January Business Buzz – The Tea Party & Sporting Life
Return of The Tea Party
By Carol MacLeod
It’s déjà vu all over again! There, snuggly in its place at 103 Fourth Avenue sits The Tea Party, just where it always was. How has this happened? This is how owner Christine Fletcher tells the story.
A decade ago, Fletcher and her husband and business partner Surinder Singh were looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity. Her experience in the hospitality industry made an eatery a logical choice. The son of the original owners of The Tea Party wanted to sell his shop at 119 York Street and Surinder knew something about teas, so it looked to be a good fit. Unbeknownst to Fletcher and Singh, the original owners owned both that building and 103 Fourth Avenue. When the time came to expand the business, the Glebe seemed to be a good place for a tea shop. Bank Street rents were too steep for a new business, but when Stephanotis Hair decided to shift from Fourth Avenue to a Bank Street front, the owners offered the space to Fletcher. Not knowing that it had been the happy home of The Tea Party in the Glebe in days of yore, she jumped at the chance. Her staff have now been briefed on The Tea Party history so that bemused customers can be assured that, yes, there is continuity.
The décor of previous occupants was easily adapted. The brick east wall had been exposed decades ago. Other walls are panelled in warm wood slats. A comfortable banquette runs the length of one wall with handcrafted wood tables spaced along the bench and wall opposite. Unobtrusive shelving for jars of loose teas and coffees is tucked into a back corner. A tiny functional kitchen overlooks the back courtyard and pancake wagon. The shop seats about 20 people.
The winter menu consists of a soup of the day, a couple of salads, a choice of three sandwiches and four other hot dishes. All are vegetarian and some are also gluten free. Prices range from 6 to 12 dollars. Fletcher specializes in a traditional high tea in china cups – finger sandwiches, choice of one savoury and two sweet scones (the original Tea Party recipe) with clotted cream or jam and a pot of tea. She is planning to make the traditional three-tiered high tea serving plates. Weekend brunch includes a choice of breakfast quinoa, and two egg dishes, usually quiche or fried eggs with sweet potato hash. There is also a gluten-free choice. The Tea Party chefs have worked at Domus and the Black Tomato in the Market so we can expect some tasty improvisation. Baking scones and other sweets is Fletcher’s department.
The Tea Party sells 25 specialty teas and will soon have some locally roasted coffee beans. She also intends to cater afternoon tea for groups of up to 20 (by reservation) for birthday, bridal, baby showers and the like, a popular option at the York Street location. There are two Wi-Fi outlets.
Fletcher is now in her mid-thirties with two kids. She balances a busy schedule alternating between the two shops and her family. She loves the sense of community emanating from the Glebe. Her words echo those of Andrew Peck, CEO of the Glebe Business Improvement Area. Coincidentally, both live in the Chelsea/Wakefield area and see similarities between the two communities. She joins another business owner from the hills, Eva Cooper of Delilah. Is it our water?
We can look forward once again to enjoying fine teas in the relaxing environment of the little oasis on Fourth Avenue.
Carol MacLeod is a Glebe resident, environmentalist and avid enjoyer of a good cup of tea.
The Tea Party
103 Fourth Avenue
Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sporting Life opens at Lansdowne
By Ben Bulmer
The empty shell that was Lansdowne Park is now filling up with businesses, and one of its latest tenants is Sporting Life. The high-end Toronto retailer opened the doors of its 42,000 square foot mega store to shoppers on November 20 just in time for the Christmas rush.
“We live and breathe what we sell,” said John Roe, director of marketing for Sporting Life. “If you took a Holt Renfrew, a Harry Rosen, a Sport Chek, a high-end custom ski shop, a high-end custom running shop and put it all through a meat grinder and grind it all out, that’s kind of what we are,” said Roe.
The store specializes in high-end clothing and sporting goods, selling iconic Canadian brands like Canada Goose and Arcteryx as well as well-known international brands like North Face, Nike and Rossignol. Roe admits this comes at a certain price point but says this is because Sporting Life believes that quality comes at a particular dollar amount. “We back that up with amazing store displays, and customer service is part of the attribute we’re most known for,” said Roe. “Where else can you buy names like Polo Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss at the same time as you can purchase a pair of Solomon skis or a specialized hardcore mountain bike – that’s what Sporting Life really is,” said Roe. The store specialises in everything from re-stringing tennis rackets to waxing skis and can sell you every single bit of kit to go with them.
Sporting Life first opened its doors in Toronto in 1979 and although the business is now 75 per cent owned by Toronto’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, the remaining 25 per cent is still owned and run by the three founding owners.
Ottawa’s iconic sporting store Tommy and Lefebvre (T&L) was purchased by Sporting Life in June 2013 and finally closed its doors after 56 years last November. “It wasn’t your typical big bad Toronto retailer guy taking over little Ottawa guy – it was never like that,” said Roe.
The relationship between the owners of T&L and Sporting Life goes back 40 years, said Roe, and although the reasons for purchasing T&L aren’t public, there’s no animosity between the new and old owners. “We have had a relationship with those guys for a very long time. Because we’re not competitors, we’re more counter points in an industry that we both loved and shared, they shared a great relationship and a friendship together,” said Roe.
Roe added that the majority of the staff from the T&L store is now working at the Lansdowne location. Roe says the Glebe and its residents won’t see much of a difference between T&L and Sporting Life. “I think you’ll see a very proactive retailer involved in the community.” Sporting Life will take over the grassroots support of the junior ski hills that T&L was involved in, according to Roe. “We’re blending all the same things we’ve always done in the community,” said Roe, “but the engagement within the community has to be a lot more with the Ottawa store.”
Sporting Life has launched a 10-kilometre fun run to take place this May, modelled on the success of its Toronto counterpart that saw 27,000 runners raise $2.2 million for children affected by cancer.
Andrew Peck is the executive director of the Glebe Business Improvement Area and welcomes Sporting Life into the area. “The Glebe in its entirety with Lansdowne is a larger offering which will appeal to an even larger audience,” said Peck.
The Lansdowne development has caused some controversy over the years, but Peck says the growth of businesses within Lansdowne will help every business throughout the Glebe. “I think it’s now a destination for more people for a variety of different reasons. We’ve got these great shops, the local Traditional Mainstreet merchants, and now there are also sports, there’s entertainment, a large park, cultural programming. I think it’s positive across the board for local business,” said Peck.
Ben Bulmer is a journalism graduate and newcomer to Ottawa and the Glebe who is a keen cyclist and rather partial to good cheese.