The Journey from Virginia Beach High School to Restaurant Ownership
F rom the outside, The Tottering Teacup is an unassuming storefront sandwiched between H&R Block and Sola Salon Studios in the 3200 block of Carytown in Richmond.
On the inside, however, you will immediately see that The Tottering Teacup is a vibrant space meant for fun, conversation, and relaxation. Anatash Werne, the shop’s proprietor, has been working to get the space open since October 2016, when she gutted the interior of what was previously Salon Del Sol.
Pale blue walls, armchairs that may have most recently been at grandma’s house, crocheted donut-inspired beanbag (created by Anatash’s sister-in-law), and 15-foot-long hand-painted letters spelling “The Tottering Teacup” adorn the teashop. The design is befitting of Anatash, who confidently wears a patterned dress covered in blue birds and rocks hair that has been dyed blue and green.
The process to get the shop open was aided by her new Carytown neighbors. Camille Bird of Sacred Waters (just across Cary Street) provided advice and friendship. And some of the furniture and fixtures, including the hutch and lamps inside the front door, were donated by the antique shop on the corner.
Speaking with her, it is apparent that Anatash is a newbie to the restaurant ownership business. It is also clear that she is not scared of what is ahead.
She speaks of the challenges of opening a restaurant in the City of Richmond, the latter of which inexplicably required last minute changes to the space. Anatash recounts one such challenge, “Our first pastry case was destroyed on the truck, we had to refuse the shipment.”
She continues recalling the memory, unsure of whether it still haunts her or if it is funny, “the second one wasn’t going to fit the door, and we don’t have a back door. So when the shipment was coming, we had to take the door off of its hinges…It was cold and rainy all day, and we didn’t just want to leave the door vacant, so we rolled my fridge in front of the space to block the cold rain until the pastry case could be here.” She kept a Google Doc, as a quasi-diary, to document these challenges.
Now, only a month in, The Tottering Tea Cup is thriving, serving 44 kinds of tea and a variety of pastries and cookies.
Open now for about a month; The Tottering Teacup is as lively as Anatash. Soft music plays from the stereo that sits high on the bookcase, which plays host to books and games for patrons, and customers gather around glossy tables enjoying tea and conversation.
However, Anatash did not always know she wanted to run a teashop.
During High School, she worked with Lisa Ericson, a ProStart Teacher at Virginia Beach’s Tallwood High School. The ProStart curriculum is used to teach students the basics of restaurant management and cooking. When speaking of Ericson, Anatash says with complete certainty, “She was easily my favorite teacher I’ve ever had. I’ve always said that if I can grow up and be her, I think that would be a good life.”
Pulling from her admiration for Ericson, Anatash was accepted to JMU with aspirations to become an English Teacher. While there, she worked for a local Harrisonburg bakery and loved to hold intimate social gatherings, such as game nights, for her friends with accompanying tea and pastries. It was her time at JMU (in the classroom and socially) and the bakery when she had her Tottering epiphany. During a general education psychology class, she was tasked with recounting and planning her life from birth to death. Thinking about this assignment and her knowledge of the kitchen, she finally knew what direction her life was heading.
She recalls, “When I was at JMU, I worked in a bakery. I was there for about a year, and realized that I knew more technical terms and techniques from Ms. Ericson’s class than my boss, who had started her own bakery.”
This combination of industry knowledge and her love for baking and tea came together in Richmond.
Now, only a month in, The Tottering Tea Cup is thriving, serving 44 kinds of tea and a variety of pastries and cookies. Very, very delicious cookies. (Try the new Chocolate Chocolate Mint. You will not be disappointed.)
Anatash is excited about the future, as she has interest from groups—fashion, books clubs and more—around the city interested in holding regular events in the space. She is also looking to host local artists on a monthly basis to showcase their work on the baby blue walls and to bake additional pastry varieties and flavors for her guests.
It is clear that Anatash is all-in on The Tottering Teacup. However, she gets most excited when talking about tea. Her knowledge about tea easily flows as she spouts of interesting facts…All tea comes from the same plant…Much of the difference stems from when it is picked.
Her favorite? “Earl Grey Lavender,” she says without skipping a beat. And customers? Tea lovers are invited to request a heart-shaped sticker to be placed on the board next to their favorite blend. By the looks of it, Masala Chai, Summer Rose, and Earl Grey appear to be the top vote-getters on the display, which allows customers to take small containers off the wall, open them, and enjoy the unique scent of each blend.
On the pastry and food front, she says, “Cucumber cream cheese sandwich. Everyone wants a fancy tea sandwich.”
Anatash’s petite fours are also hard to keep in the pastry case, with customers often coming in to buy out the entire stash.
The Tottering Teacup, 3222 W Cary Street, Richmond, VA 23221, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Learn more and follow Tottering on the web, Facebook, and Instagram.
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