The making of Camellia Rd Tea Bar has been a long journey of small changes and improvements. In our first few months, we had an open space with plain white walls and mismatched tables, a space that was almost uncomfortably plain and relatively awkward. Thankfully our drinks were good enough to make a little buzz and begin growing our customer base. Over the next few years we would make many additions and reductions to the space, with the goal of making it a comfortable space to be in.
It’s hard to understate how important a DIY spirit has been in my journey. Darwin and I share a love for the DIY spirit of doing things, spanning back a decade to when we were teenagers competing in our school’s Science Olympiad team. Back then, I was building miniature wooden bridges and learning about experimental design. Now, I’ve been trying to design and build a better boba shop for San Diego.
Camellia closed for a handful of days back in December through January. We often close for major holidays, to take a break and have an opportunity to spend time filling other aspects of our lives. But because I don’t really care for the New Year’s holiday, I took it as an opportunity to upgrade an under-utilized section of the space into a “Camellia Community Corner”.
January 2020 feels like it was years ago, not months ago. COVID-19 has brought a difficult season upon all small businesses trying to adapt to the changes in society. Restaurants in particular have undergone multiple additions and revisions to their processes. There has been widespread adoption of to-go focused menus and expanded take-home kits. When indoor dining became available, DIY partitions went up and designs and tips for them were circulated. And recently, restaurants have taken to outdoor dining with tents and canopies being set-up in parking lots.
The public health crisis we’re facing is serious. It has had a direct and obvious impact on human life. And maddeningly, we’re just in the beginning stages as the secondary effects of COVID-19 will cascade onto other aspects of life and society. It’s tough looking at this unused Community Corner, but it’s also been an important reminder of those first days of Camellia Rd opening. We were resourceful, we were scrappy, and we paid attention to the needs of those who walked in our doors. It feels like these are the times when the spirit of DIY will be needed the most; it’ll be needed to repair things, to revise things, and most importantly, to build new things.