It was the fall of 2007, I was a senior in college and Jordan had transferred to the same school for what turned out to be only one semester. I wasn't really dating and had my mind focused on graduating.
Jordan and I started as friends. Our common interest in music lead to burning mixed CDs and putting them in each other's campus mailboxes. Sometimes there was a note, sometimes the note was the title of the mix.
I was constantly in and out of flea markets - a lifelong hobby. I had the only record player in the dorm and a large Bob Dylan poster hung in my dorm room all 4 years. To be fair, I had a pretty weird array of interests music-wise. I was always hunting for old Frank Sinatra albums or Barbara Streisand. I was always pretty casual about the vinyl, but after a few trips with me - Jordan got really into it. He liked the rare hard-to-find stuff, he was always looking things up, making lists. He even wrote Tumblr music reviews for a while.
He kissed me for the first time on the back of a church van after I got stung by a wasp on a hayride. It was late October. I remember that kiss like it was yesterday because even with the sting, I floated the whole night. The next day he asked me if I wanted to go steady.
During a long-distance stint, we would read to each other over the phone. One of our favorite books we read to each other was Love Is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. Each chapter started with a mix.
Fast forward almost 15 years later, his kisses still make me float. We still make each other mixes - though they are swapped via music streaming apps & Bluetooth. We just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary - and while we've seen a lot of hardship, our love has weathered those storms.
I grew up on the Outer Banks, and it's been home for me my whole life. Jordan and I lived here for several years at the beginning of our marriage when I was the Marketing Director for Kitty Hawk Kites. That was 10 years ago. After being out here for a while, we decided that since all of his family and all of my mom's side of the family were in Arkansas - we should move back. We had babies on our minds. Sadly, babies aren't a part of our story. We weathered those losses, too.
Jordan has always wanted to own a record store. When I made the leap 5 years ago with the nudging of my mom and him by my side to open the tea shop the "& things" was open-ended to tack that on once he was ready to leave his career and go for it. In the original design of my very first tea shop website, I even had tea & records on the about page.
When COVID hit and then never ceased, Jordan and I kept coming out here for little stay-cations. Trying to escape the heaviness of COVID and the surging cases. Every trip out here, we both could feel the pulling of the tides. Then he looked at me and said, "What would you say if we moved back?" I said, "Don't even say it out loud if you aren't serious." He was.
For the last 6-9 months we've been trying to figure it out. Make it work and find a way to do it. Every single door opened back up for us. It was time, and it was time for Jordan's dream, too.
If you have seen Everything Everywhere All At Once, you may know my reference here. Jordan is my Waymond. He is the kindest human I have ever known. And not kind in a saccharine way - genuinely the best person. He is patient, supportive, and unwavering. I cannot tell you how proud of him I am.
Jordan's record store will be housed inside the tea shop! A big part of the reason I dropped the restaurant side of things was the blows of COVID and the hassle of the ups/downs/customer rants but also it has made room for Jordan's new adventure.
The Bob Dylan poster will hang at the shop, and so will the Radiohead poster along with two large shadow boxes showcasing our mixed CDs, notes & concert stubs spanning our lives together. I bet there will be more of those to be made, too.
You can follow his Facebook Page Sudden Light Records. He's on Instagram @suddenlightrecords, too. Help me share the page and get his likes up on both accounts. You can sign up for his e-mail specials & announcements at www.suddenlightrecords.com.
Pinch me, y'all! We're doing it. Tea & Records by the sea - together!
I love you, Jordan. Thanks for being my best friend. 🍵🏝🎸
I’ve struggled all week on when to make this announcement because it’s a bittersweet one that has come with a lot of thought over the last 6 months. Do I tell them before my anniversary? On it? After Valentine’s Day? I decided for the day after my anniversary because I wanted to cap off my 4 years positively and start year 5 with the new changes. Good changes, exciting changes - but really hard changes.
