Friday, June 22, 2018
Business

Patrons can 'feel good,' sip tea at downtown New Port Richey tea room

NEW PORT RICHEY — The White Heron Tea Room and Gifts seats only 12.

It is tiny, admits owner Kelly Hackman. But that doesn't affect the goal Hackman has had for the "quaint, Florida-style gift shop and tea room" since she opened it last month.

"I want you to feel good when you leave," she said.

Hackman, 37, worked for the last two years as the executive director of Chasco Fiesta. She also has worked for the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, as a marketing director for Greater New Port Richey Main Street and as a youth pastor at her church.

But she decided she wanted to start a business.

"Running Chasco was a great job, and I loved it," she said. But "when you're an executive director, you're running the whole show. I (decided) that if I was going to do that, I wanted to do it for myself."

First, she aimed to open a gift shop. But she wanted to add something to it. She got the idea for a tea room from her husband, who drove past one in Tampa.

He sent her a picture of it. Then, she visited.

"I fell in love," she said. "It was intimate, it was quiet, it was pretty."

So, she invited two friends and her mom to visit it with her. She told them to leave their cellphones in the car. What followed impressed her.

"We talked," she said, without disruptions.

"A conversation without interruptions is almost uncomfortable for people because they're not used to having an environment where they can unplug," she said. "A (tea room) gives you the opportunity to do that."

So, she opened one, with the gift shop.

The shop carries loose-leaf teas, plus tea accessories, Florida salt scrubs and sea-inspired jewelry.

The tea room serves the loose-leaf teas and sandwiches — traditional cucumber, plus chicken salad or turkey, and other options, like tomato and bacon with basil aioli — plus scones and small desserts.

But the experience the tea room can facilitate is what excites Hackman most.

"You can really focus on the person you're with; you can focus on the conversation," she said. "It's a lost art."

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