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.