Calgary is a forever growing city where some small businesses struggle to stay afloat with rising overhead costs.
Steeps, a teahouse, was a local business that attempted to become a local mainstay, but struggled with the rising costs of doing business in Calgary. Steeps served baked goods, homemade meals, and a great deal of tea to the folks downtown on the Mount Royal strip just off of 17th ave and 8th street. Unfortunately Steeps closed its doors early last year.
I sat down with the manager of Oolong, Chelsey McRedmond, to talk about what caused the closure and gain her insights on what could have been done differently to save her local business, offering lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs in our city.
Oolong purchased Steeps in the summer of 2009 and kept the name and décor the same as before purchase. When asked about the ambiance within Steeps, McRedmond responds, “There were a lot of contributing factors to the Steeps vibe including the tea itself ( Camillia sinensus) which tends to create a very relaxed atmosphere and ambiance, food, décor, music, and last but absolutely not least the people”.
When asked why Steeps shut down, I didn’t get a quick answer from McRedmond but the jist of it was “We [the owners and staff] could no longer sustain ourselves.”.
Oolong opened another location in McKenzie towne on top of purchasing Steeps. When things slowed down economically and other tea franchises and corporations began popping up around the city, business slowed down immensely.
“The choice had to be made: lose all three tea shops, or close two and keep one, the original Oolong Tea House in Kensington location. We were faced with this difficult decision in 2013 and that summer Steeps and Oolong McKenzie towne closed their doors for good,” McRedmond says.
Businesses cannot thrive without customers. If the community wants places like Steeps to stay open, we need to support them as integral parts of our local economy. Many of us say that we want out precious tea shops and coffee shops and record stores to stay open but many of us buy our records online and buy our groceries at Safeway. Local markets can be pricey but they try to provide us with healthy alternatives. It doesn’t hurt to pay a little extra so that we don’t see another one of our local hubs get destroyed. The bottom line is that businesses need to make money to stay open so make sure that you are supporting the businesses you love so much so that they can stay open.