By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The Tea Shop, an iconic gem of the community, will soon close its doors for good.
Announced by owners Richard and Debbie Ulman, they decided to close up shop and retire following the March 17 announcement of JC Penney’s closing. The Tea Shop has been in business since their humble origins in Marshfield in the 1970s. The couple expanded their novelty gift shop to Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, and Wausau, with the Rapids the sole remaining location.
“He’s at the age where he wants to retire, especially with Penneys gone,” said longtime employee Gloria Schoenknecht. “It’s time for them.”
The popular gift shop’s last days isn’t expected until mid-summer, as they try to closeout as much stock as possible. While The Tea Shop’s curtain call is fast approaching, the memories will always last.
“I remember the very first Christmas that I worked here and I was pulling chimes off the ceiling — the paper took my picture and I made the front page, but I was actually over the top of Brett Favre in the paper, who was underneath me,” laughed Schoenknecht. “So I had higher billing than Brett Favre had.”
However, much like any small business that has lasted over the decades in this community, it all comes back to the people.
“It’s the customers — the customers are just great,” said Schoenknecht. “It’s going to be hard; almost 14 years. It’s my home away from home.”
The Tea Shop is located at 555 W. Grand Ave. inside the Rapids Mall.