Thanks so much to everyone who came by the shop yesterday. It turned out to be a pretty quiet day and Mom came by and we got to spend some time together which we hadn’t gotten to do in a long time with our constant busy schedules we have been juggling.
But - last night, there y’all were for the tea talk! Folks from all over the state and country. Twelve states were represented just from who I could see in the chat and orders afterward. We had a good time. I cried, and then laughed as I poured tea on my computer which was a very ME moment! I almost spilled the beans in the telling of how my little shop came to be, but I pulled myself together.
So here we are on this Friday before Valentine’s Day and I’m still struggling to put it into words.
When I started this tea shop, this location was like an answered prayer. The building was green, it had this big patio, it was in the perfect spot with the perfect space and so much character. Every single door swung open for me in 2017 and I opened on February 10th, 2018. Those first two years operating, I was profitable and booming. I remember starting 2020 extremely optimistic about the business - we had a huge turnout for National Hot Tea Day that year, too.
And then COVID hit in March 2020 and I confidently went to the curb with my tea stand thinking it’d be a fun solution that would only last a few months. Boy, was I wrong!
Over the last two years, I have ebbed and flowed and changed my operations all while putting a considerable effort into growing my e-commerce and national footprint with fellow tea lovers. And, it’s worked. When the weather was bad or when I needed to take some days for self-care, I built a well-oiled online process that gave me the freedom to survive this pandemic without putting my family or my customers at risk. I’m really proud of that. And as I’ve learned in therapy over the last year, I need to acknowledge that success without the word ‘but’ at the end of the sentence.
BUT, it seems COVID is not over and we are in between surges. As many of you know, our family holds several disabilities and health conditions which makes all of this a bit scarier for us. I also have a host of customers who made my shop a safe place before and during COVID as they navigated their own lives, too.
The reality is, I don’t feel comfortable having people eating and gathering in small or large groups unmasked for several hours a day at the shop. The potential exposure is just not worth it to me for my family or my customers. I can’t even get some folks to wear a mask for 5 minutes as they “just want to look around” right now without them swearing at me or causing a scene. It’s exhausting and depressing.
I am not sure when I’ll feel comfortable with the restaurant side of my operation again - but I know one day that piece will return to me. Just not right now.
Okay, out with it, Abbi…
With the growth of my online business and the success of my retail and to-go only operation that I’m currently operating in, I’ve decided to let the overhead of this space go so I can maintain profitability.
My last day in Hillcrest will be March 20th, 2022. This isn’t goodbye. I’m NOT going out of business, I’m just “shifting my sails,” as Mom says. Over the next months, I’ll be finalizing a small manufacturing space where my online and blending operations will be housed and expanded! Then I will be transitioning to a smaller retail space to have my day-to-day operations.
I’m letting go of sweet tea parties, cute little princesses, and the anxiety of having to constantly say no to people who only want to come to my shop for large group gatherings. Tea Talks will be virtual for now, but I’ll be doing some outdoor tea talks when the weather warms up consistently, too.
It’s really bittersweet.
I’m excited about what comes next, but I’m unbelievably sad about saying goodbye to what has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me - something I built and did and thrived in, despite every hurdle. I feel like the very essence of who I am is imprinted on the walls of this tea shop. And I’m grieving the loss, to be honest about it.
I’ll miss my puppy regulars and the ebb and flow of Hillcrest, but I sure won’t miss the parking issues.
Y’all have supported me this far, and I hope you’ll continue to support me as I make this transition. You can come by the shop through March 20th. I’ll be OPEN Wednesday-Saturday 10 am-6 pm and Sundays 1 pm-4 pm.
Come late March/early April, I will have an update on where I’ll be next. That’ll be an exciting announcement we can all look forward to in the future.
What a great day back inside the shop! The layout worked so great and people got tea and tea lattes and bought loose leaf and loved my new tea cups & pots!
AND my Gang of Youths shirt came in today so I put it on and I got to wear my house slippers and everything was just so happy in here today!
