With big business on the decline, there’s been a recent resurgence of the local little guy. One of several new businesses popping up is Bia’s Sublime Tea & Artisan Workshop.
Doljai Thomas, nicknamed Bia since childhood, is a Pensacola transplant who is bringing a new brand of business to the Panhandle emphasizing community just as much as sales. Born in Thailand, raised in Germany, and armed with the American dream, Bia opened her downtown tea and craft shop last week.
The new business offers loose teas from around the world, organic coffee and local baked goods. In addition, a variety of arts and crafts classes are available in which students can learn skills while using Bia’s shop as a production studio. The store will also house locally-made artwork sold on consignment. If that isn’t enough, they also advertise quality gifts and shiny things.
IN sat down with the globetrotting entrepreneur for a little Q&A.
IN: What are the basics of your business?
Bia: This business is about tea and educating people about tea. People can come here to join together and have this great beverage. It’s also about people getting together for arts and crafts and socializing. Strangers can meet and become friends, and of course, a cup of tea helps that. It’s sort of a creative hangout.
IN: Why are you passionate about tea and art?
Bia: My mother has always drank tea—her favorite is jasmine. I grew up listening to adults socialize over tea, and that’s what I want to bring here. We’ve always been taught to have a tea if you’re sick, but actually tea is a beverage that can be enjoyed all the time and any time of the day. With the crafts, people can explore what other artists are doing. They can share ideas communally. Tea and art just go together.
IN: How do you think this business will serve the community?
Bia: I don’t know. I haven’t heard of anything else like this here. I know in Britain it’s really popular. I think it’s a good thing for a community—we have to stick together somehow.
IN: Who do you think your clients will be?
Bia: I hope that my clients will be anyone—just like you and me. Everyone is welcome to come and explore. We’ll see what happens. I’m always excited to see who will come in. I think it will be kind of urban, funky, hip, and retro, but for all ages.
IN: What kind of arts and crafts programs do you offer?
Bia: We have all different types of classes: sewing, knitting, drawing, jewelry making, kids’ craft making. If you don’t know what to get for your spouse, or whomever, it’s always a great gift for someone to get creative. And education is an important thing—you can always pass along what you’ve learned.
IN: How do you feel about your location?
Bia: I like the location. I have this feeling that this is a good location for me. I think it has kind of an urban/cozy thing to it. It’s in the historic village, and I think people here really love that and are familiar with it. Also, there’s always parking.
IN: Will you be doing anything special for the holidays?
Bia: I think we’ll have some seasonal teas. But for me, every day is Christmas.
Bia’s Sublime Tea & Artisan Workshop
208 S. Alcaniz St.
10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday