Local tea store plans move, expansion

The Scented Leaf, a popular tea and perfume shop on University Boulevard, is expanding into a new location down the street.

The owner of The Scented Leaf, Shane Barela, signed a lease last Thursday to move the business into the unit vacated by the Red Velvet Cupcakery, which closed last November. Barela said the new place does not require a lot of work and is scheduled to open in late February.

“We saw a great opportunity to move,” Barela said. “It’s a better space.”

According to Barela, the initial plan is to convert the tiny retail shop into a cafe and tea bar, with the hope of obtaining a liquor license. The current location is not ideal for a tea bar, as it is situated between a Starbucks coffee shop and The Auld Dubliner bar. Barela also plans to change the name of the store from The Scented Leaf to Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge.

The Scented Leaf has become known for selling bags of award-winning teas as well as oils and perfumes. While the new store will stop selling oils and perfumes, customers will be able to buy pots of the same tea that is currently available.

Converting from a retail store into a tea lounge will also allow Barela to create a menu of various food and drink items. The menu is set to include pies, breads, croissants, pastries, creme brulee and chocolates. In addition to teas, the store will sell coffee and chocolate drinks. Also new to the business will be special weekly events, such as Fondue Fridays.

Lynette Leroux, an employee at The Scented Leaf, believes that this is a perfect way to boost business. “We love talking to people about tea and converting them into tea drinkers,” Leroux said. “We’re really excited.”

Barela also hopes to appeal students from the adjacent University of Arizona campus. “When I started selling teas, that’s when the students started coming in,” Barela said. “Perfume never did that for me.”

The tea lounge will offer free Wi-Fi to all customers, allowing students to come by after class and complete homework. Barela also hopes that the store turns into a popular date location, while also providing a healthy alternative to soda and other high-sugar drinks. “Kids need something to balance out soda, so we’re going to try to help them out by giving them something good,” Barela said.

Barela believes that while his main customers are between the ages of 20 and 30, the store has yet to gain appeal amongst students. However, the initial response to expansion has been positive.

“I’m not that into tea, but I’ll try it at least once,” said Adam Bernstein, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. “I would go there after a date to dinner or a movie.”

The current location will remain open until preparations for the new store are finished.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 306: Advanced Reporting class.