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'Customers that make the business': Sidney tea shop a downtown oasis

Janet's Special Teas is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary
Janet Thompson (left), owner of Janet's Special Teas in Sidney with customer Robert Martindale.

Customers these days always seem to find something to complain about and coaxing a five-star review from clients can be like squeezing water from a stone.

Given that fundamental truth, one might be surprised to learn that one shop in Sidney has accomplished just that, earning a 4.9-star rating on Yelp. (Okay, it’s not a 5-star, but we won’t quibble over the .1 shortfall.)

The store is Janet’s Special Teas and they’re celebrating their 20th year in business, having become an integral part of Sidney’s downtown shopping district.

Located in the heart of Sidney at 2451 Beacon Ave. the shop is a charming little oasis for tea lovers, boasting 175 varieties of tea with names like Bohemian Raspberry, Lovers Leap, North Pole Mint, and Pomegranate white.

But it’s not just the astounding variety of tea blends that make Janet’s Special Teas an amazing treasure trove of this favourite beverage. Perhaps the greatest treasure in the shop is Janet herself.

Seated behind her counter, Janet Thompson is everything one could ask for in a shop owner. Looking as though she might have fallen from a charm bracelet, she has a ready smile, sparkling eyes and a look that tells you that she is genuinely happy to have you in the store.

“Back in 2005, I arrived in Sidney I got a part time job here and in six months I went from part-time work to full time to owner. I fell in love with the business but really it was the customers. It’s the customers that make the business,” Thompson said.

“Customers come in and I chat with them, and they leave laughing. I have all age groups come in – older and new generations and everything in between.”

In fact, Thompson’s easy-going approach has at times made her shop an unlikely gathering place for the town’s children.

“I’ve always had kids come in and I’ve watched them grow up from elementary school to middle school and on to high school and graduation. There have been times when I’ve had 20 kids in here and had backpacks all over the floor,” said Thompson. “My only rule was that they had to keep it quiet when customers came in.”

Thompson has a few other rules for her shop that serve to endear her to customers.

“We’re very pet friendly but my only rule is that dogs are welcome so long as they’re cute. Of course, there’s no such thing as an ugly dog,” she said. “The same rule applies to the men who are sometimes a bit hesitant about coming into the store. They are welcome in, but they have to be cute.”

But at the core of Thompson’s success is her approach to customer service. Recently, for example, a customer was upset because she’d managed to break a special tea mug that she’d been given by a friend.

“I searched around and found an identical mug in PEI and had it shipped here. I called her yesterday and told her and she just screamed, she was so happy,” Thompson said.

The shop offers teas sourced from around the world as well as tea pots, mugs, and artisan crafts and, if you’re just starting your journey of tea discovery, Thompson offers sample packs to help you explore some new flavours.

Asked for her thoughts on why her shop has been successful Thompson just shrugs.

“I don’t know. I like my customers and they’re my friends. I care about them and want them to be happy. I also know about them, including all their pets’ names. They’re like family and I want people to be happy,” Thompson said.

And that, perhaps, is how one earns a five-star rating.