Entrepreneur who led USO tours in Europe brings international flavors to Cabot tea shop

Flavors from abroad draw customers down memory lane

Amy Thomson opened Sage Tea & Treats at 1102 S. Pine St. in Cabot to sell some of the imported teas and confections she enjoyed while living in Germany.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Aaron Gettinger)
Amy Thomson opened Sage Tea & Treats at 1102 S. Pine St. in Cabot to sell some of the imported teas and confections she enjoyed while living in Germany. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Aaron Gettinger)

CABOT -- Amy Thomson's Sage Tea & Treats in Cabot stocks a variety of local and international items she enjoyed while living outside a U.S. Air Force base in Germany.

Thomson, a first-time entrepreneur, has gone all-in on the concept. She said Cabot, where she chose to move to raise her children after the service-related death of her husband, is a prime location for the store, given its proximity to the Little Rock Air Force Base. Customers, Thompson hopes, will come from the population of military personnel and families who miss the products they enjoyed while living overseas.

"I just want to spread joy and show people other things, the other way to think of things," Thomson said. "There's some people who've never had opportunities to try things from other countries. And here, we have treats and things for people who have either lived overseas or traveled overseas, and the joy and excitement in their faces and voices when they see things -- it's just wonderful."

As a United Service Organization tour guide, Thomson had to go to each destination twice before she could take tourists there. Living near Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, she had neighbors from Ukraine, Turkey and Poland.

"The most amazing thing for me, being a country bumpkin from Tennessee, was seeing so much of what I had seen on TV," the Nashville native said. "There's so much more outside of where you grow up if you're in a sheltered area, where I kind of was."

Thomson's husband was in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years, five years of which he spent with his family at the Little Rock Air Force Base before being stationed in Germany. He died in 2016 at the age of 42, five years after he retired, from war zone exposure to depleted uranium, which the military had used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Thomsons' dream had been to do something stateside to share their European experiences with others.

Their adopted son had family in central Arkansas and moved back to the area as an adult, and Thomson decided she wanted to raise her daughters in the South, valuing Cabot as a smaller community with quality public schools. Years later, one of her daughters asked for melt-in-your-mouth Goufrais chocolate truffles for her birthday. The problem was that the German imports are only available by the case, but Thomson's friend Andrea Wilson, who owns Cabot's Pea Farm Bistro, agreed to sell the leftovers.

"Anyone who's been at Ramstein recognizes that blue bow" on the Goufrais boxes, Thomson said. They sold fast at Pea Farm, and Wilson encouraged her to sell them on base. She did, and they were a hit. Thompson began selling Lovaré tea bags, a Ukrainian brand her neighbors in Germany had shared with her. Customers told her how much they missed other European chocolate brands like Ritter Sport, Kinder and Milka.

The storefront next to Pea Farm opened up when Fired Up pottery store owner Amber Breedlove moved to a larger location. She and Wilson both suggested Thomson take a look at the space at 1102 S. Pine St. The strip mall's management agreed she would be a good commercial fit.

Thomson had long ago worked in retail, and organizing and leading dozens of USO tourists in a foreign country gave her managerial experience. It has taken $80,000 in credit card debt to lease and remodel the store and assemble inventory. Having taken advantage of the City of Cabot's business boot camp for first-time entrepreneurs and Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center programming, Thomson plans to consolidate her debt with a small business loan.

"I did it knowing with this gut feeling that this was what I needed to be doing at this time in my life," she said. "I would not have done it if I had any doubt."

Thomson named her store out of her love for antioxidant-rich sage tea, and the herb's shade of green is her favorite color. Sage sells some merchandise online, but Thomson is concentrating on her sales floor.

"Matching colors and organizing things, this is exactly the way I had it pictured in my mind," she said. "I wanted it to be boutique-style but comfortable for anyone to walk into. I wanted there to be different shelvings for different sections ... because I don't want people to be overwhelmed. I just want people to be able to walk in, have that flow through the store, and look and see, because a lot of times you don't know what you need until you know it's available."

Thomson is trying to stock products from anywhere military personnel and families may have been stationed outside the United States, though there are some domestic brands like BWG Herbal Tea, which blends in herbs grown in Stuttgart. One of the BWG varieties has strawberries from Holland Bottom Farm in Cabot; another made especially for Sage, "Encourage-Mint," has three herbs -- sage, peppermint and spearmint -- with chocolate chips that melt into the brew.

Merchandise is split evenly between tea and treats. "The idea is to have consumable gifts for people, because we all have enough stuff," Thomson said, though there is a small array of accessories like pots, spoons, cups, saucers and sets for children's tea parties. There is no sit-down tea service, but there is hot water and to-go cups should customers want to self-brew with a $1 teabag.

At home, Thomson brews Lovaré's "Royal Dessert" hibiscus flower tea with dried fruits, petals and spices into Southern-style sweet tea. Beyond the U.S. and Ukraine, Sage sells tea and infusions from Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Canada, Turkey, China, India and the Bahamas in bags, loose leaves and boxed assortments, including a bag-a-day tea Advent calendar. She carries East Asian boba pearls for bubble tea.

In addition to a large array of European and domestic chocolates, she has Dutch stroopwafels, British digestive biscuits, German Christstollen holiday fruitcakes and marzipan potatoes, Caribbean rum cakes, baklava and locally made macarons.

"We just opened July 1, and people still don't know that we're here," Thomson said. "For my business to be successful, I just need more people to give us a chance. ... I'm here to introduce things to people, and hopefully they'll find something that they'll want that will enrich their lives."

Upcoming Events