Tea, clothing and the arts make for a good business


Art and commerce: it’s not every day they work well together, but an Illustration grad from Sheridan found a way to make it happen.

When Darcy Allan opened her shop Tea With Gladys, some people warned her about the low success rate for small businesses, but hers is running smoothly.


Darcy Allan, 29, a Sheridan grad and small business owner, at her shop Tea With Gladys.

Allan’s father, an accountant, says that her business is among the 10 per cent that survive the first half-year of operation.

“It was actually quite a scary thing, starting a business,” said Allan, 29, who opened her store last February.

She admits it wouldn’t be easy to run the place as a retail business alone – good thing it’s so much more than that.

A combination of Allan’s passions, her small shop on Lakeshore Road in Oakville sports several specialties – with just a quick look around Tea With Gladys, trinkets, clothing, sewing materials and other knickknacks meet the eye.

Most of the small things, including hand-made baby toys and bookmarks, are on consignment from about 20 local artisans, says Allan, and the old-timey clothes that hang from a rack in the centre of the store were either donated to her or found at flea markets (all washed and fixed up before sale).



Trinkets, baubles and knickknacks. ‘Tis the season for Christmas cards, too.

Allan also holds art classes for children five to 12, with lessons including candle-making, silk-screening and sewing.

Birthday tea parties and summer camps are also available, and occasionally feature local artists teaching the kids new forms of art.

“When I was a kid, I had home birthdays. My mom would paint faces and we’d have pizza,” said Allan.

But things have changed and Allan likes to make birthdays at Tea With Gladys extra special.

She prides herself on inspiring kids through many different avenues of art and is happy to see them leave with “something they can wear or use.”

“I don’t do ‘paper plates and glue,’” said Allan. “It’s very personalized and special. A lot of the girls have enjoyed it so much that their friends come back.”


Some of the things in the store are on consignment from other local artists.

Though “it’s really awesome to make your own hours,” between running the store, answering phone calls, booking, cleaning and designing promotional ads, Allan hardly has any time to herself anymore – but she says that’s all part of a successful business.

“I can count on one hand how many days off I had this summer,” said Allan. “I can’t shop like I used to … it’s one of the sacrifices.”

Her work ethic probably came from her grandmother, Gladys, after whom the shop was named.  She died in 2003.

“I feel like I have a little of her in me,” said Allan, who shares many traits with her grandmother, including a fondness for vintage clothing.

Gladys loved tea and would often read tea leaves. Though Allan never had hers read, she shared her first cup of tea with Gladys.

She still remembers the smell: orange pekoe.

When Allan reached Grade 7, she even began wearing her grandmother’s clothes – her love for the “endearing” and “genuine” fashion of an era long gone carried into adulthood.

Now, she makes a living off it.

Tea with Gladys is located at 114 Lakeshore Rd. W., in Oakville.