Acasia’s Tipsy Teapot

While change may be difficult for some, Delia Liuzza, owner of Acasia’s Tipsy Teapot, offers this advice:  Get used it.

“You have to stick with the ups and downs and be willing to think outside the box,” cautioned Liuzza. In other words, “Be willing to adapt,” she said, adding, “That’s the only reason we’re still here. When something happens we say ‘how do we get around that? How do we find a way to still attract people?’ ”

Liuzza said she learned to ‘adapt’ no sooner than she started the business with her daughter (and the tea room’s namesake), Acacia.

Before opening Acasia’s Tipsy Teapot in downtown Greenville, N.C., Luizza and her daughter originally planned to launch a coffee shop. However, she quickly changed her format when another coffee house opened in the storefront next to the one she planned to rentthp_tipsyteapot_room_wide_vew1000

Not one to give up, Liuzza switched her concept to focus on tea. Eight years later, Acasia’s Tipsy Teapot remains a staple in downtown Greenville, when several restaurants, including the coffee house next door, have closed.

When the Tipsy Teapot first opened, Liuzza said she and her daughter envisioned serving several varieties of tea, alongside a few healthy desserts and a couple of sandwiches in the 2,000 sq. foot space. That concept has morphed into something much larger.

With the closing of the cafe next door, Liuzza now rents that extra 2,000 sq. foot space for live music while her tea selection has blossomed to about 50 varieties of loose leaf blends from small suppliers, not to mention 13 different sandwiches, award-winning desserts and Breyers ice cream, added just this summer.

“Originally, we were thinking lots of different teas — which we did — and a couple of different sandwiches — which we over-did,” Liuzza said with a chuckle. “The menu has gotten ridiculously big.”

The tea room also offers catering services.

Teas at the Tipsy Teapot include several black teas and oolongs and smoky lapsang souchongs. Fruit teas like passion fruit, raspberry, and chai are available as are herbals like a raspberry hibiscus. The Tipsy Teapot also serves white and green teas. There is no private label, but customers are less concerned about the brand, and more focused on staples like chai, but also the less traditional drinks like the house special chocolate orange Rooibos latte or the peppermint tea infused white hot chocolate. The tea room serves and organic, Fair Trade Certified Mexican Chiapas blend coffee.

Her change in business format was just the beginning. Even the music changed from her original plan of live acoustic music that would attract a more mature crowd wanting a nice glass of wine or beer with their snack. When Liuzza realized she wasn’t getting that more mature crowd, the bands were then aimed at the college crowd to something a little more ‘eclectic’ like punk, rock, metal, and the monthly karaoke night.

Through it all, it seems the audience, too, is adapting to Tipsy Teapots’ decisions.

“I don’t know who’s training who,” Liuzza said, laughing. “But, seriously, it’s either sink or swim. We’ve had to make some pretty tough choices. We’ve lost some customers over it, but have certainly gained many more.”

Shortly after opening, her landlord connected her with a local bookseller subsequently adding on a wide selection of books.

“So we became a tea, healthy food and book store. Over the years it has morphed and changed and become much bigger than we intended,” Liuzza said.

And in true Tipsy Teapot fashion, change was just over the horizon. Bye-bye books — or as Liuzza describes it “Another thing that’s morphing.” With so much content available in digital format, books, Liuzza said, only contribute about $400 per month to her $250,000 annual sales. And that’s not enough. As more books leave the shop, Liuzza renting out shelf space to local craft vendors.

One last change is definitely a plus for Liuzza. Daughter, Acasia, 29, worked in the shop for the first three years, then left and worked elsewhere for the last four; she has now returned, rounding out Liuza’s team of eight part-time employees.

“She’s really, really glad to be back. My goal is to hand the reins over someday,” Liuzza said.

Until then, Liuzza, who holds down another job and does not take a salary from the business, says the tea room will continue to evolve so it remains a fixture in the Greenville community and her employees continue to hold down jobs.