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.
After just over a month of being re-opened inside at the tea shop, I cannot believe I am writing this - I am headed back out to the curb. Today, Arkansas was marked as the 2nd most dangerous place in the United States in terms of contracting the new Delta Variant of Covid-19. With 1,000 new cases yesterday, and another 1200+ new cases today - our state is experiencing a THIRD surge of the virus.
I am so discouraged. I just got used to the shop being open again - feeling a little bit back to normal, and yet we are not back to normal. I would rather be hot and tired on the curb than feeling anxious about the spread of the virus inside of my shop. I am a small business and likely my decision will make a very small ripple in this situation, but I feel a responsibility to myself, my family and to my customers to make efforts to curb the outcome of this next surge.
Many of you already know that a large part of our customers are under the age of 15 - little cuties who love to visit the shop with their parents or neighborhood kids who ride their bike to the shop to share a jug of tea on the porch. These kids have zero choice in vaccination. And, now with new information coming out that there are many breakthrough cases (people getting the Delta Variant of Covid-19 who have been vaccinated for months specifically those who have the Pfizer vaccine.) I know this to be true because a friend of mine who has been vaccinated with Pfizer since April just tested positive this past week right here in Little Rock. Fortunately, I had not seen him for awhile, but the news was enough to have me more than worried. You see, I have the Pfizer vaccine and so does my Grami. The risk of either of us contracting this new and more contagious virus is not worth it especially after I spent 15 months out there keep this little dream alive already.
So, out to the curb we go again. I did it last year - in the heat - and I can do it again. But this go around, I am not going to be as perky about it. Here me when I say, please DO NOT come to the tea stand without your masks on your face. I will not be apologetic about asking you to put one on while you're with me. It is impossible for me to know who is vaccinated and who is not - and by us all wearing a mask that takes the stress and anxiety off me while I sit out there in the sun serving my tea.
If you are out of town and you are reading this, you can still support me! Please shop online - I have a free shipping promotion on the site running through the end of July with coupon-code SUMMERTIME at check-out. You can see my various loose leaf tea blends & other tea accessories at our online store.
Thank you all so much for supporting me thus far - this was a very hard decision for me as the heat is at PEAK levels in Arkansas right now. I will likely only have 2 tea stands per week during the hot weeks but if I see a cool day, I will pop out there more - you can keep up with this info on my social media pages.
Please wear a mask, please get vaccinated, please be mindful of the kids around you, please be kind to each other. - Abbi
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.
I've been giving a lot of thought to what the next month looks like for the tea shop in lieu of the announcement from the State of Arkansas on re-opening restaurants and retail shops.
The quarantine has taken quite a toll on my little business. I never thought I would face such an extreme hiccup in year three.
All that said, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of support from friends, regulars, and complete strangers.
The past 7 weeks has been a LOT of shifting gears and a LOT of hard work but we are doing okay. My tea shop will be okay.
There is still so much uncertainty about how this virus spreads, how many people have it, can people get it again, and on and on. As many of you know, I run the shop with my mom and my sister, Jessica. Both of them are diabetic, my mom is over the age of 60 and I am currently the main contact for my Grami - doing her errands, taking her groceries, and visiting with her weekly. My considerations are not just for me, but my family, and ultimately for my customers. Opening the shop too soon could put those I love in jeopardy.
I have decided to continue with curbside pick-up, online order/shipping, and the Tea Stand through May.
We just released our fall loose leaf tea blends here at the tea shop! Our friends over at Rock City Eats have taken some time to try the new blends and give a few thoughts on their favorites.
The new blends include:
The Sassy Sage: bright, complex & no caffeine
Banana Nut Roo: rooibos base with warm nutty texture
Spiced Orange: black tea with a light spice & lots of citrus
The Drowsy Poet: yerba mate & rooibos with smoky citrus layers
Chamomile Cardamom Chai: floral and spicy, a nice non-caffeinated alternative to traditional chai
Be sure to swing in over the weekend for our all you can drink blend release party on Sunday! $5 gets you a cup and the chance to try all the blends!
We had a great time on Good Day Arkansas this morning with Chris from Colonial Wines & Spirits talking about our event on Thursday night! Come see me at Colonial Wines & Spirits from 4-7pm this Thursday to try Abbi's Herbal Mojito and our Blackberry Patch cocktail!
We will be selling tea and Colonial will be serving up free tea cocktail samples!