A budding Syracuse tea shop is building community downtown
Budding Syracuse tea shop is building community
What started as a side-hustle has grown into a thriving hub of culture and comaraderie in downtown Syracuse. 210 Teas, located at 108 East Washington St., began as an online loose-leaf tea company when Kahssia Hills, owner and founder, started selling tea online during the pandemic as a way to stay busy and earn some extra income.
“I explored a few ideas and talked with friends and family and ultimately landed on selling loose-leaf tea,” Hills said. “I thought it was a somewhat unique idea – at least locally – and has a sentimental meaning to me, because of my grandmother.”
Her grandmother, Catherine, sparked Hills’ love for tea at a young age. The number in the name pays tribute to her grandmother’s address, where Hills grew up.
While the tea store has only been in business for a little under a year, Hills has instilled the importance of connections, especially those fostered by Black-owned businesses.
“One of the major important pieces of it is to be an example of what’s possible,” Hills said. “It’s not really the majority of the business owners downtown that are Black or people of color, so it’s good to show that we are also capable.”
Within the cafe, Hills has decorated the space with beautiful artwork showcasing Black culture and elegance. Framed photos and prints by Cecily Thomas, Rahm Bowen, Jaleel Campbell and Kevin Williams cover the walls.
Hills also has collaborated with Crave Dessert Studio, a Black-owned bakery in Syracuse, to sell baked goods to her customers.
“I want to make being a Black-owned business more normal,” she said. “That when someone sees a Black-owned tag or a Black-owned hashtag, they’re not intimidated in any way– they come in and they enjoy it just as much as anywhere else.”
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In addition to collaborating with bakeries, 210 Teas hosts events for the Syracuse community.
Hills, a Syracuse native, has a lot of established connections within the community already from her previous business, school and friendships. A lot of the community events 210 Teas hold are with people she already knows.
“They are all business owners who happen to be my peers,” she said. “They all have really cool and talented skill sets that they can offer the community.”
210 Teas has hosted yoga classes, poetry nights and, most recently, a celebration of natural curls with beauticians.
As the cafe approaches its one year anniversary, Hills hopes the cafe can expand its hours and hire more staff.
“Right now I just have one employee that’s been with me from the very beginning, but in order for me to step away and be in two places at one time or have the shop open but go somewhere else, I need more people,” she said. “But I need to make sure that I can take care of them in a financial way.”
The cafe is also Hills’ second job, so expanding the hours is something she hopes to accomplish as she possibly gets more staff.
“Owning a business definitely has some hardships, but there’s gratification in it– especially being a Black-owned business,” Hills added.
210 Teas is open Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 6 p.m. To purchase tea from 210 Teas during the days the business is not open, visit 210Teas.com.