In my last post for T Ching in December, I wrote about our plans to move our retail store from a plaza to an old downtown tourist area. However, after spending more time looking at the layout of the space and the traffic flow on that street, we decided not to sign a lease. Instead, we opted to pursue other areas of the tea business we had been unable to before because of the intense time demands of retail.
Among them, we began working on connections in the foodservice industry. One of the most interesting came about at a chance meeting while I was doing a staff tea training seminar at a popular eatery that showcases locally grown produce and artisan food products. One of their vendors, who was there making a delivery, had heard about our teas and asked if we would be interested in adding some of them to his company’s home delivery service of local farm-fresh produce and other products. We were definitely interested. I’d been an admirer of a local chef’s promotion of the slow food/support local movement for some time.
On receiving their first order from us, they were happy to find out that we use a same-county co-packer who hires adults with disabilities. They are now asking us to work with them to help them expand their distribution using the same organization, in order to increase jobs in our area and provide more work for these wonderfully capable workers. This packaging and distribution method is not just workable for small companies. Mighty Leaf Tea recently began using such an organization in another area of California to do packaging for them, which has resulted in a number of new jobs being created for skilled adults with disabilities in that local economy.
One of the goals of our new customer, Harvest 2U, is to benefit the community through promoting locals by distributing local food or locally owned companies’ products and thus benefitting the community’s economy. We are now also promoting one another on Twitter and via other social media venues, as well as by word of mouth and referrals. This is the way things used to be in local communities, demonstrating that everything old becomes new again.
However, for the long-term success of the “support local” way of thinking, more people will have to purchases from local sources rather than from multinational corporations, even when those purchases give them what they perceive as status, convenience, and money savings. Of course, there has to be world trade, imports, and exports, especially in an industry where, until recently, the product was not grown locally or even nationally (other than Bigelow’s historical Charleston plantation). But within a fast-paced, high-tech, instantly and always connected world, there is still a need to encourage local community-oriented and community economy-building businesses. We are happy that more than one of our wholesale customers is involved in these efforts.
It was interesting to read about the group of U.S. tea growers on T Ching as well. If they are successful, it’s exciting to think what other businesses and jobs they will spawn, especially in their own areas. Naomi Rosen did a great job informing us what she learned from the group’s meeting at the World Tea Expo. She brought up the trend of buying local as well, and how that may help U.S. tea growers. I’m excited and looking forward to tasting the samples of their efforts! Choice is a good thing and, if I can find a local source that is comparable, all the better.