Starbucks to close Teavana tea chain built by Atlanta couple

Too much caffeine does funny things to even the best of minds.

Like when the espresso-sipping leaders at Starbucks said the revolution they sparked in coffee would happen with tea, too.

In 2012, the Seattle-based giant struck a $620-million deal to buy Teavana, a mostly mall-based tea retailer that was built from scratch by Atlanta couple Andy and Nancy Mack.

A measly five years later, Starbucks has announced it will close all 379 Teavana stores in the coming year. That includes seven in metro Atlanta (Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, Cumberland Mall, Perimeter Mall, Mall of Georgia, Northpoint Mall and Town Center at Cobb).

Teavana – originally envisioned as a melding of tea and nirvana — isn’t living up to its name for the bean folks.

The problem, as outlined by Starbucks, isn’t tea; it’s malls.

Yeah, them again.

But first, a nod to the local folks who quietly built Teavana.

Andy and Nancy Mack’s tea empire began 20 years ago with a single Buckhead store along Peachtree Road. It originally went by the name Elephant Tea Co. Andy Mack, a former restaurant industry manager, wanted to recreate tearooms the couple enjoyed in Europe.

A few months after opening, he told a writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Coffeehouses have done so much to raise people’s awareness of coffee. We want to do the same for tea.”

The Macks, eventually boosted by outside funding, later aimed almost exclusively on putting new shops in malls.

A chill tea shop

I found it odd to stumble upon a chill tea shop embedded alongside clothing stores and sneaker retailers. The focus was on selling tea you take home to make, rather than pay to savor on the spot. For me, delayed gratification is a dicey undertaking.

But the Macks know more than I do, because the concept grew dramatically. And, unlike lots of entrepreneurs, the couple managed to pay for the growth while retaining a big chunk of ownership.

Then Starbucks came calling.


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