The TEA TREE
When Missi Hartmann worked as a stay-at-home mom for four ten years, she kept looking ahead to the time when she would re-enter the business world, and how to go about it. Her prior experience in prepping health care wellness centers and salons spas had given her considerable insight on how a business should present itself and run. So, she began to envision a business she could run for herself.
She has also been a licensed massage therapist for 18 years with knowledge in health and wellness products such as essential oils. But her imagination really got fired up when she put deeper thought into something simple that she has enjoyed her entire adult life, tea. In doing research, she discovered a world of the diversity and a breadth of the market in teas.
Two years ago, she opened her retail store, The Tea Tree, in downtown Batavia, Illinois. “I spent a year just looking at locations first,” she shared. “I decided I did not want a ‘hustle-bustle” location in Chicago or a touristy location necessarily. I wanted a place where I coud build relationships with my customers.”
That philosophy is evident as groups of customers cycle through the shop. “Hello!!!” she greets them with enthusiasm. Many already know their way around the store, seeking products in several related categories. “I’ve seen stores where they sell tea or olive oil, but my goal is to bring all these products together in one place.”
“When I pitched this idea to the City of Batavia and told them what I wanted to do, they told me, “What can we do to help make this happen?”
She learned much about the vital interaction between business and municipalities, how the application and approval processes work. She then looked at sites in town and chose a spot on River Street, the retail district developed by Batavia to attract and serve a mix of retail and service businesses. As the approval process proceeded, Missi went to work on converting the outdated interior of the shop to convert it to her needs.
“I would have rented this space just for the walls,” she confesses. “I wanted an Old World feel.”
She opened up walls and built shelves out of the old lumber, stained to carry a theme throughout the store.
She repurposed as much as she could, converting a set of double doors into table tops and an old office door and cabinet as her checkout counter. “I did it all myself, with some help from family and friends. But I have to laugh, some of it was laziness. I didn’t want to bother with throwing it out.”
Seeing the light
Now, The Tea Tree shop glows with a textural richness heightened by the ambient light pouring in from the east-facing front of the store. A casual gathering place is set up at the entrance where people can sit down, enjoy the tea of their choice and talk.
A fit-looking gentleman comes in the store asking for some “endurance” tea. Missi prepares the real tea leaves as he walks to toward the back of the store. “I’m also going to look around some,” he tells her. “I’m finding a gift for my wife’s birthday.”
“The women I find in essential oils and teas,” she wryly observes. “The men gravitate to the spices.”
Asked what segment of her products drive the most business, Missi shares: “I get that question a lot. Tea is our overall best seller. But there are months when other products take over. Olive oils and vinegar, spices, essential oils and infusers diffusers.
Tea Tree Cheerleaders
The Tea Tree has built its fans, some of whom are ardent in their loyalty. “I call them my cheerleaders,” she says. “They’re always stopping by to say hello and check in.”
Occasionally she’ll zap out of town to expand her knowledge in the realm of tea or other product lines. On her experience attending a tea convention in Las Vegas, she said, “Now I’m a tea nerd. But there’s so much to learn and enjoy.”
There’s no question the time commitment of opening and running a business has been life-changing. As a mother of three children ages 15, 12 and 11, there is little down time in the family schedule. “The newness of the business has worn off to them,” she admits with a chuckle. “So I need to go to them, not the other way around.”
Opening and running her own business has been life-changing in many ways. Those years of dreaming The Tea Tree into being, have now been transformed into a daily action list familiar to retailers everywhere.
But it’s the customer interactions that make it all worth it. They typically come in the door smiling, and that’s a sign that she’s doing many things right. When they walk back out the door with the same smile, then she really knows it.
Diane Kukla found Shine at the same time that Shine found her. As a longtime instructor at the yoga facility on River Street in downtown Batavia, she enjoys leading students in their practice at the lovingly restored limestone building overlooking the Fox River. But when the owner decided to sell the business, Diane felt a new calling.
Even her last name seems to mirror the call to the community she wants to create through Shine. The name Kukla closely resembles the term Kula, which means ‘community or tribe’ in the language of Sanskrit, which is also the ancient language of Yoga. “We take pride in continuing to develop Shine’s Kula or community,” she observes. “We want to be a soft place to land and explore.”
Community & connection
The Shine community includes a staff of more than
a dozen highly skilled and intentional yoga instructors serving a multitude of clients each week. One of the principal missions is to help people engage with yoga both on a personal and practical level. “Yoga is a tool,” she observed while perched in one of the comfortable chairs that welcomes students into the studio space.
“The term ‘Yoga’ actually means to Yoke or ‘unite,’ as in getting in touch with your whole being. And when we say ‘Namaste” at the end of a practice it is a show of respect for yourself and others, as well as a greeting to other students in the class.”
Her own teaching involves quite a bit of education and encouragement. “I’m not that naturally flexible in some areas,” she admits. “So I have to work at it, and empathize with people who come here and can’t do all the poses “there is no perfect Yoga Pose.”
Shine offers classes 7 days a week from early mornings into the night. “As a business, Shine has been here for several years,” she observes. “Historically, we
attract a lot of moms and seniors. Our plan for growth is to create ways to reach new audiences, such as business people, athletes, teens, men and other segments. So our class schedules will be designed to help people find ways to fit yoga into their schedules.”
