tea Table, and I find myself reminiscing about our beginnings and the changes we’ve been through.
The Tea Table started as a pretty little shop in the historic “Old Town” district of Fort Collins, Colorado. My mom and a handful of friends helped me put the shop together. I had no idea how much there would be to do! I distinctly recall sitting on the floor of the shop the day before we opening, putting price tags on everything and trying my best to answer the millions of questions my friends were asking–Where does this go? How do you want this arranged? What is the price for this? What should we do about____? Boy did I need a cup of tea!
When we opened we had a mere 30 teas for sale displayed in white ceramic Bee House canisters and a nice variety of English China, books, accessories, and some Asian teapots. We had little clear sample jars for the teas so people could open the jar and smell them. The overall flavor of the shop decidedly feminine and British. Lots of flowery patterns on cups, pots, and accessories. I expected most of the customers to be middle-aged women, and we certainly had our fair share of those. They loved to come in and just wander slowly and look at every little thing. But to my surprise, men of all ages also came in and were quite serious about the tea.
We expanded the tea selection and soon had about 100 to offer, and I think it topped off at about 130 because we were just out of space! We were quite busy, and in the fall as the holidays neared, lines at the counter stretched to the door. We worked hard! In the meantime, we put up a little web site that featured just a few of our products. Slowly we added more and more products to the site, and it became more than just “one of those things you have to have” for your business. Soon it was actually getting some traffic.
We did that for 3 years until our lease ran out. Retail space, for those of you who have never tried it, is dreadfully expensive. The sad truth is that in our three years in our little shop, we never really made any money. Something had to change, so we didn’t renew the lease and put all our efforts into the web site. We had a big sale to get rid of items we weren’t going to carry anymore, worked out a “local pick-up” deal with the coffee shop around the corner so our local customers wouldn’t have to pay for shipping, and turned our attention to making the web site a complete storefront. We have been thrilled that a huge number of our local customers have continued to do business with us via our online store. Thank you!
The web site has changed and grown over the years, and we’re in a larger facility now with plenty of warehouse and office space to allow for future growth. But we remain a very small business, and are quite happy with that arrangement. We’ve been able to keep our prices fair by reducing our overhead and rejecting corporate ideals. We’re not publicly traded, we don’t use other people’s money, and we don’t dream of taking over the world. Although we’re all very excited about what the future may bring, The Tea Table started out as your neighborhood tea shop, and we have every intention of maintaining that feel, regardless of the size of the “neighborhood.”
And we would all, Lori, John, Sharon, and Cameron, like to thank our customers for your ongoing support of our endeavor. We can’t do it without you. Here’s to the next decade — Cheers!