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Zen Tara Tea Closing On Bethesda Avenue

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 4/30/2013, 4:30pm  ET

Zen Tara Tea, the independent tea shop and retailer that opened its own Bethesda Avenue store after success at a local farmers market, is closing on May 26.

The news was first reported by blogger Robert Dyer. Zen Tara Tea (4710 Bethesda Ave.) will let customers know in an e-newsletter on Wednesday.

Co-owner Methee Thavornvongkajorn said a variety of factors contributed to the decision, including nearby construction of Lot 31. The construction there has caused disruptions to the busy intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. The crosswalk on the south side of the intersection has been closed off and many have complained of a parking crunch now that the surface Lot 31 is gone.

Developer StonebridgeCarrass, which is building two apartment buildings on top of a new county-operated underground parking garage, has put signage around the construction area pointing people to existing businesses that may be affected.

“We don’t want to blame it on the construction alone,” Thavornvongkajorn said. “It’s that, it’s the parking. We have quite a few people who actually say they don’t come into Bethesda anymore. Some customers in Rockville actually have us do delivery.”

Thavornvongkajorn and partner Guy Munsch will maintain the online retail arm of the business. It opened in 2007 with a small tea counter at the Bethesda Farm Women’s Cooperative Market, just up the street from the store. The store, which opened in 2010, featured more than 100 teas, most grown organically.

From the e-newsletter:

Talking with our staff and our landlord over the past month, ultimately we decided it was best to maintain our integrity and close this chapter of our tea adventure with our heads held high. Zen Tara Tea is not going bankrupt, isn’t closing in the middle of the night leaving employees and creditors in a lurch, not asking for a bailout – we’ve lived up to all our responsibilities. There are certainly things we could have done better and will learn for next time but we have few true regrets. We’re also extremely proud of our teas and our service, many of the customer service problems endemic to retail businesses we’ve never had, thanks to our staff and to really great customers as well.

Thavornvongkajorn said the pair has discussed opening a smaller shop with the same landlord in the future, though for now, they’ll go on a “tea sabbatical.”

Video via Zen Tara Tea