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Glory-Anne Jones, center, cuts the ribbon to open her Tea and Boba Lounge at 76 Spring St. in Williamstown on Friday afternoon.

Williamstown Boba Purveyor: 'It's Where Joy is Born'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Glory-Anne Jones jokes with the first customers at her Tea and Boba Lounge on Friday afternoon.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The owner of Spring Street's newest business knows the power of tea.
 
On Friday afternoon, Glory-Anne Jones cut the ribbon and welcomed the public to the Tea and Boba Lounge at 76 Spring St., a sister store to Chocolate Is Self-Care, a manufacturer and tea studio that she operates in Cohoes, N.Y.
 
While the New York business has chocolate in its name, don't think candy bars. Think "Chocolate Raspberry Spice Tea," "Chocolate Chai Ginger Tea," or any of the dozen exclusive tea blends that Jones helped create.
 
All those products are rooted in what Jones learned about tea while working as a life coach.
 
"I would work mostly with women, and they were all looking to make a change in their life because there's no time for themselves, and they felt a little lost," Jones said this week during a break from last-minute preparations at the shop. "So what I would do is give them homework, and the homework was whatever they had agreed to do. But they would come back two weeks later and say, 'Oh, I couldn't do this because Susie needed me to do this, and Johnny needed me to do that.' Which was exactly what we were working on.
 
"So I would tell them to make themselves a cup of tea because tea takes time. As your water is boiling, clear the table. As your tea is steeping, go over the things you wrote that you were going to work on so you could get to where you want to be. And as you're sipping your tea, write down: what are the actions you're going to take this week. So it's a multifaceted way of bringing that decision to change into your life. You're drinking it, so you're physically taking it in. You're smelling it, so the aroma creates a scent memory. All that good stuff."
 
Jones wants to bring all that good stuff to the Tea and Boba Lounge, where she will offer for sale the loose-leaf tea blends that she continues to produce in Cohoes, fresh baked pastries and boba, a tea-based beverage with tapioca balls that has been around in the U.S. for a couple of decades, mostly on the West Coast, but which has exploded in popularity the last few years.
 
A self-described "serial entrepreneur," Jones was inspired to sell boba tea after meeting Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, founders of the successful "Boba Guys" chain in San Francisco in 2021.
 
"They have really good practices," Jones said. "They said they started with a 10-by-10 tent at farmers markets with a rice cooker. And I was like, 'I've got the tent. I've got the farmer's market. Let me go get myself a rice cooker.' And the rest is history."
 
Jones said she could have gone the franchise route and developed a retail location with one of the national chains looking to ride the wave of boba popularity, but she prefers to be her own boss and create her own flavors.
 
In the boba realm, those flavors include varieties like Strawberry Popping Fizz, Island Matcha Dream and Mango Penny.
 
On Friday, from 2 to 3 p.m., she was offering free servings of her signature Chocolate Chai Boba Tea.
 
All those boba tea varieties along with hot tea and loose leaf tea blends to bring home will be available at the Tea and Boba Lounge Wednesday through Sunday.
 
The store will open at 10 a.m. each day except Sunday, when it will open at 11, but boba service will start at 11 each day because of the time it takes to produce the beverage.
 
For now, the store will close at 5 p.m. each day except Sunday, when it will close at 3, but Jones said this week that she plans to expand the hours into the evening when she and her husband complete their move from New York to the Berkshires.
 
"Actually, my husband works in Pittsfield, so we knew we were going to be moving here," she explained. "I wanted to find a [retail space] here and started looking at the top of the Berkshires with plans to work my way down. I obviously did not get any further than Williamstown."
 
While she plans to keep operating Chocolate Is Self-Care, which will be a supplier for the Tea and Boba Lounge, Jones wants to put down some roots in Berkshire County.
 
"My husband has done the drive for two years," she said, referring to the commute from the Albany area to the Berkshires. "I did it for one month [while setting up the store], and I'm like, 'OK, we're moving.' "
 
Jones said that although boba tea may be a natural fit for a college town like Williamstown, the product has a broad appeal.
 
"At the Saratoga Farmers Market, I get asked all the time, 'What is boba? What does it taste like?' " she said. I would say with my first-timers, 98 percent had never had boba before. So one day, a woman asked me that, and another woman answered her first and said, 'It's where joy is born.' So that's what I started telling people. It's where joy is born. I truly feel that way.
 
"I thought my demographic would be high school and college, but really it depends on where I pop up. A lot of my returning customers at the farmers markets are older people. They love it. So between the boba and the hot tea … and I will have one coffee. We're going to do a Vietnamese pour over."
 
And, like everything else at the Tea and Boba Lounge, that beverage will be ethically sourced. Jones places a strong emphasis on finding suppliers who create safe working conditions and offer fair wages and education for their workers.
 
"I just finished a bean to bar chocolate making class, and one of the things that was really driven home is: where that source is and how it's being grown and picked and how those people who are doing that work are being treated," she said. "That's what I also look at when sourcing tea, because it's very similar, a very similar type of harvesting.
 
"That's important to me."

Tags: new business,   ribbon cutting,   

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Williamstown Fin Comm Begins Review of FY25 Spending Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town is looking at a 2.8 percent increase in its property tax levy for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, and members of the Finance Committee last week talked about finding a way to whittle that number down.
 
Town Manager Robert Menicocci presented the Fin Comm with a preliminary budget of $24.8 million for FY25, up 4 percent from the $23.9 million spending plan for the current fiscal year.
 
Factoring out other sources of income for the town, that leaves a local property tax burden of $20.9 million, up from $20.3 million in the current fiscal year, a rise of about $600,000 or 2.8 percent.
 
"I'd like to throw down a goal here that when I go through the arithmetic, I'd like to see us try to cut about $200,000 out of the budget," Fin Comm Chair Melissa Cragg said at the panel's first working session of the FY25 budget season. "That can come from any number of places. … I think we can deliver this without touching services."
 
There are still a couple of unknowns embedded in the budget that Menicocci presented to the Finance Committee at its Feb. 21 meeting. The largest is the assessment from the Mount Greylock Regional School District.
 
The PreK-12 school district budget represents, by far, the largest single line item in the town budget: $13.3 million, or 56 percent of the current year's $23.9 million budget, for example. Menicocci's draft spending plan includes, as a placeholder, a 4 percent increase in the Mount Greylock assessment, up to $13.8 million for FY25.
 
The district administration earlier in the month told the Mount Greylock School Committee that as of Feb. 8, the projected assessment would be up by about 4 percent for Williamstown (and 5 percent for Lanesborough, the other member town in the district) but that officials hoped to bring the assessments down as the budget is fine-tuned.
 
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