Lovey’s serves up authentici-tea

Lace curtains fill the windows. A row of gently-used mismatched seating rests outside of the 1950s diner-style business. Holiday lights glow from within and through the glass doors making it easy to see the many trinkets that line the walls. An eccentric business, Lovey’s Tea Shoppe in Pacifica has been serving customers high tea for the last six years.

Lovey’s Tea Shoppe sits at an intersection of Highway 1 at the Rockaway Beach Plaza, but its unique decor and location make it a coveted destination for locals and out-of-towners. Part of Lovey’s Tea Shoppe’s charm comes from the mismatched tea sets and warm atmosphere of the establishment. Co-owners of Lovey’s Gillian Briley and Muna Nashashibi were intentional in creating a more comfortable ambience for Lovey’s as a way to differentiate it from their first business, Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco, which has a more formal feel.

“I love the fact that everything is mismatched, kind of like going to Grandma’s house for tea,” said Rebecca Creighton, the kitchen manager at Lovey’s.

Catering to a wide demographic, Creighton detailed Lovey’s customers: “kids having tea parties, people celebrating their 90th birthday, men and women, and people from across the country and as well as other countries.” Chantal Jones, a customer of Lovey’s, touted the “lovely, eclectic shop” for its “victorian inspiration, good food and nice tea.”

Briley and Nashashibi are a best-friend-and-business-owner duo. Their friendship started in 1981 when they attended San Diego State University together. They kept in touch after Nashashibi moved to Ireland and started providing tea services out of a bed-and-breakfast.

“She fell in love with the tradition,” Briley said. After returning to the U.S. to care for her father, Nashashibi found herself living in San Francisco, the same city as her college friend Briley. They decided to start a business there called Lovejoy’s Tea Room with the unique selling point of offering a high tea service.

“In the beginning, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Briley said. “We were scared, but we developed communication skills.”

Nashashibi put her marketing skills to use when trying to get Lovejoy’s up and running. As for Briley, before she was a co-owner of Lovejoy’s she was working as a stage manager for theater productions.

“Stage managing helped prepare me,” said Briley about running the business.

Briley and Nashashibi grew their business over the course of about 10 years. They sold Lovejoy’s Tea Room, but it is still running today and is women-owned as Briley proudly noted.

This business venture that was only supposed to last a year, became a passion project for the women when they found they loved it.

Situated in a location that was once thought to be “the death of all businesses” by locals, Lovey’s is not only surviving, but thriving. Briley and Nashashibi helped a former employee open up a Lovejoy’s in Redwood City, and on this particular day, the face of a future Lovejoy’s is in the shop.

Brendon Constans, who was once a regular customer at Lovey’s, is moving to Portland, Ore. and wanted to start a Lovejoy’s Tea Room there.

“We want to help others realize their goal of starting a tea room,” Briley said.

What seems evident from spending any amount of time with them is the amount of support they offer each other and others.

“[Opening a business] takes it to the next level in friendship and now our friendship is stronger,” Briley said. “There’s a level of trust when you start a business with your best friend.”