It's not a stretch to say that Heather Hulbert has a lot on her plate, er, cup of tea these days. The 28-year-old Tappahannock resident is five months into being a newly minted entrepreneur and she's a mother to three young children under the age of 8 while balancing the uncertain schedule of her firefighter husband, Dennis Hulbert.
But her unabashed excitement for her newest venture is hard to ignore. In October, Hulbert bought the The Spice & Tea Exchange® (TSTE®) of Williamsburg, purveyor of more than 30 exotic teas, 140 spices and 75 exclusive hand-mixed blends, salts from around the world and naturally flavored sugars.
The Spice & Tea Exchange of Williamsburg is located at 439 Prince George St. "Come In and Smell the Spices!®" Exchange. The mission of TSTE is "creating & sharing the experience of a more flavorful life."
"My passion for food and healthy eating pairs wonderfully with The Spice & Tea Exchange and their products and values," said Hulbert, who previously spent eight years as a CT/X-ray technologist.
The Spice & Tea Exchange is literally a family affair for Hulbert. Hulbert's mother and stepfather, Penny and Steve Rehling are investors in TSTE. Penny oversees the franchisor's distribution center in St. Augustine, Fla., where Steve also works, while Hulbert's brother, Thomas J. Taylor is manager of The Spice & Tea Exchange at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort.
"My mother is president of the distribution warehouse and she was able to share this opportunity (Williamsburg store) with me when the location became available for sale," Hulbert said.
Next to water, tea is the second most popular beverage in the world. And although the US can't match the tea consumption of countries such as the UK and China, tea consumption in the US is growing at a steady rate. According to the Tea Association of the US, the total wholesale value of tea sold in the US grew from less than $2 billion in 1990 to more than $10 billion in 2014. According to findings by Market Realist, a provider of investment research, "the preference for healthier beverages is driving consumers away from soda and boosting the demand for tea and other categories…"
"There is definitely an ever-growing fondness for teas and the benefits and enjoyment they bring to people," Hulbert said. "Teas are our best seller at The Spice & Tea Exchange of Williamsburg."
With an in-store experience that mimics that of an 18th-centry trading post, The Spice & Tea Exchange considers its in-store experience to be one of its greatest assets, transporting guests to another place and time as they are immersed in the sights, smells and flavors of The Spice & Tea Exchange.
"In my five-year plan we are looking to grow the store in many ways," Hulbert said. "That includes not just building a bigger customer base, but also including some renovations to our current location. I also intend for other locations to be opening in Virginia."
Such ambitious plans shouldn't be a surprise coming from Hulbert, who clearly wants to take advantage of her opportunity to build a thriving small business in Williamsburg.
"As a wife of a firefighter and mom of three, I needed an opportunity that would work well for myself and my family," Hulbert said. "Becoming a business owner has empowered me and has made me become even more goal-oriented than I was before."
About The Spice & Tea Exchange:
Founded in 2008 by Clay Freeman, The Spice & Tea Exchange® was formed by a group of talented individuals with a passion for life and a passion for food. Their vision, to create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, brought the 18th Century Trading Post concept to life, providing guests with more than 140 spices and 75 exclusive hand-mixed blends, naturally-flavored sugars, salts from around the world and more than 30 exotic teas. The Spice & Tea Exchange® currently has 43 locations across 24 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit https://www.spiceandtea.com/. For franchising information, visit http://franchise.spiceandtea.com/.
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