Lovejoy’s Tea Room is nestled on the corner of Clipper and Church in sunny Noe Valley, and Lovey’s Tea Shoppe is tucked right off Cabrillo Highway in the foggy surf town of Pacifica. Yet, both parts of Lovejoy’s chain remain seamlessly connected. Lovejoy’s opened its current location in the late 90s with the goal of having a welcoming atmosphere. Since then, it has maintained a reputation of a unique and open environment.
The employees and people of Lovejoy’s carry the hope that customers feel they can come just how they are. In an interview with the Paper Tiger, co-owner Gillian Briley stated “our goal is to serve an afternoon tea and not be pretentious or intimidating, but to make everyone feel comfortable while enjoying tea.” Luna Nash, co-owner with Gillian Briley, succeeded in transferring the same calm, welcoming environment of Lovejoy’s to the atmosphere of Lovey’s.
The common reaction to a local store expanding can be worry and fear that the expansion will cause the store to lose its unique vibe. Despite being part of a “chain,” Lovey’s maintains quality service and food. Even though Luna Nash is the only owner of Lovey’s, she had no intention of severing her ties from Lovejoy’s. The co-owner of Lovejoy’s, Gillian Briley, said, “Luna wanted to expand in Pacifica because she lives there and she wanted to bring something new to her community.” Briley also stated that “the authority was very important to her; she wanted to keep it feeling homey and keep the connection between the two stores.” The feeling that you can stop in and get a cup of good tea was inspired by Nash’s trip to Ireland, where stopping in for tea is the social norm. If you are walking down the street and get caught in a storm, it is not strange for a family to invite you into their home and serve you some great tea.
Another way Lovejoy’s and Lovey’s try to stay authentic is by using organic produce and tea. In an interview with the Noe Valley Voice, reporter Olivia Boler claimed that “the tea room’s selection of nine black teas comes from Taylor’s of Harrogate, a well-known British purveyor. Nash also stocks an assortment of flavored and green teas and tisanes.” The dedication to quality tea is also a window into the tea frenzie that is now sweeping San Francisco.
I recently went to Lovejoy’s with a friend, and we didn’t want to leave. We walked in late Thursday afternoon and all the tables were full. We were seated at a window table that was “Reserved for the Queen.” Looking around the heavily antiqued room, I was surprised at who was at Lovejoy’s at 4 o’ clock on a weekday. There were old friends that were discussing their grandkids. There was a little girl who was sitting on a round window sill seat with her family singing “Happy Birthday.” There were two girls with big hats laughing with their mothers on high-backed couches. There was a couple on a date holding hands and laughing over some spilled tea. Lovejoy’s does not have one set of customers; their customers come from all walks of life.
I went to Lovey’s on a Saturday afternoon and I was pleasantly surprised. I was, again, sitting at a table “Reserved for a Queen” and was sipping the tearoom blend tea and eating that day’s special chicken and arugula sandwich. I looked around and the cozy room was full of laughing, smiling people. There was a women’s book club sitting around a large, round table. There were other people enjoying their tea and soaking in the warm environment of Lovey’s. There were two men discussing the menu and two women discussing their love for The View. The diversity of people has not been lost with the expansion. There are still people that come as they are and have a great meal.
Tea services are not the only thing that Lovey’s and Lovejoy’s offer; the two owners also have an antique store called Lovejoy’s Attic. I was lucky enough to interview the manager of the Attic, Isabel. I asked Isabel what she thought about the expansion. She said, “It is great, we always have so many people come down from Pacifica now it is great for them to have their own Lovejoy’s.” She agreed with Gilliam and said that small businesses do give back to the community in such a unique way. Lovejoy’s does a lot of fundraisers and donates to a lot of charities in its neighborhood. Isabel also added that she thinks that small businesses like Lovejoy’s and Lovey’s give the people of the community a small thing to cherish.
Next time you are driving down the highway or walking down Clipper street, make a stop at the tea rooms and witness the magic for yourself.