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(Part II) Business is Nothing …But Community

People Unite at Samovar Yerba Buena
People Unite at Samovar Yerba Buena

One of the funniest ironies about technology and improvement is that as we make giant technological leaps ever day, and get ever more “connected,” we are at the same time we are also getting more disconnected from each other and the world. Author Bill McKibbons wrote recently in Mother Jones Magazine that ever since 1956, the “Happiness Index” of Americans has been going down. How can this be, amidst an ever improving “standard of living,” that we are getting progressively unhappy?

It’s because we are flesh and blood and that until that changes, like attracts like, and we need to be amongst flesh and blood, ie. other humans. We’ve become lonely and isolated, constantly digitally connected, and yet physically remote from each other.

Tea is the perfect social lubricant for greasing the pathways of a beautiful community. Ask any good psychologist and they’ll tell you that perhaps the strongest need of a human is the need to belong to a community. We need community to survive. That’s what makes Samovar Tea Lounge so special. Tea is about making a delicious, warm, satisfying pot of something special for someone special. It is about taking time out of your daily routine to breathe, see, touch, talk, and rejoice the simple pleasures of being human, among other humans.

What ever happened to the simple act of conversing in person? Nowadays most conversations take place over instant chat, email, phone messages, or cell phone. But while we’re still made of atoms, we still innately crave to be touched, hugged, and caressed. Have a pot of tea with someone you care about, and touch them. Talk to them. Savor their human-ness, and connect.

After all, what’s the point of it all? I think few people, when on their deathbeds, ask how much money they are leaving in their bank accounts. Instead, I’d reason the more common question is, “What did I do that mattered?” And what matters is what kind of influence you exerted in life. And that often comes down to the bonds you’ve fostered. The community of human bonds. And it just so turns out that business is a phenomenal means for creating and fostering our human bonds.

Business is nothing but the forging of human bonds.
And as business philosopher Peter Koestenbaum wrote in Leadership: The Inner Side of Greatness : “Business is above all a vehicle for achieving personal and organization greatness. It is for accomplishing something worthy and noble. Business is an institution that can enable you to make a significant contribution to society.”

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(Part I) Business is Nothing … But Stories of People

At the end of the day at Samovar our business is not how much money we made or lost, not what teas were bought or sold, not which employees showed up for work. No, at the end of the day at Samovar, when the last scones have been sold, and the last pot of tea brewed, the floor cleaned, and the lights turned off, at the end of that day all that is left is just a bunch of stories. And the stories are absolutely fascinating. That is business.

The mother and daughter who connect over the grilled portabella sandwich and a pot of Magnolia Snowbud. The writer who finishes the last chapter of their novel fueled by a mug of chai. The single woman who meets the blind date of her dreams over Phoenix Bliss oolong. The retired real estate agent who muses the next chapter of life with a pot of Maiden’s Ecstasy pu-erh. These stories of customers, employees, and suppliers is actually what makes business, business. The tea families who ship us fresh tea monthly are directly sustained by the husband and wife who have a chance to finally catch up over a pot of Dragonwell Green tea at our Yerba Buena Gardens location. And what about those customers who literally live on our Japanese organic green teas, and visit us every single day, rain or shine, alone or with friends?

We support our suppliers giving them the means to survive and thrive. We support our customers by making them happy, healthy, and relaxed, and they support us by returning to us time and again for the experience we offer. We support our employees by giving them a good place to work, eat, drink, and make friends.

This is the story of Samovar Tea Lounge. And what makes it all happen is the interplay of all these stories. At the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year, we get together and recount the stories that really stand out. The funny ones, the scary ones, the sad ones and the happy ones. Why? Because those stories are Samovar, and, if we understand the stories, we then understand what we’re doing. And if we know what we’re doing, then we can do what we want.