Boy, those holidays, huh? That’s why I haven’t posted in a while. That, and I’ve found a retail space I really like for a tea bar. Hint: it’s in Philadelphia, because that’s where I live, but I don’t want any starbucks-internet-spiderbots snagging it first, so I’m not saying exactly where.
I know, I know, Starbucks and Saxby’s and three others will move in to the gentrificomplex which is soon to sprout around the corner. Still, I’m superstitious. Instead of telling you about all the figuring and phoning and fretting I’m doing over this space, I’ll tell you the story of a tea bar I didn’t open.
This should take you to a street view of 16th and JFK in Center City Philadelphia. See those pointy sculptures? They already look like dancing tea buds! They’re situated one level below, in a courtyard that’s open to the air, viewable from the street, but only accessible from Suburban Station. For the uninitiated, Philadelphia’s Suburban Station is not outside of the urban center; it’s UNDER the urban center. There, the seven commuter rail lines and three “subway lines” all meet, right under City Hall. There’s a sizable retail concourse, that boasts FOUR SEPARATE DUNKIN DONUTS LOCATIONS. This told me there was a huge demand for caffeinated beverages that was ripe for diversification.
I was a commuter, and I understood the commuter experience. I dreaded the daily drudge, but the transit system proper was a sort of liminal space, the world-navel where the mystical transformation of Family Man to Career Man takes place. As you board the trolley, you are putting on your public face, your emotional mask, girding yourself from the world’s jostle with your psychic armor. This is a delightful magic playact, but also deadly serious. The workaday warrior’s sword and shield are her caffeine and her iPod. I wanted to offer her a more subtle weapon than the venti latte. A weapon that stimulated the nerves, to be sure, but one that seduced the senses and succored the soul.
Then Au Bon Pain moved in. In a train station it’s about convenience, cost, and branding. I felt like they were better positioned as a healthy alternative to Dunkin Donuts. I know I can make better tea, but they had me out-flanked with breads, pastries, salads…and apparently yogurt is a big seller these days. So I gave up on that idea.
But I can’t stop dreaming about incorporating the outdoor element in an urban tea space. Glass walls, shotgun-plot fenced-in gardens, yurts…who knows, someday.