Friday April 10, 2009 | 4 comments
So, what’s it like to own a teahouse? Many people have asked me to share some of my experiences “from the inside”. So here it is, a brief overview of the Good, the Not-So-Fun, and the Downright Ugly of what teahouse ownership has been like for me the past three years.
The Good (really, the Great)
Not surprisingly, it’s the people, tea, food, and culture:
Our patrons, many of whom have become good friends and who are generous with their patience and encouragement when we need it most; our staff, intelligent, interesting, and kind; exploring, drinking, and buying new teas, and sharing them with everyone else (this is work?); hosting tea tastings; attending the World Tea Expo; continuous learning about tea, food, and the restaurant industry; interacting with passionate, interesting tea industry professionals; Fall, Christmas, Winter; having flexible hours; traveling, when I can afford it.
Many of these stem from the unpredictable nature of the restaurant business:
The POS system going down during the busiest times (like our opening day); our A/C crashing on a 103-degree day; the bakery case dying, killing all our chocolate mousse cakes, and the ensuing $600 repairs; having a really, really slow day/month; cash flow uncertainties; our dishwasher breaking down on a busy Saturday; staff scheduling; the Health Department visiting during the busiest lunch of the month; having to replace several batches of expensive dishes and glassware due to breakage; being out of everyone’s favorite blend during our busiest month; having to give up my pottery studio in our basement because it’s now a teahouse warehouse.
I realize “Ugly” is highly subjective in this list:
Dealing with the government and all its glorious taxes; bookkeeping/accounting; paying all the extras on top of your employee wages: taxes galore, BWC premiums, unemployment, payroll tax, social security; stealth credit card finance charge increases; merchant fee increases; thefts; walkouts; attempted break-ins; terminating employees; financial insecurity; our beautiful bamboo floors warping from winter condensation on the glass doors; realizing that not everybody’s work ethic is the same as yours.
I feel so grateful, so touched by the warm reception and love that the people of Cincinnati have shown us. I didn’t know what to expect when we opened on a chaotic Saturday three years ago. The stress was incredibly intense, but the day was exhilarating. Our friends, family, and staff all came out to support our efforts that first day and thereafter, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without their invaluable support and dedication.
I spent 60-80 hours a week at the teahouse during the first year doing everything I could to learn the operations and develop systems. Although exhausted, I loved every minute of it. I hope this will shed some light on what it’s like to own a teahouse. I encourage you to support your local teahouse whenever you can!