Picture two young girls, one passionate about basketball and the other one, who could care less about basketball, compromising over tea. That’s what life was like for former WNBA player and Olympian, Tamika Catchings and her sister, Tauja who grew up as avid tea drinkers. “Tea was our negotiating power, says Catchings. “I would compromise and have a tea party with dolls if my sister would come out and play basketball for an hour.” And just a year ago, not too long after retiring from 16 years with the Indiana Fever, Catchings fulfilled her dream of opening a tea shop.
“When I got drafted in 2001 to the Indiana Fever, friends told me to check out a neighborhood tea shop [in Indianapolis], says Catchings. “I loved going to Tea’s Me Café . It had nothing to do with basketball, and it was a place where I could go and not have to sign autographs.” She describes Wayne Ashford, the shop’s original owner as an attractive older, African American male who owned it for 10 years before Catchings took over. “It was a rare thing to see an African American male as a tea shop owner, but I loved his concept: tea was just the method of bringing people in, but the conversations that sparked over tea- about life and community impacted me.”
When Wayne decided to move out of state, Catchings had to make a pretty fast decision to take over the shop. Several enlightening dreams, conversations, and the support of her husband, Gary led her to ponder the idea for two weeks. “My husband said, anything you set your mind to, you are successful, so I decided right then to do it!”
Thankfully, she didn’t have to change much about the space. Inside the quaint Tea’s Me Café with its warm fireplace, light-flooded windows, and plush couch seating, you can order all types of tea, from black, green, to red teas. Timers, along with clear pots holding loose tea are delivered to your table, and based on the hardiness of the tea, or if it’s a root versus a tea leaf, the timer will buzz when ready after 5 to 10 minutes. You can also partake in some of the shop’s healthy lunch fare includes the Smart BLT (soy bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes) or the Summer Salad (spinach, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and vinaigrette dressing).
Catchings also continues the tradition of keeping the community involved at Tea’s Me Café. There is a monthly art rotation, and you will see local artist’s worked sprinkled all over the walls (a recent featured Afro-centric artist was from a woman named Victoria Smith Howard). From time to time, they have local musicians perform in the space, and First Fridays are youth open mic night, but anyone is allowed to perform. “We recently had an 80-year-old woman perform during First Fridays,” says Catchings.
Catchings also employs young people, like high school and college students to work in the shop with a mission that they learn about leadership and customer service. “The concepts I learned from basketball, I attribute to my business,” says Catchings. “If we have teamwork, then customer service is good; also communication is essential because if something is not right, than we have to talk to our “teammates.” Catchings emphasizes energy as an important element in basketball and now to business: “Low energy in the morning is not good, because it brings customers down. I like my staff to have high energy when they greet visitors.”