AKRON, Ohio – Srina Tea House founder Monaqui Porter Young, who was born and raised in Akron, didn’t know much about tea until she left Rubber City to pursue her dreams in the Big Apple.
It was only after she was alone and without health insurance for the first time that Porter Young began to understand the importance of making her health a priority. Shortly after moving to New York City, Porter Young, a theater student in Wright State, began making the connection between what she ate and drank and how she felt.
Now Porter Young, 49, a Central Hower High School graduate who commutes between New York and Akron, plans to share her passion for wellness, quality teas, and bring people together to foster a greater sense of community with the opening of the December Srina Tea House in the Kenmore neighborhood of Akron.
“I’m happy to see the development in Akron, but unless we address health inequalities – people’s inability to access healthy food and health care, especially African Americans, we are not” we are going to be a small town where everyone can move forward, âsaid Porter Young.
The hotel is located at 975 Kenmore Boulevard. Across from the Rialto Theater, the new tea house and cafÃ© will offer organic teas that are hand-picked by Paradise Farm in Sri Lanka. The organic teas are grown without chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, Porter Young said. The tea house and cafÃ© will also offer coffee and healthy food prepared by Akron Chef Glenn Gillespie of Edgar’s Restaurant.
Although the stationary tea house is new, Porter Young founded the Srina brand in 2002 as an online retail and wholesale provider of specialty teas.
She has considered opening a tea house for many years, but now she can make her dream come true thanks in part to the City of Akron’s Rubber City Match program. Srina Tea House and Gypsy Grace & the Vintage Goat were the city’s first award winners from the program. Each received a $ 50,000 grant from the city and a business loan from local credit partners Western Reserve Community Fund and the Economic and Community Development Institute. The Rubber City Match program also helped Porter Young find the right location.
“From day one of the Rubber City Match program, Monaqui Porter Young showed a willingness and eagerness to be involved with Akron,” said Heather Roszczyk, innovation and entrepreneurship advocate for the city’s Integrated Development Office. “She has an infectious enthusiasm that draws you, but she also has the business acumen to make her business a success.”
Although Porter Young was born in East Akron and later moved to West Akron as a teenager, she wasn’t that familiar with Kenmore.
“The first time I went to Kenmore, I knew this was the place because it was revitalizing for me personally and professionally to bring wholeness, health and wellbeing to Akron,” she said.
Porter Young said she and her family were struggling to find healthy foods and drinks in town.
“We don’t have a place to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea either,” she said.
âKenmore is a great opportunity for me to go to one of Akron’s underserved communities and create something that creates an opportunity for health and wellbeing and makes it accessible to the people who live there rather than leaving our own neighborhood. We really spent the last year locally getting to know Kenmore, getting to know Summit Lake, âshe said.
The 1,800 square meter area offers more than just a place to eat and drink.
The Srina Tea House is a retail and wellness spot that offers Srina products and health workshops and special events like tea and meal pairings, health and fitness classes, workshops, and more. Another focus is creating a place where older adults can come together. Porter Young also works with the Summit Lake Nature Center to develop programs and activities such as yoga specifically for older adults.
The tea house and cafÃ© offer space for musical performances and events. The space also has indoor and outdoor seating in front of the tea house and in a tea pavilion behind the building. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important for Porter Young to maximize outdoor seating. The total seating capacity for all indoor and outdoor areas is 58.
âWe were really lucky to have a great team that gives us design with a sense of experience. Our goal is to get customers to learn about tea and health, âsaid Porter Young.
As it nears its December opening date, Porter Young plans to hire 7-9 employees.
âThe Srina Tea House will bring another meeting point to Kenmore Boulevard. It can be a break after school, a place to relax while quickly tuning instruments, or a pick-me-up before a concert at the Rialto. Monaqui has already done a great job reaching out to the community, so I have no doubt that Srina will become a fixture in the neighborhood once the doors open, âsaid Roszczyk.
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