Two Rochester businesses have come together to support one another during the difficult time COVID-19 has created.
What first started as an experiment in health at home turned into a cozy kombucha business on Park Avenue.
“After a while, you’re sharing with all your friends and family, and they’re wowed by it. And at some point, we’re just like, ‘what if we gave a business a try?’ ” Happy Gut Sanctuary co-owner Catt Hsu said.
Hsu and Rob Heffner launched Happy Gut Sanctuary three years ago, and have enjoyed serving the Rochester community.
“Our customers are our main focus, making sure they get what they want, but we’re keeping everybody safe,” Hsu said.
Kombucha is fermented tea. And the main ingredient of Happy Gut Sanctuary is Happy Earth Tea, which operates a tea bar in the South Wedge.
“Tea is, as we say, both good for the body and the mind,” Happy Earth Tea owner Niraj Lama said.
Happy Earth Tea sells high-quality teas that come from all over the world, as well as local products like vegan cookies from the Red Fern.
“I think it only makes sense that we strengthen our ties with not just our customers, but other local businesses who are our customers in a way, and we’re our customers too,” Lama said.
Both businesses have had to get creative during COVID-19, mainly turning to online business. Happy Earth Tea does to-go orders, while Happy Gut Sanctuary delivers.
“We’ve seen people who are worse off, we’ve seen people that are better off," Hsu said. "And I think we’re just grateful that we’re still here and the business is self-sustaining.”
But their relationship has evolved even further during this difficult time. With no one allowed to sit at his bar right now, Niraj has also begun selling the kombucha in his store.
“That gives us a little more space, so we’ve used that to bring in their product and sell it, and the idea is that we support each other in these times full of challenges for small businesses like us,” Lama said.
The collaboration is a big compliment to Hsu and Heffner, who aren’t able to welcome anyone in their store right now.
“It means a lot that the person we’re sourcing the tea from loves our stuff so much he’s also carrying it,” Hsu said.
In this difficult time, both businesses say it’s important to support one another.
“A sense of community is really important, it really is," Heffner said. "If we are all in a rat race thinking about individuals, you’re more than willing to hurt yourself for a short gain. But as a community, you build something that’s long term.”