Thanks to everyone who came out - I’ll be in here again tomorrow from 10am-6pm!
Oh, and free shipping with orders $25 or more at www.abbiteas.com with coupon code HOLIDAYSPIRIT at checkout!
The shop has been converted to gifts & tea & things! I will not be offering dine in at this time but you can order any tea off the menu - including my famous tea lattes! On warm days, I’ll have seating on the porch!
Depending on demand this first week, I may bring back some light tea snacks like scones & brownies but for now, just tea!
A WORD ON MASKS
Cases are on the rise and testing is very low. Masks will be required in the shop. Please don’t make me ask you to wear one, just be respectful of how I’ve worked to keep my shop a safe place for folks of all ages and health conditions. If the mask upsets you, you can shop online or schedule a pick-up and I’m happy to bring it out to you curbside!
For those who are new here: my entire family is high risk. My Grami was very sick the last several months (not COVID related) and is finally on the up & up. Many of my customers are high risk, too. Special needs adults, cancer patients, and I have lots of kiddos who only recently have been able to get a vaccine but are not yet fully vaccinated.
I’m not trying to attack anyone’s rights, I’m simply trying to be careful and considerate and do my part to curb this mess. Please be kind. This little shop is my holy & happy place.
HOLIDAY BLENDS ARE HERE
Usually I make y’all wait til Black Friday for these cherished holiday blends, but with shipping already beginning to lag I’ve decided to release them early!
More on that in the morning!!
Several years ago a young woman came in and asked me, “Ms. Abbi can I shadow you? I want to own a bakery one day.” “Of course!” I said. She showed up on time, with an apron, and I taught her how I blend my teas and how to make one of my most popular lattes. She was a pro right from the start.
Her name is Sharlotte and I am one of her BIGGEST fans. She and her sister, Silvey, and her mom, Michelle have become some of my most favorite people in the world. When Sharlotte asked me last year if she could bake goodies and sell them out at at the tea stand, she came with a hand made ordering menu that she asked me to hand out to folks so they could email in their orders. Bumble Bee Brownies, the name of her enterprise. She came with her brownies, and hand drawn brochures. I provided the space, umbrella, and the table. She did the rest! She already had pre-orders so she managed her pickups and then she sold out of her goodies in record time to those whose stopped by.
She was a natural!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when she stopped by to ask if I’d be her community recommendation for her application to the FBLA! She came polished with her why and how important it was to her and all of her goals.
We talked about how I was in FBLA when I was in middle school and how I went on to be a Lt Governor for the Missouri Arkansas Key Club in high school. She already had her eyes set on being a leader in her club.
So, it’s no surprise that today her Mom proudly announced she’d been named Vice President of the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) at Pulaski Heights Middle School.
Go Sharlotte! Watching you grow your entrepreneurial skills these last several years has been an honor!
I love you and I am SO proud of you!
Some of you might know about Jaguar Man, but if you don’t - he is a delightful man who lives in the neighborhood.
When I started this tea stand journey last year he’d drive by and honk and occasionally pass me any spare change he had with the blow of a kiss as he left.
Today he brought me things from his garden and honestly I just adore Jaguar Man - as he drove off he flipped his hand up for a kiss to blow and said “Tell everyone your boyfriend brought you this! Sharing is caring!”
A great first day back out on the curb, and it wasn’t even too terribly hot!!
Thank you to EVERYONE who came out and supported me! Sold out of tea jugs and everything!
Name: Meaghan Ferneau
Where are you? Little Rock, Arkansas
What do you do? Regional Demand Generation Manager (basically Tech Marketing) and Princessing as a side hustle!
Favorite blends? Gentle Dreams / Rose Mint / Peach Mint
Iced or hot? Hot!
What's your ideal tea experience? Sitting out in the French countryside with a cup of Gentle Dreams and no one is around, except Chris Pratt - he’s there. Did you say ideal experience or day dream? Same thing right?
