Some days, I have time for a mug of tea while reading a short passage. Then there are days when I’m out the door with a pink, stainless steel travel mug of tea. On other occasions, morning tea is made in a 32-ounce teapot and covered with a humble tea cozy chosen from a variety of sources. However, when company comes, the teapot is covered with whichever tea cozy strikes my fancy at the moment – but definitely something for “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” On days when the workload seems nearly impossible, a cozy-covered teapot sits on the desk providing comforting cheer and encouragement.
Although there are incredibly beautiful, functional, and traditional cozies that sit over the top of the teapot, I am especially fond of snug-a-pot types that have cord ties, snaps, or Velcro closures. They stay in place and there’s no futzing. However, snug-a-pots need to be carefully designed so that the bottom is flat. Draw cords or strings at the top should be stitched to stay in place rather than slip out with use or run away with errant socks in the wash tub.
Form and function – these are words that are at the heart of Annelise Pitt’s tea business, Thistledown Cozies. Easy-to-use with trendy fabric designs, Annelise’s cozies are well worth a look. You’ll find the perfect cozy for your conference room, quilt club, lake house, poker night, or friendship tea.
Business name: Thistledown Cozies, LLC
Owner: Annelise Pitt
Address: 1 Baker Rd, Windham, NH 03087
Jennifer: How are your promoting your business to retain customers?
Annelise: We have been advertising in TeaTime magazine for years. TeaTime readers are exactly our kind of tea drinker – they love tea and they love the tea experience – surrounded by beautiful tea accoutrements in a beautiful setting. My tea room customers are the same; they appreciate that our tea cozies add to the ambiance of their shops. I must explain, though, that Thistledown Cozies are not just about the tea experience – we are fanatical about how well our products function – as well as how good they look.
We are definitely of the digital age and use our website and emails to promote our wares. This is occasionally an issue as some of our tea ladies are uncomfortable on the web – but most tea shop owners find it convenient to order directly from the website. We still offer personalized service (and the chat) that comes with a phone call.
We are regulars at the World Tea Expo. The Expo has been a fabulous forum for our cozies. Not only is it the best tea networking opportunity available, but it is also a wonderful venue to showcase new products. Our tea cozy for men, the Hob, won a “Best New Product Award” at the 2010 World Tea Expo.
As far as retaining our customers, we rely on the quality of our products to do that. We are also constantly offering new fabrics to choose from, and periodically introduce new designs – like the Hob and our hugely popular Tea Wallets.
Jennifer: What has been your greatest challenge?
Annelise: Our greatest challenge has been finding skilled stitchers. Thistledown Cozies’ customers are in the tea industry, but everything else about the company is really in the garment / apparel manufacturing industry. This industry has a dark reputation for exploitation of its workers, and Thistledown Cozies refuses to engage in those practices. We ensure that there is not even a hint of this by only hiring local (New Hampshire) home-based stitchers, and paying them well. Our standards are high, so only the most meticulous craftspeople are retained. We spend a lot of time finding and keeping the most talented stitchers – and it shows in every item we make.
Jennifer: What’s ahead for your business?
Annelise: We have so many things on the horizon. I’m working on a gender-neutral tea wallet for men, and trying to find time to turn my huge catalog of past tea cozy designs into patterns for sale.
The most exciting thing happening is the interest my college-aged children are showing in my business. Tea seems to have caught on with this generation. They helped me man my booth at last summer’s World Tea Expo, and will be back this year as well. I noticed others their age working booths at the Expo – a definite trend!
Another trend for us is the number of online tea retailers who are carrying Thistledown products. Brick-and-mortar tea rooms are seeing the potential revenue in Internet sales, and are adding shopping carts to their websites as well.
Jennifer: What would you like people to know about your company?
Annelise: It may not be obvious to those not yet our customers just how serious Thistledown Cozies is about the design of our products. Our mantra of “Form and Function” is foremost in the design process. Our cozies must look good and must work well. “Working well” means a number of things: our cozies must keep tea hot and they must be easy to use, well constructed, and easy to care for. For example, many tea room customers use our cozies for serving, so we make them to last through years of repeated machine washings. Every detail of the design has been considered – from sealing the ribbons to prevent unraveling, down to color coordinating the stitching thread to the cozy fabric. We take producing a quality product very seriously.
Year established: 1994
Employees: 1 full-time office staff; 12 home-based staff
Hours: Monday – Saturday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
(Unofficial hours for this home-based business: 24/7/365)