Fort Worth Tea Shop Hopes for Second Chance With Federal Loan

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Many small businesses in North Texas are banking on round two of the Paycheck Protection Program after being shut out the first time. 

“What we are asking for felt really really small and yet would float us for the next couple of months,” said Tina Howard, owner of Leaves Book and Tea Shop in South Fort Worth. 

Howard did her homework and applied for PPP funding on day one.  

“We were asking for less than $10,000 that would’ve meant for our staff for the next two months, that we would’ve been able to keep them at their current rate, current hours and support them fully in that way,” she said.

She waited and waited for a call of acceptance that never came.

“The following day we heard from corporate, from our bank, that they were also out of funds. That they would keep our place in line and had processed her application but unless more funding came, we had missed out on that opportunity,” she said. 

“We’re just a tiny business and we don’t have other reserves brewing and viable ways of funding outside of things like that. We can’t reorganize. We can’t go back to investors. We can’t leverage other capital assets.”

What Howard can do is rely on her entrepreneurial spirit.

She’s created a virtual store, partnered with other independent book stores, added audiobooks to the mix and sells hot tea, sparkling teas and vials of tea leaves to go.

The owner of Leaves Book and Tea Shop never had online and curbside services in her business plan, but she is adapting to a new mode of operating. Credit: Tina Howard

Online sales and curbside services were never part of her plan, but they're keeping her nearly two-year-old shop in business. Not at the level it was before, but at least it’s a small stream of income.

The support of customers keeps Howard going and so does the support of other small business owners. 

“We talk almost daily and that’s super encouraging to be in it together. So, when of us is high on the roller coaster, we lift the other up and vice versa. Our staff is amazing. So it’s been fun to still work with them and talk with them and we’re all bonding through a common experience,” she said. 

Howard also appreciates the newfound time she has at home with her family.

“My kids are schooling at home. My husband’s also working from home. And that time has been meaningful to have together,” she said. 

Howard opened Leaves in September 2018 after spending four years to get there. 

She wanted it to be a place “where people could pause from the hectic pace of life,” she explained. “We opened a book store because we felt like that promotes thinking beyond a 140-character tweet. And, we’re a tea shop because tea brings mindfulness and a pause while you're waiting for tea to steep.”

Howard's application for PPP funding is still in the cue, and she hopes to get the call that says she's been approved. The money will allow her to pay her staff of five employees and keep her afloat until she can reopen.

Howard can’t wait to host her guests again Until that day comes, she encourages everyone to come by for a cup of stress-relieving tea to go, pair it with a good book and spend an afternoon at home social distancing.

Leaves Book and Tea Shop, 120 St. Louis Ave., Fort Worth 76104, 682-233-4832

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