Local Supplier Opens Store in Downtown Eau Claire

Owning a brick-and-mortar business is a challenge most people are unwilling to take on in their lifetime. Not only are business owners responsible for the day-to-day operations, such as cashiering, cleaning, and making their products, but they also do the behind-the-scenes work too, which can involve paying bills and vendors, planning marketing campaigns, and analyzing pricing strategies. All of these tasks are individual jobs at larger businesses, but small business owners typically do most singlehandedly or with a very small team. On top of that, these are the unique businesses that are often staples of a community—local florists, boutiques, game stores, coffee shops, and specialty retailers.

Once a small business is established and growing, expansion is a topic that quickly becomes top of mind for many owners, and they eventually find themselves asking how they can continue to grow while holding onto the uniqueness they already have. To learn more about what expanding a small business is like, I recently spoke with Brianna Vodvarka, owner of Black Kettle Tea Shoppe, who expanded from a farmer’s market booth to a retail space at the end of 2022.

Brianna mentioned two main challenges when making the decision to open a storefront: limited retail space and fluctuating confidence in her dream. She knew she wanted her store to be located in downtown Eau Claire, but there were very few commercial retail spaces available that were within her price range. And with retail buying habits shifting to online, she was unsure whether or not a brick-and-mortar location would do well. Ultimately, she decided to take a leap and move ahead after finding her location on Barstow Street last year because people in the Chippewa Valley are fiercely dedicated to supporting local and she’s offering a unique shopping experience they will value.

While it comes with many challenges, the good of expanding a business far outweighs the bad. Brianna said the most rewarding part of opening her store has been getting to see her customers every day; it’s given her the ability to connect with them more deeply than she could while selling at the farmer’s market. She has more dreams for Black Kettle Tea Shoppe, including a create-your-own blend station and installing a full-service kitchen. Currently, her teas are dried and packaged in a shared commercial kitchen space, but she hopes to have her own soon.

If you haven’t checked out Black Kettle Tea Shoppe & Bootique yet, stop in next time you’re in Eau Claire. The store is located at 217 Barstow Street and specializes in teas you can enjoy while you sit or shop. We can’t wait to be neighbors when our new location opens this fall!

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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