Small business owner finds inspiration in Spain

As Shane Barela sits at the desk at the front of The Scented Leaf, he cannot help but think about the future.

In just a few weeks, Barela will move from his small store at the end of University Boulevard into a new, bigger shop down the street. While the business will morph from just a retail store into a tea lounge, the man behind it all will stay the same. And while a dream is about to be realized, Barela cannot help but think of how it started.

Shane Barela was born in Santa Fe, N.M., and lived there along with five siblings for the beginning stages of his life. At the age of three, Barela’s parents divorced, but it did not change the environment he grew up in. Barela was able to see both his parents and spend time with them, and described his family life as good and loving. From his parents, Barela was able to learn qualities that would be useful to him later on life.

“I think my mom taught me how to be sensitive and caring for people and be very social,” said Barela. “And I think my dad taught me my work ethic and just how to stay on path and work through things.”

When Barela was 10 years old, he and his family moved to Tucson, Ariz., where, with the exception of one year, he has lived since. After high school, Barela attended Mesa Community College in Phoenix and Pima Community College for one year each. He then spent the next two years earning a business degree in marketing at the University of Arizona.

After college, Barela joined his father in the real estate business, buying and selling houses in Tucson. Despite being successful with real estate, his heart was always in owning his own business.

“I always kind of had that entrepreneurship bug,” said Barela. “I used to always get into business as a kid. I used to always have the lemonade stands. I used to have little bake sales. I got into selling fireworks to my friends when I was in junior high.”

Five years ago, Barela purchased a perfume store located in the Tanque Verde Swap Meet. After seven years in real estate, Barela was finally a business owner.

Barela’s initial store was successful and he decided to open up a second location in Phoneix. However after finding the commute difficult, he closed it down a mere four months later.

“It was alright, but it didn’t make sense for the long haul,” said Barela. “However, it allowed me learn to a different area, a different demographic and to see where this business could take me.”

After returning to concentrate on his original store, an opportunity arose that Barela could not refuse. Around two and half years ago, Barela purchased a small storefront on University Boulevard. He opened a second business a short time later, selling strictly perfumes.

However, the move did not go as smooth as planned. The perfume store did not sell as much as Barela had hoped, forcing him to change the store’s inventory. He gained a little popularity from selling oils and oil burners, but it was apparent that something was missing.

However, it was not until Barela and his wife, Adrienne, took their honeymoon to Granada, Spain, that he was able to determine what that missing piece was.

“We were walking down a major street back to our hotel, and in a kind of a spur of the moment thing, I decided to go into this neighborhood and take a different route,” Barela said. “We went down that street and ran into a little shop using the wall of the cathedral to showcase crates of herbs. We walked over there cause the smell was amazing and when we asked the owner of the business what it was, he said, ‘It was tea’.”

After talking with the owner about his business, a light bulb went off in their heads, and the Barelas made a decision that would drastically change their business. They decided to add tea to their little store on University Boulevard, styling it based off the shop in Granada.

“We started getting our team of importers and exporters and whoever could help us with blending to just get familiar with the industry,” Barela said. “When we started getting our crew together, we decided that we had a pretty good staff that knew a lot about tea.”

Just two years removed from introducing tea to his store, Barela has made a name for himself within the Tucson community. As Barela puts the finishing touches on his move, he already has hopes for what it will become. And as his track record shows, he has a history of attaining goals he sets out for himself.

“We want to have multiple locations because we feel like we have a unique idea,” said Barela. “We want to show our ideas to people, so they can get into it too.”

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