Opening a retail tea store has been a dream of my husband’s and mine since the late 1990s. A New Leaf began as an assignment to prepare a marketing business plan for an MBA class I took at Hofstra University (I got an A). We waited quite some time until [what we thought was] the best time and then jumped in feet first. Living locally, we honestly believed that Seventh Street was the location in which we wanted to open our first store. Once a site opened up, I got up my nerve to leave a 24-year career to start my own retail business. At the age of 42, I showed my three beautiful daughters not to be afraid, to follow their dreams, and to take a chance. You only get to do this once – live life.
Clearly as a result of our customers’ loyalty, and the great growth of our online presence, A New Leaf has recognized double-digit growth nearly every month of its operation. However, after nearly three years on Seventh Street, A New Leaf has plans to relocate to new retail space this fall.
The decision to relocate is not related to lack of growth. As a result of creative marketing efforts, loyal customers, and fantastic publicity, A New Leaf has grown to happily serve the niche tea market in Nassau County. A New Leaf has a heavy social media presence (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, LinkedIn) as well as an ecommerce Web site. Additionally, in just over two years’ time, A New Leaf has been written about in The New York Times, Newsday (twice), Long Island Woman, Long Island Pulse, the Malverne-West Hempstead Herald, and was used as a location to film the season premiere of “Long Island Medium.” Impressive for a “three-years-young” small business.
Fighting the battle of a fast-moving society also turned out to be quite the challenge. Tea has a lot to do with being mindful. “Tea time” is a time for relaxation and peace. For centuries, the tea ceremony has been one of reflection, meditation and simply “being.” In today’s society, no one stops. Very few people relax for extended periods of time to just “be.” Trying to encourage people to slow down and relax is a challenge not easily fought by one person/business in a community where most people are running to work or running to do errands, or running to schools to pick up children. If I could fight the battle alone, I would.
I am grateful to those customers that believe in me, the store, the tea, and the business model. For those customers that thought A New Leaf wouldn’t make it (and especially to those who told me I wouldn’t make it, for one reason or another), I challenge you to patronize a small business today and find one nice thing to say to the owner. Perhaps you can thank them for boosting the economy. Thank them for employing people (A New Leaf employed six local college students). Thank them for trusting in your community to believe that it was strong enough to allow them to follow their dream. Tell them how beautiful their store is. Tell them how helpful their staff is. Find something nice to say to brighten their day. Rather than express an opinion on what you would do if you were in their shoes (especially if you’ve never been in their shoes), perhaps simply take a moment to thank them for their effort in the small-business sector, and give them words of encouragement for believing in your local economy. Trust me; they will appreciate it. Those truly are the moments that can help someone get by.
A New Leaf has received so many great compliments over the course of the three years we’ve worked on designing, building, and operating the store. From the layout of our space, to the courtesy and knowledge of our six wonderful staff, right down to the calming atmosphere – compliments came frequently, and nothing pleases a business owner more. I lost count on how many times I was asked if A New Leaf was a franchise – we spared no expense on making this, our first location, the most appealing and relaxing spot we could think of.
A New Leaf also received its share of advice from customers. From, “You should serve food,” to “You’ll never make it because you don’t sell pancakes,” we’ve heard it all. It is my firm belief that Seventh Street is predominantly food-oriented. This is very challenging for a retail business. Through no fault of its own, this local community craves more eateries. In order to preserve the original plan for A New Leaf and to hold true to my business model, A New Leaf did not enter into the restaurant or food business. There are plenty of other people who could do that a lot better than me, and who would love the opportunity to do so.
A New Leaf is proud to have provided Garden City High School with tea for three “Tea With Seniors,” events since 2013. We’ve donated to wonderful charities, non-profits, and causes when we were able. We’ve helped people sleep better, cleanse their bodies, and start their mornings with tea. We’ve provided tea-tasting classes, had guest speakers and converted “coffee-only” drinkers. We’ve helped provide relief from colds, allergies, insomnia, and the occasional not-so-common illness. I’ve spoken at events and lectures, all in the interest of tea.
How wonderful it is! I beat the odds; I am very proud of the 33 months that I worked tirelessly both in the store and at home to share my love of tea with all of you. What I am most proud of, however, is that I was able to do something that very few people could say that they did. I followed my dream. I took a chance. How many people will look back at their lives and say, “I’m so happy I did that?” Not many. Most will say, “I wish I did that;” but not me. I have no regrets. What a life lesson I learned and what an example I set for my three daughters: take a chance; what do you have to lose? Money? You can always make more money. But you can’t get back time or an opportunity. What do you have to lose? Whatever happens, you’ll have a great story to tell.
I look forward to my next location, and details will be disclosed soon.
As of August 1, our inventory will be available online from ANewLeafTeaCo.com, and we will continue to restock our most popular teas.
Any questions and/or comments to this open letter can be directed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck to all of you! A New Leaf looks forward to serving you online at www.ANewLeafTeaCo.com.