May 1, 2020
How things change! Who would have known what was coming down the road for the world and for our little corner of the world. At the moment I am not making any kind of effort to close the tea room. In fact, I am doing my very best to keep things afloat. No one is in any kind of financial position to start a new business anyway. And, so far, a month and a half into the restrictions due to the pandemic, I am managing to bring in enough to pay the bills, just barely, but enough. The funny thing is that with all the difficulties I have already dealt with, I am not phased by the current slump. I am working hard and doing my best, trying to keep up with what will work and what won't work. That's all I can do. The Lord is with me. I sense He is making a way. Wouldn't it be interesting if the pandemic turns out to be the catalyst that brings about what will be needed to stay open? I am not prophesying, but I do sense God is doing something. I am not worried. And here we are celebrating our 2 Year Anniversary! Amazing!
LETTER FROM THE OWNER
February 18, 2023
A couple of weeks ago I had to go to the County Clerk’s office to renew my Fictitious Business Name (Dragonfly Tea Room). It had been 10 years since I’d registered that name and 10 years since I registered for my business license. Several people in the office were excited to meet me; they follow me (the tea room) on social media and are fans of my business. I admit it was nice getting that recognition. It gave me pause and a great deal of satisfaction as I was thinking that 10 years ago, when I first registered, Dragonfly Tea Room was little more than an idea, an idea that had been planted in my head 2 years before that. Registering was the first step of many, many, many steps of bringing the idea to reality.
This year, 2023, marks five years since I opened the tea room in Roseburg Square. So, it took 5 years to actually open the tea room. I honestly wasn’t sure how to get from idea to reality. It was hard to see the whole road before me, and often it was overwhelming to consider, so I just took steps, one step at a time. There’s a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” I was certain that God had planted the idea in my head back in 2011, I just needed to trust and keep taking the next step. I would wake up each day and think, “What can I do to today to move this forward?” and then I would get busy doing something.
This is a list of some of the things I did. Researched what other tea rooms did as far as menus, food prep, styles, customer service, prices, etc. I gathered recipes and started practicing making scones, desserts, and tea sandwiches and other savories. For awhile I had weekly Friday afternoon tea parties with my daughter and her friends where I could practice the recipes, the table settings, making the tea. I also needed to learn about tea. It might surprise you that I really knew very little about tea. While I had always been a tea drinker, I was still very ignorant about tea. I went to the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas and spent a week attending the Business Boot Camp and other workshops and classes. I also met vendors that sell wholesale tea and teaware products. I identified several vendors that I liked and I still use them now. Additionally, I took online classes where I was able to learn about tea more in depth and I earned my Tea Specialist Certificate.
The next big step that helped to propel me forward was becoming a vendor at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market. This prompted me to get my logo, labels, and packing set up. Drawing on the vendors I had made contact with at the Expo I started ordering tea wholesale, packaging the tea, and selling the tea at the market. This went a long way toward getting a line of teas that are popular and that I still have now. At the same time I started doing “in-home tea parties” in people’s homes which helped me to further practice my baking and food prep skills. I also learned “how to do business” such as bookkeeping and other boring chores. I joined a women’s business networking group which helped me have the mindset that I am a business woman. At each meeting we did a 30-second info-mercial about each of our businesses. My usual speech was “My name is Judy Robinson. I own the Dragonfly Tea Room. Right I sell tea at the farmers market and I do in-home tea parties. My goal is to have an actual tea room here in Modesto.” At first I felt like a fraud because the goal of actually opening a tea room felt very unattainable. But, if you say something over and over enough, you start to believe it and you are motivated to set the wheels in motion to make it happen.
It's good to look back and see how far I've come, how far the LORD has brought me and this business. It's very satisfying so realize how many people enjoy coming here. Looking forward, I just renewed my lease in Roseburg Square for 5 more years, so we will continue to move forward, one step at a time.
