News / Vancouver

High tea shop finds success in changing Kerrisdale neighbourhood

The Secret Garden Tea Company is one small business that has weathered rent hikes and changing neighbourhood demographics

Co-owners Kathy (left) and Erin Wyder are moving the Secret Garden Tea Company to a space twice as big as its current location in August 2016.

Secret Garden Tea Company/Contributed

Co-owners Kathy (left) and Erin Wyder are moving the Secret Garden Tea Company to a space twice as big as its current location in August 2016.

Owners of a longtime small business in Vancouver’s rapidly changing Kerrisdsale neighbourhood say careful planning has ensured its success as they prepare for an expansion.

The Secret Garden Tea Company started offering high tea in 1995 and has weathered rent hikes and changes in neighbourhood demographics so well that it is moving to a space twice as large as its current location later this month. Co-founder and Kerrisdale resident Kathy Wyder said adapting to new realities can be especially difficult for small businesses because profit margins are so tight.

“There’s been a lot of change in Kerrisdale,” she said.

“There’s a lot more challenges and I’m really proud of [co-owner] Erin and myself because we’ve managed to make it through some pretty hard times.”

Wyder and sister in-law Erin Wyder signed a 10-year lease in a new mixed use building on West 40th Avenue. Mid-rise condo buildings with retail space on the ground floor are replacing many of Kerrisdale postwar buildings.

The small businesses in those old buildings are often unintended casualties, said Kerrisdale Business Association Co-ordinator Terri Clark.

“When small businesses are thrown out, they can hardly ever afford a higher rent. That’s part of the problem.”

Hobbs Gift Shop, Boccocino Deli and most recently, The Red Onion, are among the small businesses that have closed in recent years. Some say the changing business landscape in Kerrisdale is due to an influx of Chinese residents.

“It has changed dramatically with an influx of new residents,” said Clark, who has been KBA’s co-ordinator for 17 years.

“It’s the way it is. It’s changed. You can’t stop change.”

But the Secret Garden’s scones, small sandwiches and never-ending selection of different teas have proved popular with a wide variety of customers.

“We have little girls, babies, up to women and men who are in their 90s,” said Wyder.

“We have people from all different cultures and I’m so happy with that.”

Diversity is also important when it comes to maintaining the balance between big box stores and family-owned businesses, she said.

“I think diversity is so important at so many levels but at the business level … if you have all big businesses and no small [ones], it just kills the character.”

Clark is confident the neighbourhood will remain a small business community. New small businesses are replacing the old ones and chain stores don’t necessarily find success in Kerrisdale – she pointed out Pier 1 Imports’ exit from the 41st Ave location that used to house IGA. 

“We don’t control when businesses come or go. Our mandate is to create a good environment and I think we do a pretty good job of that.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story stated Thomas Hobbs Florist had closed but in fact, the Hobbs gift shop closed in 2012 and the flower shop remains open. 

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