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.
Hello, again! Continuing the theme of what's gotten me through 2020/2021, I want to share some television shows, documentaries, and movies that helped me cope these last two years. There are the obvious shows like Ted Lasso that I won't feature since EVERYONE knows about -- instead, I'll be showcasing some favorites that are off the beaten path but are definitely worth the time. I hope you'll drop your favorite TV and movies in the comments, too!
Here we are at the end of 2021 and we all thought we'd be out of this weird and tumultuous pandemic by now. With Omicron variant and Delta surging through the world - STILL - I am spending a lot of time reflecting on the self-care practices that have gotten me through these past two years. From TV shows, to really good books, to favorite songs & podcasts - this is part one of my compiled list of "things" that helped, and of course, I shall pair them all with a cup of tea!
“If we were perfect, the light He shines on us would just bounce right off. But the wrinkles, they catch the light. And the cracks, that’s how the light gets inside us. When I pray, Odie, I never pray for perfection. I pray for forgiveness, because it’s the one prayer I know will always be answered.” - This Tender Land
“I learned then that as long as I have my voice, I am still alive." - The Mountains Sing
“Maybe that’s the thing we need to understand, Alice. That some things are a gift, even if you don’t get to keep them.” There was a silence before he spoke again. “Maybe just to know that something this beautiful exists is all we can really ask for.” - The Giver of Stars
“We can't change the world, and a lot of the time we can't even change people. No more than one bit at a time. So we do what we can to help whenever we get the chance, sweetheart. We save those we can. We do our best. Then we try to find a way to convince ourselves that that will just have to...be enough. So we can live with our failures without drowning.” - Anxious People
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
This started as one post but in order for me to give the time needed for each thing, I am breaking it up into parts, so stay tuned for Part Two: Televison & Documentaries! Hope you find a new book or author in this batch of good books and don't forget to support your local libraries and bookstores!
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
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.
If you asked me last year if I would be sitting in my sweet little tea shop reflecting on the first 6 months of business today, I'd have likely not believed you. This tea shop has been a dream for so long, and those closest to me over the years have known of my love of tea, my heart for service, and the always present call back to waiting tables.
One of my last conversations with my dad was about why I was afraid to open a shop, and all the reasons why it wouldn't work or how it could go wrong. My deep fear of failure. He laughed with me and at me and told me to be brave. We talked about how I felt silo'd in a career that I was very good at, but not very fulfilled. We talked about who I have always been in his eyes, in my own eyes, and who I wanted to be going forward.
At the time, just a year ago, the tea shop was a symbol for who I wanted to be eventually. But to my dad (and to my mom) - they knew it was who I was all along.
When I decided to quit my very GOOD job at a very respected agency with a title and salary that I was very proud of, I had decided to let go of that chapter in my life.
The letting go wasn't really easy, but the 9-12 months that followed - - where I was forcing myself to BE STILL and figure myself out - - that was the hard part.
The starting over.
This morning, I'm sitting in my tea shop reflecting on all of the things that have changed in my life since last February. And, in these last 6 months.
How I've changed, how I've come back to life, how I've stayed true to myself after getting a little lost for a few (like 10) years. I'm thankful for my parents for seeing me even when I couldn't see myself. I'm thankful for my husband who has loved, supported, and cheered me on through all those decisions up the ladder, and now back down it.
And, I'm thankful for every single person who has come to the shop, talked about the shop, and all of you who are not just guests here, but friends.
Gotta go! Aspen is here for his morning treat & head pat! I'm thankful for the sweet puppy friends, too. 💚