Two years ago, SpiceTopia changed ownership. Ashley Pope passed the legacy of SpiceTopia onto the Tan Family. From October 15th to October 25th of 2019, the Tan family (that’s us!) closed SpiceTopia to restock and try and figure out just what the heck it meant to be the owners of a spice store! While we are entrepreneurs and food lovers, we didn’t have any experience in the tea and spice retail business!
We reopened exactly 10 days after officially becoming owners. Financially, we needed to be open for the holidays, so we hit the ground running! And run and run and run, we did! We felt the community’s love through that first holiday season as everyone came out to show their support.
The new year came and with it a bit of a slow down, so we took time to learn by connecting with other spice stores and visiting food shows. And we began to make plans! Those plans grew and grew and grew! We pictured SpiceTopia becoming a place for community to gather! A cookbook and jar library was envisioned. Cooking classes were planned and scheduled. A tea of the month club where we all gathered to learn about teas was a dream of ours! Could SpiceTopia also become a place for young artists to hang their art and learn about the business aspect of becoming an artist? Our excitement and vision for SpiceTopia was running high!
And then Covid!
We made the decision to close our doors for several months while we learned what exactly Covid meant to our world. During this time, we grappled with so many unknowns. It was with sadness, we had to initially send our employees home not knowing when or if we would bring them back. How rent would be paid was a mystery. As owners, we decided we would take turns receiving a paycheck according to who had bills that had to be paid that week or month.
Not only did our grand plans come to a crashing halt, but so did all the hopes we had for this family business we had just jumped into. Instead of the community we had envisioned building, we were sitting at home full of fear and inaction.
After a few weeks of these paralyzing fears, we decided to move ahead with baby steps and put those fears aside for just a little bit. Our first baby step forward was creating a website beyond the basic one that came with our point of sales system. It filled a lot of time and gave us something concrete to work towards. Descriptions, shipping details, pictures, sales tax, and SEO filled our days! And we went from one regular order every month (Annette, we appreciated and still appreciate your monthly order of Assam Tea!) to 115 orders in April! With a sigh of relief, we had just enough income to pay our rent that month!
With that one hurdle crossed, we were able to quell many of our fears. Many more challenges came our way during 2020, but we felt embraced and supported by Ventura and the many customers from around the country who rallied to keep SpiceTopia alive! That support provided us with hope and the determination we could make this venture work!
As Covid continues, it still stretches us on a daily basis and provides us with opportunities to grow! Sourcing has been one of those opportunities. As spices and teas became unavailable through our larger sources, we’ve learned to reach out to smaller suppliers and sometimes even the actual farmer growing our products. This has lead to both better quality and overall understanding of our spices and teas! Our packaging has changed as we’ve struggled to find what we need–and the change has always been for the better!
Our overall vision for community hasn’t changed even though the details are different than our original plans. While we were closed and desperate for connection with all of you, we decided to start going live on Facebook and Instagram! We shared recipes, pandemic shopping tips (remember when we all thought toilet paper would save us?!), tea facts, hosted cook alongs, and mixed up cocktails! And you all showed up for us! Our pandemic shut down social media lives were full of energy and all of you lifted us up! That energy and connection on social media continues! We feel your love through all your comments and the notes we receive on a regular basis! And we can’t thank you enough for that!
It seems most of this reflection is about Covid, and indeed Covid has dominated our thoughts throughout these past two years. Just recently, we’ve decided to change our mindset. This isn’t covid time. This is life! And we are determined to move forward taking whatever life throws at SpiceTopia and use it as an opportunity to change things up and grow. We’d love for you to come along for that journey!