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It's a sad day for Sacramento tea lovers. Hina's Tea is closing shop, losing its employees, online retail store and loyal fan base.
The store received a minute order from the Sacramento Superior Court March 25, saying they were no longer legal tenants of the property and that they should return possession to the owner.
"Defendant (Gary Orr) is entitled to possession of the premises while the parties litigate the issue of damages," said the document. "Orr is entitled to the right to possession of the premises as (the tenants) have failed to pay rent or quit in response to a valid three-day notice to pay or quit."
Hina's Tea informed their customers of store's closure through its website and email.
"After successfully fighting our landlord Gary Orr's effort to evict us for over eight months, we are being ordered out of the premises while our ongoing lawsuit continues," according to a written statement posted Monday to Hina's website. "In light of this news, we believe we have a limited amount of time to sell off all inventory before we are forced out of business."
Though the exact closing date is unknown, it could be as early as two weeks, according to the statement.
Owner Hina Soni, who opened the store five years ago in Folsom, declined to comment on the dispute based on her lawyer's advice. Orr did not respond to a phone call or e-mail by the time of publication.
The store, which was Soni's first venture into tea (she was previously in the computer business), moved to Sacramento three years ago. Soni, who moved to Sacramento in 1989, grew up drinking tea in London, but her travels to Europe and Asia inspired her to open a business with a larger variety of teas.
A few years ago, Soni decided to open up an online retail store to complement the business, because after visiting the shop, people from around the country would want to have tea shipped to them. She said she didn't want to continue online retail because it's not marketable without a physical place to "see, touch, smell and taste the tea."
Soni's store was full Tuesday afternoon, emotions running high, dozens of patrons hugging, drinking and stocking up on tea, which is marked down by 30 percent as the store prepares to close. A group of more than 15 college-age students, which has spent every other afternoon in the tea shop for nearly two years, seemed to be the most disappointed about the news.
"When we discovered tea, we started coming here on a regular basis," said Adam Beckner, a 21-year-old Elk Grove resident. "Getting educated about tea opened a new world for us. We sit in here for hours and talk about different types of tea."
He said his group of friends is composed mostly of people from the South Sacramento and Elk Grove areas, and they have known each other since they were in high school. Several of the group members said they come an estimated three times a week, and have been in the store hundreds of times.
"Customers became our friends," said Soni. "We're like a huge extended family."
Chris Eshenaur, 23, a Natomas resident and Sacramento City College student, is another a loyal customer who said he came to the shop more than three times per week for the last three years. He befriended Beckner's group of friends at the tea shop and was one of several people who cried Tuesday morning after hearing of the impending closure.
"I ended up crying in (Soni's) arms," he said. "She's like a mother to me. She's concerned about my essays and what I do. She's very motherly to me and other people."
Eshenaur, who has helped Soni run several tea classes, said he would study at the shop or go there when stressed out. He called the environment "peaceful" and "zen-like."
"These are the most consistent group of customers," said Stephen Freeman, who has worked at the shop for three years, almost as long as it has been open. "A lot of people are upset about us having to leave."
So upset, in fact, that as a tribute to Hina's, the young group of friends wants to open a new tea shop.
"We are going to open a tea shop by the end of the year," Beckner said. Freeman noted that the students already know how to brew the teas themselves.
"It's the ultimate compliment (and) I have no problem helping them whatsoever," said Soni.
Nevertheless, Soni still feels like she's losing a family, not to mention one of the two tea shops in the grid she knows of (Tea Cozy is the other).
"It's like a loss, a bereavement, and there's going to be a long period of mourning, but I still have a glimmer of hope that someone will swoop down and save us."
Those who want to stock up on bulk orders of tea should do so by Tuesday because Soni is placing the last order to suppliers, according to the Hina's website. Hina's is located at 2319 K St.
Editor's Note: The Sacramento Press editorial department added the second and third paragraphs to this story post-publication in order to clarify the legal status of Hina's Tea, as recorded in court documents.