Women & Business February 2017: Verna Arnold
Arnold is owner of Arnold's Tea.
Verna Arnold dreamed of opening a café with a coffeehouse vibe but a focus on tea. As Arnold’s Tea approaches its third anniversary, it seems she has achieved her goal.
The North Side café is spacious, but warm hardwood floors and a fireplace crackling against a brick wall keep it cozy. Friends catch up at one table, while others sit alone working or reading. New patrons enter and say hello to one another, and few leave without saying goodbye to Verna. Everyone seems to be on a first-name basis with her.
“I have fantastic customers,” she says.
Given her café has become a staple on bustling East Ohio Street’s business district, some might be surprised to learn that Arnold’s background is in education, not business.
But she says her previous roles as a teacher, principal and administrator have proven beneficial to being a business owner.
“Running a school is much like running a business,” says Arnold, who was responsible for Pittsburgh Fort Pitt’s budget, staffing and scheduling.
Still, Arnold was nervous to leave her career of 35 years to start Arnold’s Tea.
“I didn’t think my first day was ever going to come. I’m sure anyone who’s opened a business has had many days that they’ve cried and said ‘When is this going to happen?’”
But Arnold was inspired by a speaker who reminded her to persevere at a conference at Chatham University’s Center for Women Entrpreneurship.
“That ‘Just don’t quit’ stuck in my head,” she says. “As an administrator I always told my students ‘Never give up.’ After telling others that for long enough and then hearing the speaker say it, it finally stuck. I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this.’”
Although it hasn’t been easy, Arnold did just that. Today, she considers Arnold’s Tea one of her greatest accomplishments.
“At 63 to open up a business that’s sustaining itself and brings pleasure to the neighborhood…I think that’s a great accomplishment.”
Arnold hopes to continue this success with a second location in a few years.
“I’ve always liked being a host, making people feel comfortable, making people want to come back. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”