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High-end tea, local nibbles coming to vintage Slavic Village building

Ryan Florio with his parents in front of Inca Tea shop at the airport

Inca Tea - Slavic Village

There’s something about that purple corn that Ryan Florio uses in his Inca Tea blends. After being inspired by a tea brewed by his Sherpa while hiking in Peru with college buddies, he started the company out of his parents’ North Royalton home in February 2014.
 
Today, Inca Tea can be found on store shelves in Cleveland and across the country, and in a small café at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. He announced his latest expansions last month: a second café in the airport and his first free-standing site at 6513 Union Ave. in Slavic Village, which will house a cafe, production facility and warehouse.
 
When Florio launched Inca Tea, it was an immediate success. Within 10 months he had opened a small, 60-square-foot café in Hopkins Airport B concourse and his teas were available in more than 200 grocery stores and Bed Bath and Beyond stores nationwide.
 
Today, Inca Tea is available in nearly 500 stores nationwide, including 70 Bed Bath and Beyond stores, all 39 Earth Fare stores and The Andersons. Locally, Inca Tea is stocked in Heinen’s, Whole Foods, Mustard Seed and Giant Eagle Market District stores.
 
Inca Tea has made the Cleveland Hot List for the past two consecutive years as the area's favorite tea house.
 
Florio hopes to maintain that status as he expands, particularly at the more elaborate Slavic Village location.
 
“Now I have a true home base where I can do it all in one facility,” he says of the Union Avenue site. “Once I walked in, I knew it was the place.”
 
The “place” is a 1930s two-story red brick 15,000-square-foot building with 20-foot-high ceilings that originally served as an electric company substation and later a warehouse. Florio is converting the space to include a 400-square-foot café that will seat more 30.
 
Florio's customers will enter the cafe through a solid oak, 14.foot-high, three-inch-thick front door. The café will be furnished with high top tables and couches among exposed brick walls and the Inca Tea logo painted on a wood wall.
 
The entire café is furnished using recycled materials Florio found inside the building.
 
“We have benches made out of cast iron floor grates, we have the bar, which is made from the recycled corrugated metal that was on the back of the building,” Florio notes. “The main wall is made from the wood that was inside the back wall and the coffee tables are made from cast iron grates and iron piping.”
 
Customers in the cafe can watch the creation of more than a million tea bags a year through a window into the 4,500-square-foot production center. The second floor will have a conference room with a view of the first-floor café.
 
“It’s a unique and interesting building,” Florio says of the space, adding that Slavic Village officials were eager to bring Inca Tea to the neighborhood. “It has amazing curb appeal and is the epitome of what I was looking for to grow the business.”
 
In addition to Inca Tea’s four blends, Florio plans to serve plenty of goodies made by local vendors, including Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Cleveland Bagel Company, Anna in the Raw, Breadsmith, Garden of Flavor, Randy's Pickles, Pope’s Hot Sauces, Nooma, Good Greens and Sweet Designs Chocolatier.
 
“Our main objective for this café is to have a minimum of 90 percent local,” says Florio. “It’s always been my mission to focus on Cleveland-based products.”
 
While Florio prepares to open his Slavic Village café, he is simultaneously planning a second, 310-square-foot café on Hopkins C concourse. He signed the letter of intent to move into the new space last month.
 
“It’s five times the size,” Florio says as he compares the new location to his original location. “It’s more of a full-size café.”
 
Florio adds that the mission to stay local in the products he sells is especially important in his airport cafes. “Customers can come in and take home a little of what Cleveland has to offer,” he says. In addition to his regular vendors, Florio also plans to carry food from Aladdin’s.
 
A late March opening is planned for the Slavic Village Inca Tea, while the timeline for the  airport café has not been finalized.
 
Florio plans to hire five to seven employees at the Slavic Village Inca Tea Café, which will be open during the week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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