July 19, 2022
The past year and a half can best be described as steady and growing. I seem to have hit on a successful idea with the Seasonal Afternoon Teas, which could also be described as "Themed Teas". Each month the menu for the Seasonal Afternoon Tea changes according to the season as well as my own inspiration. I have A LOT OF FUN coming up with the menus and the decor that goes along with it. From the response I've gotten from my customers, they have a lot of fun with the different menus too. In addition to the menu, I have gradually added staff as needed. I have found a good balance of having enough staff on hand, trimming all the menus so there is no waste, and balancing my own time so everything gets done without it consuming me. I make good use of my three days off by doing something work related on one day, going to church and resting, and doing something fun. I have become an avid hiker and will usually spend one of my days off getting out of Modesto (and hopefully out of cell phone range) and hitting one of countless trails in the Sierras or Coast. This gives me a change of scenery and focus, allows me to clear my head, and keeps me in shape. I found this quote by John Muir (1901) that fits perfectly, "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The wind will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves." And if I am not hiking, you can find me hanging out with my grandson, who also reminds me that often the important things are the simple things, like going to the park or reading a book with Nana. I praise God that He is with me, in my thoughts, plans, and circumstances, always keeping me steady.
November 24, 2020
The Dragonfly Tea Room is alive and well. I have been working in the tea room by myself since March. It has not been easy, but it does seem to be working. Here we are going into the holiday season and we are still dealing with the ever changing restrictions of the pandemic. I was recently blessed with a grant from Stanislaus County Workforce. These generous funds have enabled me to get caught up on my bills, to make some improvements in the decor, and to purchase more merchandise and tea. I think I am in a good position for the holidays and
beyond. Thank you to all my faithful customers who have helped to keep the doors open. I am thankful to the Lord that I can lean on Him, no matter what happens.
March 6, 2020
WE ARE STILL OPEN! The realtor for Roseburg Sq. is handling all inquiries concerning the space we occupy and I have not received much news from them on that front. In the meantime, we are still open. I have a fun menu for March, the Celtic Afternoon Tea. I am building up our tea inventory so the shelves are more full. I have rearranged things in the tea room so all the retail items are near the front door and the back wall is display. I am making plans for the Spring menu and Mother’s Day. There is still a skeleton crew and that is how it needs to be to stay afloat. The new schedule is also working (for me anyway). Open Wed, Thu, Fri. 10 am to 4 pm for the Café Menu and reservations for Afternoon Tea. Saturday is only for those with Reservations for Afternoon Tea. We are closed Sun, Mon, Tues. Sunday and Monday are my personal days. Tuesday is a work day where I get caught up with baking, book keeping, planning, etc. The debt issue that prompted the plan to close has not gone away, I still need to deal with that. But I can’t just lock up and walk away. I need to stay open to pay the bills. And maybe somewhere along the way a solution will present itself. What can you do to help? Make reservations for Afternoon Tea and purchase tea. Thanks to everyone who is praying for and supporting the Dragonfly Tea Room.
February 1, 2020
Update: We are still Open. Finding someone to take this space is going to be harder than I thought. There’s been a little interest, but nothing substantial. I’m trying to figure out how to move forward. For February there will be some changes. We will be open Wednesday to Friday 10-4. Saturday is for reservations for Afternoon Tea only. Shoppers are welcome. Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I’m adding Tuesday to the “closed” days so I can take care of business behind the scenes. (Sunday is my day of rest, Monday I babysit my beautiful grandson). The food menu is being downsized. I’m working on a Valentine themed Afternoon Tea. So, that’s how it’s going. Thank you to everyone who has commented to us about how much you love the Dragonfly Tea Room and are sad to see it close. It means a great deal to hear the kind words. For now, we are still here.
January 14, 2020
It is with deep regret I announce that plans are underway to close the Dragonfly Tea Room. We have only just started looking for another business to take over the space and lease in Roseburg Square, so a final closing date is uncertain at this time. I am telling you this now because, along with this, a reduction in staff is necessary; only one staff member will remain (in addition to myself). Therefore, the hours, services, and menu options will need to change. Our hours will remain 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Friday. The number of customers admitted during those hours will be limited to what can be handled by the two of us. The Café Menu and Afternoon Tea will be available. Traditional Afternoon Tea will still require a reservation. Saturdays will be only for those with reservations for Afternoon Tea which will include Traditional Afternoon Tea, Classic Afternoon Tea, and Petite Tea (for children) and those making retail purchases. For now, we will only be taking reservations for January. What will happen in February and beyond is up in the air.
