I’ve driven by it countless times during my commute to downtown Edmonton. I never stopped until a friend suggested we catch up over tea. As a committed coffee drinker this was new to me.
Walk into The Tea Girl on the trendy corner of 124 street and Stony Plain Road and you will notice immediately the eclectic environment. Lots of windows allow natural light to pour in to create a beautiful ambience. The hardwood creaks, which adds just an extra titch of charm. The walls display local art and chalkboard messages: ‘tea is a liquid wisdom’ or ‘love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea’. The furniture is a hodgepodge of tastes collected from others. “It’s a collection of physical things and ideas that people no longer have space in their day.” The Tea Girl is their new home, a new space to make new memories.
Sarah Proudlock is the sole owner of the business. She admits sometimes it’s lonely. “It’s just me,” she shrugs her shoulders. Her shop features nearly 150 choices of tea from white to yerba mate. The display on the wall features rows of canisters and can be intimidating but knowledgeable staff are quick to offer assistance.
Sarah’s background originally began in theatre and then a love for tea, inherited from her grandmother, took over. “There is a tea for every person and every occasion,” says Sarah. When she talks about tea, there is a whimsical twinkle in her eye but when she talks business, her mood and tone take a turn. She is open about the difficulties of trying to compete.
“Small business is that tight. If we are having a good year, it doesn’t mean we are making lots of money it just means we aren’t going to close our doors in the next three months.”
Sarah knows because it’s a saturated market she must do more to get noticed. She knows in the digital age, social media is king. And that’s where she is still discovering herself. It’s the sole source of what she describes as her inner turmoil. “I’m uncomfortable being out there bragging. I’m not an attention seeking person. I’m uncomfortable with being an media darling.” She longs for a time when a good reputation was enough.
“Reputation is how people feel when they’re here and how they feel when they leave. All we have is the quality of our product. We hope people will review it and say it amazing, it’s lovely and I love it! Why is that not enough anymore?
Maybe, it still exists. Maybe, word of mouth has just morphed. Maybe, it’s just louder – amplified on a megaphone called social media. Maybe like tea for Sarah, it’s the thread that connects us all.