DavidsTea opened its first of three stores in Chicago in October in the trendy Bucktown neighborhood whose proximity to Logan Square attracts abundant night life.
A second store opened last week in Lakeview (3530 N. Southport Ave) with another to open in boutique rich Lincoln Park (924 W. Armitage Ave) by year end.
Co-founder David Segal expects to open the company’s 100th store in 2013, reaching a milestone that took Starbucks 20 years and rival Teavana 13. Montreal-based DavidsTea is four years old.
“At this point we are concentrating on our current stores, in New York City, San Francisco (SF City Centre opened Nov. 4 and Burlingame Nov. 10), Chicago, and Boston. We now have headquarters in both Montreal and Boston to oversee the company. We are so thrilled that both Canada and the U.S. are excited about tea, and we plan to continue producing fun products, unique flavors and innovative teas to awaken all the senses,” he said.
Segal, who is 31, offered insights into the company’s success during an interview at the new Damen Avenue location. Segal is responsible for new market development and choosing locations for new shops. He oversees the company’s real estate and he likes what Chicago has to offer.
“I find Chicago to be such a friendly and open city! I love it that all of the residents here are excited to walk into DavidsTea and take the time to smell, sip and discover new things. The response so far has been great. It has been a phenomenal experience to spend time in this beautiful city, and I am grateful that Chicago loves DavidsTea,” he said.
“I knew that Chicago would be a great place for DavidsTea and it has always been a dream to bring DavidsTea to this city. As I mentioned before, Chicagoans are very receptive to new ideas and I know that this city is ready to embrace tea. Our teas are so fresh and fun; they are a perfect match to Chicago’s urban, chic, adventurous vibe. “
He was very casual and we both sipped tea while chatting. Several times, he jumped up from the bench to show off a tea that had come up in conversation.
Segal, who opened the company’s first store in Toronto in 2008, said that he realized early on that “tea is more versatile” and that “people will drink it throughout the day, unlike coffee which is typically only consumed in the morning.”
Their product offering speaks to this with flavors like the popcorn laden “Movie Night” and the whiskey flavored “Whisky White.” The brand’s colorful approach in branding their lineup of 150 varieties of tea sets them apart.
What kinds of tea are the folks in Chicago drinking?
“Some Chicago favorites thus far have been Sencha Ashikubo and Toasted Walnut (green teas), Nepal Black (black tea), Read My Lips (black tea), Forever Nuts and The Glow (herbal). We have also introduced people to Mate, Rooibos and Oolong teas and we are excited to help Chicago make new tea discoveries,” he said.
When asked about the Chicago neighborhood locations he chose, Segal said that he “loves how Chicago is so community-centric” and pledged to “make the shops have a local feel” while looking for “ways to support the community.”
His impetus to support the community will likely help as his shop joins the crowded fray of Chicago tea. The birthplace of Argo, home to the first three Adagio brick and mortar shops, several Teavana shops and a recent startup by rock band Smashing Pumpkin’s front-man Billy Corgan, Chicago has taken center stage with its recent influx of tea retailers.
At their opening cocktail party the week the store opened mixologist Tyler Fry from The Violet Hour poured two different types of cocktails made with tea from DavidsTea.
An aptly named “English Garden” made from Earl Grey-infused gin, lemon, and salted orange marmalade and a “Chai-Wallah Flip” made from pumpkin chai-spiced rum, cream, demerara, and allspice dram.
Segal was busy helping customers and mingling with guests most of the night.
DavidsTea currently operates 75 stores in Canada and expects to open 14 in the U.S. with two in Boston, five in New York City, three in Chicago, and four in San Francisco.