By Alexandra Wittenberg The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Laureen Grenus said she originally went to business school to learn how to run a boutique, but said an elective nutrition class changed the course of her life. It was there that she was introduced to tea and its healing properties.
The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff
Laureen Grenus doesn't just sell herbal teas and Victorian-inspired fashions at her downtown shop -- she sells a lifestyle.
"All ages love this, its timeless fashion but with just a hint of a simpler time, when women did wear dresses and they were really feminine," Grenus said. "It's a big contrast to leggings and a t-shirt. And then sipping tea, that's a whole different lifestyle... I think we've lost a part of that culture and so I want to help people when they come in here to slow down a little bit."
The Connecticut-born herbal nutritionist, master tea blender, aromatherapist and fashion designer grew up watching her mother sew clothes and her grandmother sell fashion out of her home.
"I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I knew that's what I wanted to do," Grenus said. "I thought it was going to be clothes -- in the first half of my life it wasn't -- and now it is."
Grenus originally went to business school to learn how to run a boutique, but said an elective nutrition class changed the course of her life. It was there that she was introduced to tea and its healing properties. After graduating, Grenus opened a New Age store in Newport, Rhode Island where she sold tea along with herbs, incense and soaps.
"I was a pioneer in the whole herbal tea industry," Grenus said, adding that she has been blending since 1992. "My teas are efficacious, they really work. They taste amazing. Some of them have a natural sweetness without artificial anything."
In 2004, Grenus sold her east coast store and moved to the Phoenix area, where she founded Herbescent Tea and Botanicals and began selling her teas wholesale to different shops and grocery stores. Around 2014, Grenus started coming up to Flagstaff to sell her tea at the farmer's market and art shows.
On her free time, Grenus was "always designing clothes and adding lace and ruffles and lots of unique details like buttons, bulky pockets and patchwork."
A few years ago, Grenus met with a seamstress and received the opportunity to start designing on a larger level. Along with her teas, Grenus started bringing her long flowing skirts, laced tunics and woven belts with her to trunk shows, festivals and markets.
"I've been holding onto [designing] for so long it was just bursting out," Grenus said. "Arizona has really embraced me and it allows me to have a creative outlet where I don't think there's a lot of people doing what I'm doing."
In 2017, Grenus started renting the shopfront of 120 N. San Francisco Street What started out as a seasonal shop focused on her organic teas is now dominated by her fashion line -- Laureen Sky Fashions, which Grenus describes as "Victorian shabby chic and a little boho all mixed in one."
"This is my heart and I say the tea is my soul, so I put the two together," Grenus said.
In order to have two businesses in one (and be able to sleep) Grenus said she focuses on running the shopfront, choosing the supplements for her tea blends and designing the clothes. Tea suppliers help her source herbs and seamstresses assist with fabric sourcing and put the final clothing products together.
Tea N' Lace is open from May to October, and during that span Grenus travels back to Phoenix weekly to pick up supplies, and also attends the Sedona Farmer's Market in Telepaque each Friday. On the way, she stops in the canyon to hunt for wild botanicals to harvest into her teas.
Being so busy, Grenus said she makes sure to practice "staying close to nature, staying true to yourself and having a cup of tea -- slowing down breathing, taking some time each day."
The clothes she designs also reflect a philosophy of taking time to enjoy life.
"Feeling good about yourself -- that's what the clothes are about -- walking around town in a pretty dress, why not?" Grenus said. "Back in the day women would dress up to the nines on Sunday afternoon with their family and go down the street and just appreciate life and appreciate each other and I think there's something with dressing up and feeling good about yourself."
Grenus calls her style "a feminine revival," and said she believes that women have started dressing more masculine over the years in order to compete with men and be respected in the work place.
"Women are really craving this kind of lace and femininity and it's a hint of going back in time, a little nostalgia to a simpler time in this modern, complicated world that we live in right now," Grenus said.
Since the clothes are for women, Grenus fears that men may be too shy to shimmy past the crocheted bralettes, laced socks and sheer slips to the back corner with the vintage armoire that holds the teas.
"Men love the Organic Brain Buzz tea," Grenus said of her best-seller, an herbal tea blended with ginseng, gingko and Brazilian yerba mate designed to enhance mental clarity, energy, and the adrenals.
When asked what her personal favorite is, Grenus mentioned the floral Dream Spirit to help with sleep, Jasmine Pearls green tea throughout the day and the Purify Mind, Body and Spirit with licorice and minty undertones as a detox.
Any of the teas can be turned into iced teas for the summer. Grenus chooses the Peach Crème green tea as a favorite with ice, as well as the Cranberry Hibiscus Fruit tea, which is full of Vitamin C.
"I add a splash of it in sparkling water and it's just really good. It helps you drink more water to hydrate," she said.
On the back of the Herbescent tea cans and pouches, Grenus made sure to include affirmations -- "sing to your hearts delight," "appreciate those who love you, help those who need you."
Whether by relaxing and drinking her teas or feeling beautiful in her clothes, Grenus hopes to help people feel their best. "It's a lifestyle. It's okay to rush -- I have to hustle a lot -- to take time every day to feel beautiful and to feel good and just enjoy whatever your fancy is." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.