What got you into tea? I have always enjoyed it, but in all honesty I have never had blends as creative or delicious as Abbi’s!
Any fun cocktails or weird/fun things you do with your tea leaves? I use the Rose Mint leaves on my hands for eczema- and we have made cocktails with a few blends making a simple syrup!
What are you reading? I finally opened up “Untamed” which I’ve had sitting unopened for quite some time!
What are you listening to these days? I’m an old soul - I love old records mainly from the 60s and 70s.
What's a blend you'd love to try but haven't yet? Goji Ginger
Thanks for always making me laugh, Meaghan and for all the kind words & drive by honks from the Jeep on your way home!
A really small and insignificant event just happened that triggered in me a deep cathartic cry that I feel has been dwelling up in me for a few weeks now. One of those cleansing “make things new by clearing things out” types of cries.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when I was trying to figure out what retail would sell and would be easy to move in and out every day out at the tea stand I made some purchases of teapots.
Typically when I buy teapots or things for the store, I choose things that I really love in hopes people will love it like I do.
So, when I found this matte gray teapot with a cream accent, I really wanted to keep it for myself but alas, I have so many teapots. I couldn’t let it pass and there was only one left from this manufacturer, and I needed it for the stand.
I knew it would sell.
Well, the year passed - in and out this gray teapot came and went with me out to the stand. In every season - cold weather, spring weather, hot humid weather, fall weather, and repeat.
When we got to the point where I was ready to open back up, I was merchandising and buying for the gift shop room & the gray teapot was the last remaining teapot from that initial pandemic buy. I just didn’t understand why no one loved this little teapot like me. So, I told myself that if it was still here at Christmas this year, I would take it home, and it would be mine.
Today, I sold the gray teapot.
I do not know why it touched me so much, but when they came around the corner after spending much time debating which pot to choose for their tea nook, they had the gray teapot nestled in their elbow.
Tears sprung to my eyes and I said, “Oh, are you going to buy that one?!” They said “Well, we’d hoped so!” I quickly said “yes, yes please!” and unintentionally I let loose some tears on them. I explained to them about how this was the only teapot that literally came in and out every single time at the tea stand for a year and a half - and, how I just didn’t understand why no one would buy it.
The loneliest but most loyal teapot to survive the elements and the hustle without even so much as a chip on her. She’s a resilient little pot, that one!
The tears were rolling at this point and I said, “That teapot has just been waiting for you! It’s just been waiting to find you this whole time and I hope you will just love her and cherish her.”
They were super cool about it even though my sappy ass was having a bit of a moment. We chattered about books and other things and they headed out the door with her.
But, as they are standing on the sidewalk - teapot lovingly held in their arms - I feel like the whole load of this year just came rolling out of me. The weight of making it through it all. The weight of hauling my shop in and out every single day.
Farewell, teapot friend. You are the only one who saw me laugh, cry, dance, sing, work, sweat, read, & work my entire self mentally & physically to keep this tea shop afloat. You did it with me - all on the side of the curb during the hardest year of my entire life. You hold so many stories and sights and memories that only you could see & many only you will ever know.
I hope you get used fully and often and I bet you make the best damn tea a pot could ever make because you survived this year just like me — and now you are right where you belong! We made it. We’re okay. We survived - and now we can go back to doing what we were really meant to do.
I made it! I keep whispering that to myself these days. February marks the start of my fourth year in business. It also marks the 12th month of operating 100% curbside with the tea stand. I spent 10 of the 12 months of my 3rd year outside in the elements of Arkansas weather slinging tea and finding solace in the faces of my neighbors and customers. I MADE IT!
The loneliness of 2020 was really hard for me. Not just at the tea shop that sat quiet and empty day after day, but the world in general was a hard and lonely place. Isolating from those we love, the tensions of extreme partisanship in our country, and the loneliness of being misunderstood and directly lied about were all things I struggled with more than ever in year 3.