Can the Intersection of Culture, Community, Well-being, and Commerce Change the Perspective for Brick-and- Mortar Retail?

Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods has people reeling over the potential consequences- notably how Amazon go technology and automation could affect the shopping experience.   

People are talking much less about a trend moving in the opposite direction: More human interaction within innovative concepts that bring culture, well-being, and a sense of community to less elitist versions (such as Space Ninety 8) of concept stores such as LeClaireur, 10 Corso Como, and Colette.

10 Corso Como, Milan | Image: Sarah Scanderbech

10 Corso Como, Milan | Image: Sarah Scanderbech

Conceived in the 80’s and 90’s- these amazing concepts that catered to the pleasure of browsing and discovery in a unique format, were not yet part of necessary differentiation strategies to compete with e-commerce.  10 Corso Como’s luxury experience of carefully curated products and experiences across different categories, had also already integrated the element of “Multi-purpose” with a café, hotel, and retail within the same space- long before e-commerce had forced retailers to look for creative solutions to the high costs of real estate, and to find synergies for clientele development.


And finally, an element of community and social interaction in retail was also in effect long before the Age of Loneliness; where friendships and dating have been hollowed out by the internet age and where social media allows us to be alone “together”.

So, it is no surprise that in today’s context retailers are more than ever looking to incorporate these elements into brick-and-mortar retail.   While opening a small independent boutique or café was once considered a fairly low-risk venture, today’s challenges make it high risk or simply unfeasible without a multi-component strategy of purpose or business model. Or, in the case of newly opened Tea & Poets- BOTH.

Miami’s Tea & Poets- Sunset Place, South Miami is a Multi-purpose, AND Collective Company concept store that develops community, culture, and well-being within a relaxed and playful retail environment. 

Founded just last July by Joaquin Ortiz, Henrik Telle, and Francisco Musalem- Tea & Poets fuses several unexpected elements together to create a unique total package.   Live Performance, Tea Gastronomy, and an ever-evolving event roster catering to an eclectic mix of communities. Monday Night Poker, Wednesday Night Open Mic, Thursday Painting Night, Kundalini Yoga Workshops, Fundraisers, and Poetry Contests, are just a few of the events hosted there.

The gourmet tea bar serves rare blends carefully curated from around the world, and goes a step further with an offer of “Tea-cocktails” at the front of tea gastronomy. The bestselling Blood Orange Basil- (English Breakfast tea, blood orange bitters, fresh basil, lemon juice) is not only revitalizing and refreshing, but a classy and creative way to revolutionize the way people perceive tea drinking.  

The casual lounging area takes center stage to the surrounding walls filled with mini pop ups of local vendors (imagine we-work but for retail) ranging from trendy clothing to artisan jewelry and accessories, art, and Joaquin’s own brand of sustainable clothing called Provider Lifestyle.   The vibe of the demographic is just as eclectic as the setting, ranging from young to old, business professional, to mystic artist. 

How Does Well-Being fit into a Retail Concept?

Creativity cultivation and social interaction are proven to be fundamental to mental well-being. Furthermore, creativity cultivation was documented as one of the 8 future trends of the wellness industry  in the Global Wellness Summit 2017 Trend Report.  The positive impact that creative pursuits have on both physical and mental health are increasingly supported by research from the medical community.  In sum- “creative lives are longer lives.” And since stress kills our capacity for creativity- relaxation, disconnecting, social interaction go hand in hand with creative pursuits.    

According to the report, workshops such as painting, drawing, writing, music, and live performance will become more commonplace at hotels, wellness retreats, and spas.   So, if we find this future trend as an integral part of an already revolutionary spin on retail and tea- is it visionary, coincidence, or both?    

Co-Founders Joaquin Ortiz, Henrik Telle, and Francisco Musalem

Co-Founders Joaquin Ortiz, Henrik Telle, and Francisco Musalem

When asked what inspired the concept Joaquin had stated- “My partners and I put together everything we love (tea, fashion, art, and poetry) as the basis for the foundation of the concept. I also knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a concept to change the way people interact when they shop through a setting that inspires creativity and expression.”  In the end it looks like both- it took vivid imagination and wisdom to create the concept, paired with a coincidental mix of complementary passions.

This is living proof of the amazing things we are capable of by focusing on what we love, paired with confidence, positivity, and the capacity for creative thinking.   The taste of success must be especially sweet, since the shopping complex management team had denied Tea & Poets an empty space 2 years in a row, meanwhile only one year after opening, the new management is blissfully context with the additional traffic their business brings to the entire shopping center.

As this concept develops, shopping complex developers may have to rethink what the ideal mix of retailers/concepts is that will bring them more business.   Some already struggling department stores may also face further challenges as this business model is relatively accessible for smaller, independent entrepreneurs and easily adaptable to the demographic of the surrounding community.  It could be a game changer for brick-and-mortar retail basics.

Honestly, a hip environment with innovative products from a variety of small, independent brands with diverse price points couldn’t come at a better time.  In an age where originality is at the heart of the shifting concept of luxury, and where a platform for small manufacturers is paramount for moving towards socially responsible fashion consumption- it is a context for success.  

Doesn’t the perspective for small business owner brick and mortar retail seem just a little bit brighter?