In 2012, a couple from Cumberland, MD opened The Tea Cupboard with a small storefront, a kitchen smaller than a powder room and seating for only 20, in the historic Seneca Center of Morgantown, WV.
The Seneca Center was built in 1896 and once home to the Seneca Glass Company. The plant closed in 1983 and was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1985. Today, the Seneca Glass Company building is more popularly known as The Seneca Center and is home to various offices and retail stores. Much of the original character has been preserved including the old furnace and tools used in the glass making process. Current owner of The Tea Shoppe, Lisa Biafore says, “The Seneca Center is the ideal place for this business. It has a lot of history and character, perfect for a tea shop.”
One day as Lisa Biafore was walking through the Seneca Center, she cam across a Tea Business for Sale sign. After checking it out and speaking with the owners, Lisa and her husband Michael decided that owning a tea shop and tea room could be a nice investment and a ‘fun’ retirement option. After spending over 30 years in the corporate world, Lisa was laid off due to dwindling business with her client base, so she decided that it was time to try something new. After purchasing the existing business, Biafore changed the name to The Tea Shoppe to distinguish it from the previous owners.
Growing up, Biafore only drank tea when she was sick. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that she started ordering loose leaf tea online and realized the difference in quality compared to the bagged tea that can be purchased at a grocery store. That was enough to get her hooked!
Over the past four years, the shop continued to grow both physically and online. Biafore said, “We basically started running out of room, placing people in the hall and we needed a larger kitchen to handle the additional volume. We also redesigned our website as an e-commerce site and starting selling on our website and Amazon so we needed storage and packing areas. The space next door became available to us and gave us the opportunity to expand not only the kitchen and dining room, but gave us a private dining area, pantry, office, and storage space.”
As the business and kitchen grew, Biafore needed some to to focus on the kitchen while she continued to focus on and grow the business. Biafore brought on Dianna Rice of Bon Appetite Personal Chef Services in 2014. Rice, along with Biafore’s two daughters (Rachel (20), who is a pastry and baking student at Pierpont Technical and Community College and Gina (18), who is a freshman at West Virginia University), are responsible for everything related to the kitchen and baking. In 2015 Biafore opened a second location in Stone Harbor, NJ. This shop is open seasonally and is retail only.
Looking to the future Biafore has three aspects of the business she wishes to grow:
- The customer base, encouraging those customers to sit down, relax and enjoy their meal without feeling rushed
- The online business through TheTeaShoppeWV.com e-commerce website
- The events hosted in-store or with local partners to get children and adults interested in tea such as Yoga and Tea, Tea Leaf Readings and Cooking with Tea
In regards to her favorite thing about owning The Tea Shoppe, Biafore said, “I’ve always loved to cook and entertain. I love that both my daughters are actively involved in the business and it also allows me to do some fun things, like the kids tea parties and showers. I have found my niche.”