Although Abbey Hairston was born and reared in Chicago, each summer of her childhood was spent in Stokes County, NC, where her paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins resided.
She recalls that those summers were some of the happiest times of her life.
“Between the home cooking with vegetables and fruit from the gardens, the unending supply of iced tea, the smoked pork and the picnics in the mountains, I always went back to Chicago after Labor Day, anxious for the next summer vacation, and I promised myself that one day I would come to North Carolina and stay permanently,” says Hairston.
After her father returned to his home state and her mother passed away, her promise to herself became destiny. Hairston walked away from a successful law practice in Washington, DC in 2015 and set up her home in the Asheville area. Not quite ready to stop working altogether, she thought that she would practice law part-time in Asheville. However, on a trip to Wilmington, while walking through the downtown area, she was lured by spicy aromas at a spice and tea store.
After talking to the owners of the store and finding out that the store was part of a franchise company, owned and operated by a woman in Michigan, Hairston decided to explore having her own spice and tea shop. She was particularly excited about working with a woman-owned business and helping customers enhance and improve their lives with flavorful meals and healthy blends of teas.
When Hairston went looking for a location in early 2016, she went to Biltmore Park Town Square and, as Providence provides, she came upon an empty space next to the Oil & Vinegar store.
“I saw this as the hand of God pushing me to take a leap and have faith that this was the place I needed to be,” she says. Her faith was not misplaced, and Spice & Tea Merchants of Asheville had a soft opening on December 1, 2016. Hairston says that the local community has been very supportive and she already has a considerable number of repeat customers.
This is not your standard spice or tea shop. When you walk in you immediately get taken in by the delicious aromas of spices. There are hundreds of products including single and blended spices and over 140 loose-leaf teas.
The store also carries gorgeous and colorful tea wares (teapots, mugs, and cups), infusers, spice storage hardware, aprons, and tea cozies. Local raw honey, chocolates, jams, hashes, soups, and grains that are gluten- and salt-free, Himalayan salt slabs for cooking and serving, and Himalayan salt lamps and candle holders are also sold.
Hairston is excited about her Grand Opening, June 7-10, 2017. She will serve sample teas and hors d’oeuvres made with spices sold in her store, and many items will be on sale.
Spice & Tea Merchants of Asheville is located in Biltmore Park Town Square, 8 Town Square Blvd., Suite 140; hours are 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information and for tips about teas, recipes, visit the shop’s Facebook page, “Spice Merchants of Asheville,” or call (828) 552-8310.