A view on life
Shine sits at the southern end of the River Street district In Batavia where the streetscaping includes elegant brickwork and a large circular arch greets visitors in town to enjoy other popular businesses in the area. Her east windows filter morning sunlight while the northwest windows of the teaching studio look out over the Fox River. “We’ve been watching bald eagles fly around during class,” she said with some wonder. “It really adds to the experience sometimes.”
Course offerings include opportunities to learn meditation as well as yoga. That’s what Diane Kukla truly loves about leading the business. It is the rich spectrum of experience among her staff that she sees as the greatest strength at Shine. We love helping people achieve mental clarity. Being able to present many facets of yoga and building connections between mind, body and soul. Just helping people grow and blossom in their own way. That’s why we love to do this.”
Her business should see plenty of visitors when the Farmer’s Market opens in early June as it has in Batavia for many summers. “There are hundreds of people we’d like to meet,” Diane smiles. “We hope they’d like to meet us here at Shine too.”
KATRINA SALON AND SPA
Katrina started working in her first hair salon at the age of 15. Falling in love with every aspect of the salon she knew one day that was her dream. Katrina worked in many salons in the Chicago-land area to gain knowledge and experience. She studied corporate business communications at NIU, working as a hair stylist
Dreams and plans
She decided to test the corporate world working as a sales coordinator in Chicago. After a few months she realized it was time to make her dream of opening her own salon come true. In 2001, working full time during the day she opened up a salon suite in Geneva and worked nights and weekends to build clientele. Only after 8 months she was able to focus full time on opening a salon. She started looking for a location to open up Katrina Salon and Spa.
In 2003, she happened to come to River Street in Batavia and fell in love with the space. “There was just something about this building. It needed to be gutted and a lot of work but I knew it was the right place.”
The current owner of the building expressed wanting to sell the building in a few years and Katrina knew this could be a great
Growth and change
She started Katrina Salon and Spa with two employees and only half of the first floor space of the building. Katrina and her husband Jason, reinvested everything the salon brought in for the first five years of business. “I believed in spending money in order to make money. I have very high standards and knew our clients would want and appreciate those standards. The first few years we took a lot of risks in order to build what we have today.” After five years of business they bought the building at 8 N. River Street. They also expanded to the whole first floor.
Work and family
In 2008 Katrina and Jason decided to start a family after spending so many years giving their heart and soul to their business. “It was very challenging trying to balance family and work. I couldn’t work as many long hours as I had in the past and I had to rely on trust with many of my employees. Through the years there were lots of ups and with that downs which some call growing pains.”
15th Anniversary and going strong
Today in 2018 Katrina Salon and Spa is celebrating their 15 year anniversary and has 35 employees, brings roughly 2,000 people through their salon each month. “The beauty industry is a great industry for women. I take great pride in training and teaching young women how to create a wonderful and successful career. Our industry is great for working moms also allowing flexibility to be there for your kids and still provide.” Owning the building has allowed Katrina to be one of the highest paying salons around. Katrina Salon and Spa is a full service salon offering hair, nails, massage, facials, waxing, spray tan, and makeup services. “We take great pride in using the best in our industry, Aveda.”
“The Batavia Community is a big part of our success. They were excited and really wanted us to succeed. Their dedication to the salon over the years has been overwhelming and I am forever grateful that I chose 8 N. River Street in Batavia.”From humble beginnings in a small space in another town to the burgeoning business she now runs in downtown Batavia, Katrina has proven her instincts and love for the beauty industry positive in many ways.
Batavia: the right place to succeed
The City of Batavia hosts some of the world’s leading companies in commercial, industrial, retail, manufacturing and distribution. Batavia’s location two miles north of the I-88 corridor and 35 miles west of Chicago is ideal for a diverse business base. Leading manufacturers and distributors such as Suncast, Flinn Scientific and Flagsource all base operations in Batavia, which also serves as world headquarters for Aldi, Inc. with more than 9,000 stores in the United States.
The primary contact for Economic Development in the City of Batavia
is Christopher Aiston, Phone: 630-454-2061 businesses large and small
to find the ideal location for commercial, industrial or retail enterprise.
Commercial Real Estate in Batavia
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Office, Retail Space, Industrial Space, Commercial Land
Partner Organizations in Batavia
For business support and advocacy across the spectrum of retail, commercial and industrial needs, contact the Batavia Chamber of Commerce. Contact Holly Deitchman at 630-879-7134. www.bataviachamber.org
For Downtown Batavia business connections, sponsorships and community events, contact Jamie Saam, Batavia Mainstreet, 630.761.3529.
BATAVIA: POSITIONED FOR YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESS
Batavia’s commercial and retail district occupies more than 1.5M square feet of leased and available retail space. From its historic downtown to its growth-focused Randall Road corridor, Batavia hosts well-known service brands ranging from Panera Bread to Trader Joe’s. Its big box retailers include Walmart, Jewel/Osco, Office Max/Depot, Hobby Lobby and Menard’s. This makes for a diverse and growing retail market where Batavia’s 27,000 residents can shop, work and entertain.
On its eastern border, Batavia shares boundaries with the world-renowned scientific research facility Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. After 50 years of leadership in the field of particle research, this government facility associated with the University of Chicago has set its sights on the pursuit of knowledge about dark matter, an entirely new field of research. These new pursuits are expected to create more than 2000 jobs and bring residents from around the world to live and work in Batavia.
We invite you to make Batavia your business destination.