If you want more details, keep reading:
As for the reasons for closing, it all comes down to money. While the money side of the business was a struggle well before we even opened, it became particularly difficult from the months of June through November (2019) when business slowed to a trickle. Six months of well below the break-even point was more than this fledgling business could endure. We hung on by basically “taking from Peter to pay Paul.” At some point Peter needs to be paid. We hung on with the hopes that the holidays and the Jane Austen event would be enough to make up the deficit, but it is clear now that the only way to acquire the amount of money needed is to sell the property and use the proceeds to pay what is owed.
In addition to the above reason, I am personally weary. I work long hours, often 10 to 12-hour days. I get home at the end of a day exhausted and I go straight to bed, then I get up and do it again. I wouldn’t mind the long hours quite so much if I was paid, but the business has never been in a position where I could take a wage. For awhile I was able to pay staff to share the workload, but with the slow six months, I lost most of my staff. I basically have no life outside of the tea room, except Sunday and Monday that I stingily have kept for my mental health. Many friends and family and personal interests have been pushed to the back shelf for too long.
The tea room was not a life-long dream, however, I did consider it a second career. For the 6 years before the tea room opened I devoted my time to learning about tea (taking classes, attending the World Tea Expo, making contacts with people in the world of tea), learning how to do business, selling my tea at the farmers market, developing menus and acquiring recipes, doing in-home tea parties, all with the goal of opening a tea room. It has been a joy to see what has been accomplished with all that hard work. When I look around the tea room and I see people enjoying the experience of Afternoon Tea, of marveling at all the different options of tea, of enjoying quiet conversation, in a place that is unique, I know the Dragonfly Tea Room is a special place. The loyal customers and friends of the tea room are the icing on the cake.
Many of you know I am woman of faith. God has been at the center of this journey from the start and I credit Him with planting the idea in my head and heart. However, it has not been a smooth journey, by any means, especially the construction and once the doors opened. I have had many heated conversations with God about why things have been so difficult. Some of the problems were my own poor decisions. Other problems are just part of being in business that need to be worked through. However, many problems were not easily dealt with and I have felt like God has left me dangling in the wind. When I first opened the tea room, I wrote a prayer modeled after the prayer of Jabez. Here it is:
” I, Judy, call on God, the LORD of my life, saying: Oh that You would bless me indeed, that You would prosper my business, that You would multiply the work of my hands, that my work would be fruitful, yielding a bounty beyond human expectation. That Your Hand would be with me, that I would have favor from You, that opportunities would come to me, that doors would open to me, that I would have wisdom and knowledge to run, manage, and grow the business. That You would keep me from harm, protect me from people with evil intent, give me discernment and wisdom to avoid bad decisions. That I would be a blessing to others: my employees, my customers, my family, those who have helped me, the community, and those in need.” This has been my prayer.
I have struggled that so much of that prayer has not come to fruition. I don’t understand why, if God is on my side, have things gone so poorly. As expected, such significant financial struggle is very stressful. However, it was around August that I started experiencing peace in the midst of the struggle. The message I repeatedly heard from God was “I AM in control of your circumstances.” That became my mantra every time circumstances started to overwhelm me. Around October I decided that January was going to be decision time. Without significant financial help, we would not be able to continue. The holidays helped to stabilize our finances, and the Jane Austen event did make a dent in the deficit. (In fact, more such events could turn the tide.) Even as I write this letter, I still pray for a miracle, that He will “rain down blessings from Heaven.” I would like to see the tea room prosper and thrive, that all the hard work will not be wasted, but it will only happen with God’s help. All my long hours and hard work won’t be enough. Only God can “make a way where there seems to be no way.” My God is the God of Miracles. He doesn’t always do miracles; sometimes He just walks beside us through the struggles, but sometimes He does do miracles.