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Shopper buys tea shop in Morgantown, West Virginia

July 21, 2019

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Lisa Biafore was searching for a gift for her mother.

She found herself inside of the Seneca Center, to the right and down the creaky hall, in a small tea shop. On her quest to find a gift, she noticed the business was for sale. The search for a gift turned into a thought of a “fun retirement option.”

Not too long after, she took up the opportunity and bought the 800-square-foot shop.

For six years, Lisa has been expanding the The Tea Shoppe’s space and tea selection, as well as creating a new menu, including brunch. The first step in Lisa’s transformation process was expanding the kitchen. The space for preparing the tea and food was only the size of a “powder room,” according to Lisa.

“We’ve been growing ever since,” Lisa said.

Through the years, she expanded the space another 1,300 square feet.

The main dining area now sits 40 people — it used to seat only 18 — and guests can choose a colorful hat from the wall, to wear while having tea. It’s taken vision, Lisa said, and her daughters, Rachel and Gina, have been a huge help along the way.

“It’s been a wonderful experience and it’s taught my daughters a lot of responsibility and a lot of growth,” Lisa said.

“I think working in a local business is very cool; we’re very unique,” Rachel said.

Rachel said her mom has been a major influence on her and being a part of a family-owned business is challenging at times, but worth it. Rachel said what sets them apart in the area is having their own “niche” in the tea industry.

Lisa said the goal of her business is to educate people on what the specialized shop has to offer, as opposed to what is in the supermarket, and why her store is the better option.

Along with greater selection, other attributes that set her shop apart: Expertise, experience and knowledge.

The family takes pride in staying on top of the latest varieties, flavors and trends in the tea market.

In the second week of June, Lisa and her family went to the annual World Tea Expo — the largest tea industry trade show in North America, with more than 3,500 in attendance each year, according to the World Tea Expo website. The expo is only open to those in the tea industry. This year, it was held in Las Vegas.

It was Lisa’s first time going to the expo, and she said the experience was like no other. It opened her eyes to the opportunities available, which were way more than she expected. She became familiar with new tea leaves and had the chance to network with other businesses.

“There were people that were offering different experiences, which I thought was very interesting,” Lisa said.

Some of the new, eye-opening items Lisa discovered were coffee and avocado tea leaves, and a new form of technology entering the industry. Lisa said she learned about an app that is in development that will brew your tea to the perfect steep.

The biggest thing Lisa took away from the expo was being able to see beyond her own supply network — it gave her the opportunity to think about new ideas she wants to bring to her shop.

“It’s such a bigger world than I thought it would be, from a tea perspective,” Lisa said.

Lisa said she loves owning a business, and that love is a necessary ingredient for success.

“This is a passion and it has to be a passion,” Lisa said. “You have got to want to do this . . . I love it. I’ve always loved to cook and entertain and this just gives me that opportunity to express so much of that.”

The Tea Shoppe gives adults something different to do, Lisa said, as well as being a family-friendly place to visit. Her shop hosts several monthly events, including children’s tea parties and tea tastings.

Lisa gives the chefs in the shop freedom to decide the types of scones and sandwiches to create each day. They look at things from a different perspective, which is a good thing, according to Lisa.

Eli Rollinson, chef at The Tea Shoppe, said working there has allowed him to experiment with new recipes. Rollinson is a self-taught chef, and having the freedom to come up with his own ideas in the kitchen helped his cooking skills immensely, he said.

Not only has Lisa taught Rollinson business tips, but he said when the shop gets busy, she keeps the employees grounded.

“She gives good pointers when we need them and keeps everyone in line . . . not in a strict way, but in a more professional way, so we don’t lose our heads when it gets really busy,” Rollinson said.

For more information, or to reserve the tea room, contact Lisa Biafore at wvtheteashoppe@gmail.com.

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Information from: The Dominion Post, http://www.dominionpost.com

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