Businesses change but peace still has a place

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The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

The balance of tranquility in downtown Homewood will be maintained, you’ll be relieved to know.

Tranquility got some bad news in mid-August when Terre Robertson announced she is planning to retire and has put Civilitea Gardens up for sale. She expects to close up shop by the end of November. 

The tea shop at the corner of Ridge Road and Martin Avenue has been a downtown haven not only for tea lovers but for those who appreciate a quiet spot to work, talk with friends or just be.
 

  Terre Robertson, right,
  owner of Civilitea Gardens
  tea shop, takes an order from
  one of her regular customers,
  Emabelle McNicholas, 4,
  who doesn’t drink tea but
  has a passion for the shop’s
  brownies.
(Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Robertson opened the shop in August 2014. After many years of commuting to Chicago to work in a law office, she wanted to create a refuge from life’s hustle and bustle for herself and her customers. 

Civilitea Gardens was designed to be a quiet place, light and airy, with high ceilings, big windows and hand built tea-stained tables. Much of the work to renovate the place was done by Robertson, her husband, Rex, and family, friends and contractor Rod Baird.

Robertson may have baffled some potential customers who sometimes found her doors locked during Homewood’s busy festivals, which take place next to the shop on Martin Avenue. She gave up opportunities to sell many gallons of tea. 

She said she did not start the business “to make a killing” but to “make a difference.”

“I succeeded in that,” she said. “I didn’t get rich, but I got rich in friends and experiences. Those are things that at the end of your life you look back on and can be happy about.”

The day after the announcement, two regular customers were in the shop, David Needles and his granddaughter, Emabelle McNicholas. Robertson said both had earned the title of “customer emeritus,” although Needles came often for the tea, and Emabelle was partial to the brownies.

Needles said he and Emabelle refer to Robertson as “the tea lady” and stop by often. 

“It’s a really nice place to come here and sit,” he said.

While she will miss her regular customers, Robertson said she felt it was important to spend more time with her family, especially her elderly mother.

“It’s time to leave a beautiful space for Homewood that somebody else will come in and love,” she said. 

Even before the news that Civilitea would close, a new source of tranquility downtown had opened. 

  Yoga instructor Liz Smith
  leads a session at the
  intersection of Martin Avenue
  and Hickory Road during the
  Homewood Artisan Street Fair
  in June. In early August she
  officially opened her own
  studio in Homewood called
  Serendipity. (
Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)
 

Serendipity is a new yoga studio started by Liz Smith, a former Homewood School District 153 teacher who has been a full-time instructor for the past three years. Although she gave up a profession she loved and a district she appreciated, she hasn’t given up working with young people. She’s known for her work with kids, occasionally holding yoga sessions for children at the Homewood Farmers Market. 

One of her specialties is using yoga to help kids with conditions like attention deficit hyperactive disorder or autism. She has one room in her new studio designed specifically to meet their needs. 

Smith left her teaching career several years ago in spite of the fact that she loved teaching and appreciated District 153. She saw a need that she thought could be addressed through yoga.

“I saw that kids in our community — every community really — carry a lot of anxiety and stress,” she said. 

Serendipity is not just for children, though. Smith and her teachers also lead yoga sessions for adults. During the Homewood Artisan Street Fest in June Smith led several sessions, including one for vendors designed to help them get ready for a long day of showing their wares.

She said one of the biggest challenges of moving from itinerant yoga instructor to studio owner was finding the right place. Like Robertson, who took care to craft a haven at Civilitea, Smith said the environment is key to promoting peace.

“You have to just walk in and know this is a calming and soothing place,” she said. 

She found the right place at 18141 Dixie Highway. The grand opening was Aug. 3, with a ribbon cutting presided over by Violet Quirke, daughter of Jennifer and Nick Quirke. Serendipity joins Reflections Yoga in the Southgate shopping area to give the community great opportunities to achieve serenity and health.

Civilitea is leaving. Serendipity has arrived. The balance is maintained.

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