What’s better than a hot cup of tea with a friend on a cold winter’s day? Tea not only boasts health benefits but also creates connection and a ritual for grounding and centering. Characters in crisis often sit down for a cup of tea in books, TV shows, and movies. Sherry has created exactly that kind of a grounding and nurturing environment for healing and connection at Pauline’s Tea Bar and Apothecary in Charlotte, NC. I met a friend for tea there one afternoon and immediately felt peace when I entered the space. It was cozy and captured my senses- from the smells, to the music, to the taste of the spicy warming crimson tea and homemade cookies. I loved the old school bulletin board in the hallway pinned with flyers, business cards, and other offerings. I had been searching for a new spiritual director and right there, on the board, was Sherry’s business card. With that, began a beautiful relationship.
Hi, Sherry! This is such a great space for spiritual direction sessions. But I know that you are so much more than a spiritual director. Could you begin by telling us more about your background?
I am first a mother and wife of a blended interracial family of 7 – including five children, ages ranging from 24-16. My husband and I have been married for almost 5 years. I grew up in Asheville, NC in a very close-knit familial village before going to undergrad college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My occupational background is in the nonprofit arena, specifically in fundraising and marketing. I came further into my vocational work about 5 years ago, after completing graduate school (Masters in Practical Theology/Spiritual Care & Counseling) and finishing up a chaplain residency at Atrium Health. My husband and I launched IEnate, LLC in 2018 where I provide stewardship consulting and coaching with individuals, nonprofits, and small businesses. As a trained chaplain and spiritual director, I also offer spiritual companionship to groups and individuals.
As I understand it, this is the first business you have owned. How did your past experiences prepare you for running a business? What kind of gifts and skills helped you to take the leap to starting your own business?
My experience working for various nonprofit organizations really enabled me to be astute in strategic visioning, financial planning, marketing and promotion. I think I’m very relational and enjoy being with people, which is very helpful in running a successful business. My “strengthsfinder” skills are connectedness, empathy, harmony, maximizer, relator and woo. I also serve on a few community boards, including the McCrorey YMCA, Fashion & Compassion, and Novant Health’s Spiritual Care Professional Advisory Group (in which I chair).
That sounds like the perfect package for what you do now! It makes me think God has had a hand in this. In fact,you have a cool story about how you found this space and how things opened up for you. What was the vision that you had for this place and when did you have that?
The vision to have a community sacred space for respite dropped in my heart and spirit when I served as a chaplain at Atrium in 2014. I found myself going into the patients’ rooms and changing their clinical, sterile environment to one that was more restorative. I would bring in aromatherapy, finger labyrinths, coloring tools, and make collages out of their photos. I found that their healing, and dying, was better. I began creating a sacred environment in my office and home, and then wanted to extend that to the community.
The vision became more clear in the early spring of 2019, as I began searching for a location. I decided that adding the element of herbal tea would encourage folk to actually visit the sacred space. Tea invites people to pause, slow down, and savor.
Then how did this all come into being? A couple of days after Easter, I was on my way to my office from talking to a group of our homeless neighbors about being in the flow, following God’s spirit and allowing things to happen, when I saw it. A “For lease” sign in the yard that the owner had just put out there. The sun was illuminating it, like call this number! So I pulled over to look at it. I didn’t even have to call the number, because as I was peering in the window, the owner, who had just left the building, saw me. He asked how he could help me and I told him about my concept. He immediately told me, “Go see my realtor across the street because I love what you are going to do. And I think it will be really good for the neighborhood.” Fast forward a week later and I was signing a lease. It all happened so seamlessly. There were no obstacles in the way. The way it unfolded was like God saying, “This is what I have for you.”
A year and a half later – after navigating about 6 months of COVID-19 challenges – I was awarded an Innovation Fund Grant to expand our outdoor patio seating and install an in-ground prayer labyrinth to help patrons center and find calm.
Where does the name, Pauline’s Tea Bar and Apothecary, come from? Who is Pauline? And what makes it an Apothecary?
Pauline was my grandmother (my mom’s mom); and she and my other grandmother, Lena, always embodied gracious hospitality and offered a peaceful presence to guests/family of their home. The front porch and living room areas were fellowship gathering spaces where I enjoyed listening, learning, and discovering about myself. Gracious hospitality, peaceful presence, restorative environment, and authentic connections are the 4 core values of The Pauline Tea-Bar Apothecary.
The second meaning of the Pauline name is the Pauline Circle based on the disciple Paul’s circle of friends. It is an idea of a close-knit community that hosts and supports each other.
The “apothecary” is the healing medicinal elements of the herbal teas, essential oil aromatherapy and meditative music. Oh, and we have an art gallery featuring art from local artists as well.
It sounds like this has been a place that has brought people together who maybe never would have connected. Can you tell any stories about some of the ways people have found the tea bar and the connections they have made here?
Many people have discovered the teabar from the affirming social media posts and testimonies of others. We’ve had visitors all the way from Shelby, Mooresville and Hickory to come down for a visit to the teabar. I personally have witnessed many people make connections and build friendships here. For example, a group will be sitting at the table and someone on the couch will overhear them talking. The person on the couch will tell them, “Hey, I offer that service.” or “I’m reading this book that goes along with what you are talking about. Can I share it with you?” It has been awe-striking for me. I thought it was going to be quiet place of contemplation for people, but instead it is building an authentic community with meaningful conversations. It’s not about me. It’s much bigger than I thought it could be.
In fact, it served as a healing place after the George Floyd racial protests. People were reaching out to me because they wanted to dialogue about what they could do. We hosted an interracial gathering for people to have a living room conversation in a safe space. People asked questions, cried, and could just be together.
I love that you offer specialized teas and essential oils. Could you give people some tips for choosing a tea or an essential oil to meet their needs? What do you recommend for people during the winter season and during all the craziness of the holidays?
Yes, I am a DoTerra Essential Oil advocate/distributor and sell those at the teabar, so I can help someone select the oil that is best for them. All of our herbal teas are good for boosting the immune system, but I highly recommend lemon ginger with honey and the peppermint herbal teas.
I was trained as an integrative wellness chaplain, when I served at Atrium; so I use a lot of the modalities of aromatherapy, guided imagery, breath prayer and healing touch in my spiritual care – along with setting the space in the teabar. Those are some modalities that can help people during this time of year.
What kind of offerings to do you have at Pauline’s Tea Shop now? And is there anything that you would like to promote that is coming up?
We offer various holistic wellness classes and events – including tai chi, meditation, restorative yoga, aromatherapy basics and the benefits of herbal tea (of course). Every first Friday of the month, we do a live music/open mic poetry from 6-8 pm. I also provide spiritual refueling retreats throughout the year at the teabar. People can keep up with the events and happenings on our social media (Facebook and Instagram pages)
About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences and curiosities with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.