Doria Roberts had a simple dream: Build herself a tiny tea shop where she could spend her days sipping her brews and occasionally interact with fellow tea enthusiasts. Don’t worry. She gets there, but not before learning a million and one life lessons as a small business owner first.
In the early 2000s, Roberts was a thriving folk musician, spending her days touring alongside major acts and playing gigs at Lilith Fair. But after 15 years on the road, she found herself back in Atlanta, GA, with a mere $75 in her pocket questioning where she wanted to go next in life.
In 2008, Roberts met her now wife, Calavino Donati, an equally thriving chef living in the southern city. The pair met by chance, as Roberts was renting the apartment Donati once lived in. When Donati came to drop off the keys, that was it. They decided to go into business together and open their first shop, Urban Cannibals Bodega & Bites, a general store and sandwich shop in East Atlanta. Yes, it flourished. It even made an appearance on The Food Network for its delicious panini. But even with its success, Roberts learned her first small business owner lesson: you’ve got to love every second.
“I wanted to be more than someone’s wife,” Roberts said while expressing both her gratitude and reverence for her wife and the fact that she simply wanted to match Donati’s passion. And for her, that meant finding a space so she could open her own tea shop — something that felt uniquely her.
“I wanted something that’s more me. I want something that’s mine,” she said. “A place where I could sit and have my tea in the corner and write and just be in a room with a bunch of other introverts sipping tea.”
So, Tipple and Rose Parlor and Apothecary was born.
Robert’s dream began in 2015 with a small shop in Atlanta that she filled with antique furnishings, retail offerings, and a tea selection from all over the globe. Within what seemed like mere moments, the shop was a hit, hosting tea times, catering events, and it became the toast of the town, which is when Roberts learned another lesson: expect more than what you hoped for. “It turned out to be just a burgeoning business,” she said. “I had to revamp everything and how I had planned on doing it because the demand was really high. I had to find a happy medium.”
To find the balance, Roberts took out seats and minimized capacity to 32 to ensure everyone received the utmost care. A few years in, Roberts was hitting all the right notes and her shop was still as popular as ever. And, just like that, she learned another life lesson: things can change, and fast.
In 2019, Roberts’ mother suffered a stroke, which pulled Roberts to move back to her hometown of Philadelphia to be closer to her family. Just a few months shy of Tipple and Rose’s five-year anniversary, Roberts and her wife packed everything up and shuttered the shop’s doors to make their way north.
“It was a hard decision. I have four sisters, so there are people with [Mom], but it was a really difficult couple of weeks because I had these obligations to my employees who were counting on me for their paychecks, and of course, rent needs to be paid,” Roberts said. “All of these things, I had to consider before my own family. And that was just a huge moment.”
Roberts and Donati moved to Philadelphia, PA, with every intention of moving their business along with them. But, let us remind you, they moved in December 2019, just as the rest of the world was set to change forever.
“March 2020 was the time we were going to start building out. And then of course everything shut down,” she said. So, she and Donati went back to their roots and opened a small BBQ ghost kitchen for takeaway orders called The Pig + The Pit. And, despite the pandemic, the shop immediately took off, so much so that Roberts found herself recalibrating again. In fact, the orders came so fast she’d have to intermittently shut down their website so Donati could catch up with the cooking.
“People were amazed that there was just one person cooking in the back and that she was putting out the food that she was putting out,” Roberts said.
Quickly, the old pull of starting something own her own started to creep in for Roberts. After plenty of hunting, the pair found the perfect spot in nearby Princeton, NJ, just across the street from the university, only to learn it had just been rented out. So, they went with their second choice, which led to one more lesson: Always trust your gut.
In their initial home in Philadelphia, everything that could go wrong did. The roof leaked, their product was spoiled, there was no foot traffic. So, they went out hunting again, and on a hunch Donati called their first choice spot to check in, only to find it was magically available once again.
Finally, after a whirlwind of an experience, Roberts, and the new iteration of Tipple and Rose, are both exactly where they’re supposed to be.
“There’s a lot of validation for making the right choices,” she said of settling in. “All the decisions, the decision to keep it alive [and] the decision to start it to begin with, feel good. I do think I have a purpose again.”
Visit Tipple and Rose at 210 Nassau Street Princeton, NJ 08542.