When you step inside the Just a Bit Eclectic retail tea shop at 19015 West McNichols, you know immediately why the owner, Darlene Alston, named her shop “eclectic”. You might argue with the “just a bit” though. It is a magical tea shop, nothing “bit” about it. Darlene has artfully arranged unusual, old, and new treasures. In her shop you’ll find a radio from back when radio was the main form of entertainment, tea cups with faces on them, books for sale and to read, bright blue walls, a lap harp, jewelry, a rotary phone, a stand of pipes, various jello molds, an embossed portrait of The Last Supper, a stand of hats, and paper doilies glued to the ceiling. “It’s a tea shop! Of course I had to have doilies!” laughs Darlene. All of it works beautifully together. It demands more than a bit of imagination to think that Just a Bit Eclectic was once a dentist’s office.
Darlene opened her shop in May of 2013, and “business was very good for a start-up.” It was simply too much for one person, though. Darlene realized that she needed help running her shop on a day to day basis, and also with business ends of things. With the help of Techtown Detroit’s SWOT City program, Darlene identified the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of her shop and together they came up with a plan to improve business. One of the solutions was to have longer hours of operation, but fewer days. Thus, the tea shop will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 11am-7pm and Saturdays from 10am-2pm. Darlene is enthusiastic about the new strategies: “The SWOT program gave me a new energy when I was overwhelmed. They showed me resources so I didn’t have to figure it all out myself.”
While the décor of the tea shop is what you’ll first notice when you visit Saturday, June 21 for the Grand Re-Opening, word of mouth has it that Darlene’s Junk Salad and Junk Soup are excellent. Just a Bit Eclectic also offers what Darlene calls a “Tailor Made Tea” line of black, green, white and herbal teas. Darlene is also happy to “cater bridal showers, baby showers, tea parties, book clubs, or just a quiet evening with friends.” Darlene has put not just her wonderful collections into her shop, but also her heart. She has a commitment to Grandmont Rosedale, and plans to train several young people this summer in the many aspects of running a small business.
Darlene derives her business and community inspiration from her great grandmother who owned a storefront on the east side of Detroit in the early 1900s. At various times, her great grandmother’s storefront was a cleaner’s, a candy store, a millinery shop, and a church. “Anybody that wanted to try something, she gave them the opportunity. My great grandmother rented the storefront to single women with children when others may have denied them. It was kind of like she offered pop-up opportunities, only she was born in the 1880s.” Original, independent, determined, eclectic. It seems to fun in the family.