In 2019 a new tea room and tea shop in Brooklyn, New York, created a local buzz for its imported teas. Having been opened in the predominantly Black Bedford-Stuyvesant area in December 2108 by Jamila McGill and Alfonso Wright, Brooklyn Tea seemed destined for success.
Brooklyn Tea serves more than 60 tea varieties, delicious pastries. They also offer a vegan menu that includes vegan waffles, English muffins, vegan sausage. And cookies adorned with the face of late Brooklyn rap icon Biggie Smalls.
Customers flock to the shop also for its tranquil vibes and welcoming spirit.
“We try to take the pretentiousness out of tea,” McGill told Finurah, although they also encourage new tea drinkers to learn more about tea.
Once the store opened, the entrepreneurial pair had people waiting in line out the door.
Then the pandemic hit.
When New York City shut down restaurants in 2020, Wright said they lost 85 percent of their revenue. On top of this, due to the shop’s street location, Brooklyn Tea could not participate in the NYC outdoor dining initiative.
“We went from a bustling social-gathering place to Jamila and I watching Netflix documentaries in the middle of the day because we had zero customers,” Wright told Bloomberg.
“COVID was definitely a bummer in the beginning. It was everything every small business says — gut-wrenching,” shared McGill to Finurah.
Brooklyn Tea cut staff hours but stayed open seven days a week. “We had customers who would stop by to buy from us just to make sure we stayed open,” said McGill. “Many of them would say it was their one venture outside for the day.”
Still, McGill and Wright had to reexamine their business model.
The then-engaged couple was left with no other choice but to try and find a pandemic pivot.
Since they already had an online presence, they decided to concentrate on their e-commerce store. They launched new products such as an “immunity box” of teas aimed at customers who were now more focused on their health.
The immunity-boosting box includes blueberry rooibos tea, Healer tea, Cold Killer tea, and ginger turmeric tea. There’s also an optional reusable stainless steel tea infuser basket.
Read full story at Finurah here.
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