Tea is a great conversation starter and there’s a lot to talk about with Barry and Francis Brady.
The Bradys are not a bunch but a couple originally from South Africa who are the newest members of The Public Market in Chemainus family. Appropriately enough, they opened the Taylor & Lancaster loose leaf teas tea company on Canada Day, July 1.
In the month and a half they’ve been in town, they’ve enjoyed being part of the Chemainus business community immensely. They both love to chat with people about the stories within their lives and tell some tales from their own, of which there are many.
“We enjoy people, we enjoy chatting,” said Francis. “We want to go on a journey and bring them with us. It’s not a typical retail space.”
“We wanted to open on Canada Day,” added Barry.
There is a significance to the business name. Taylor is Barry’s grandfather’s last name and Lancaster is Francis’ grandfather’s last name. Once they decided what name should go first, they were literally in business and it’s been going well.
“We’ve actually sold tea pretty much every day and we’ve had our first online orders,” noted Francis.
“We really want to do a lot of supporting local and supporting each other’s businesses. Everything we’re doing is unique to us. You won’t find that in any other stores.”
Barry, 50, and Francis, 54, have done a lot in their lifetime and look forward to much more in the future.
“Travel’s a big part of our lives even before coming to Canada,” Francis said. “We were fortunate to go to some amazing places.”
Places that many people never get a chance to experience, like Mount Kilimanjaro and Antarctica, to name but a couple.
And then there’s the unexpected experiences, like being in Chile during an 8.8 magnitude earthquake.
Barry was born in Durban, South Africa before going to Johannesburg.
“My career and everything centred on Johannesburg until we left to come to Canada,” he pointed out.
Barry’s done it all, mainly in strategy and marketing with general business qualifications, but he also served in the military for a year, worked for tech companies like Microsoft and Samsung and a big internet service company in South Africa before switching gears and getting into photography the last 13 years.
Francis was born in Johannesburg and lived there all her life before coming to Canada with Barry in 2011. But first they had to meet and that was a chance encounter like it is for so many couples.
Francis said she’s gone every conceivable route during her work history, including as a financial manager for an IT company.
They met in 1993 and “it was an interesting meeting,” conceded Barry.
“We met in a flea market,” said Francis. “He was walking past my stand.”
“A friend said she trains at the same gym,” added Barry. “I was doing bodybuilding at the time.”
They realized they were indeed at the same gym, but just had not crossed paths. When they did, it set the relationship in motion.
“I’m nearly finished my workout and we can chat,” Barry recalled saying at the time. “The rest is history.”
It was a whirlwind romance. They met in December of 1993, were engaged by September of 1994 and married in December of 1994, coming up to 28 years ago.
In 2011, they landed in Vancouver, lived in Brentwood Bay on the Island for a while and then went back to Vancouver for 10 years.
During that time, Barry expanded his horizons in photography. “As a photographer, I did a lot of work for hotels,” he said. “Most of the hotels in downtown Vancouver I’ve managed to photograph.”
His grandfather once worked for Kodak so he’s always enjoyed photography and started doing some amazing trips related to the craft. Barry’s done smaller trips to places like Alert Bay and larger excursions to such destinations as the Yukon, with a photography focus, and plans to continue along that path.
Francis added she and Barry also worked for the David Suzuki Foundation while in Vancouver.
“It was really an eye-opener to see the world through an environmental lens,” she said.
In addition, they both worked for Harbour Air in the maintenance division.
“As things came along, we go ‘let’s try there,’” laughed Barry.
“I also thought I would change careers and did a pre-apprenticeship in carpentry,” said Francis. “Unfortunately, my age was a bit against me. It’s very physically demanding.”
The Bradys’ landlady decided she was going to sell her property, prompting the move to the Island as of May 1 this year.
“Francis had always said she wanted to come back to the island,” said Barry.
It was a bit of a scramble, but they managed to find a place to live in Duncan and the business venture presented itself in Chemainus.
“We saw this little booth that was vacant, we had a little chat and before we knew it we had signed the lease,” said Francis.
“We thought this could be interesting,” Barry indicated. “Then we started investigating it. Tea could be an interesting business. Again, it’s a repeat business.”
Francis has been taking a tea sommelier course and now they’re off in another direction, utilizing their other experiences.
“It’s given us a lot more insight into the tea industry and we’re gaining knowledge,” said Francis.
They’re having free mini tea talks and tastings on Saturdays, which is just the beginning.
“We’ve got lots of ideas brewing,” quipped Francis.
Free deliveries in the Cowichan Valley are planned, “which is a nice touch for local people,” added Francis.
And there will always be extra chairs to pull up for a chat with the Bradys and maybe even the warmth from a portable electric fireplace for atmosphere when the seasons change toward chillier days – perfect to enjoy a cup of tea.