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Beloved tea shop rallies community support

Tribute+to+Diana+Connolly+inside+the+tea+shop
Gigi Sedlacek
Tribute to Diana Connolly inside the tea shop

Diana’s Tea Shop & Room, a locally owned business in downtown Papillion, made a public plea on October 28th via Facebook after a decrease in product and people put the shop in danger of closing. Current owners Tim and Angie Hokinson made the post to inform the community of their current struggles. 

 

“The day we made the post, we just looked over our finances and realized that we probably weren’t going to last the rest of the year,” Tim Hokinson said. “Our goal was December, the end of December, but we weren’t sure if we would even make it that long.… It was meant as more of – not to sound doom and gloom but – come say goodbye while we’re still here,” 

 

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The Hokinsons have been very transparent about their current situation, as well as the labor of owning a small business. 

 

“There’s no magic formula, unfortunately,” Tim Hokinson said. “It can be rewarding, and very stressful.” 

 

Angie Hokinson agreed: “It’s a tough job, and a lot of people think that, just because you own a business, you’re rich. A lot of the money goes into the shop, and sometimes it can just sit there for days or months, and you don’t see anything coming back for a while, so it’s definitely tough – but it’s very rewarding.”

 

The community has quickly stepped up to support the small business by attending shop events, sharing the post on social media, making donations, and contacting local news stations to spread the word. The couple bought the shop in 2021 after Teavana, the company they previously worked for, went out of business. The pair had a passion for tea, and gaining ownership of the shop quickly fulfilled them. They had no experience in business ownership, but that didn’t stop them.

 

 “We kinda flew blindly,” Tim Hokinson said. “We didn’t have any experience – we didn’t know what we were doing – we just knew we liked tea.”

Entrance to the Bell Place Shoppes in Downtown Papillion Photo: (Gigi Sedlacek)

Diana Connolly, the shop’s original owner who died of breast cancer in April 2017 and for whom the shop is named, was a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, according to her widowed husband, Desmond Connolly. Their daughter Kat Connolly was a class of 2023 Papio South graduate. 

 

Diana opened the shop in April 2016 under the name Papillion Tea Shop with a passion for tea that she wanted to share with the community. Previously, in 2009, she had opened Morning, Noon and Night, a coffee, tea and wine shop in Shadow Lake Towne Center that has now become Wine Cellar 510, with all of Diana’s original designs still standing. 

 

“She was the person I looked up to for everything,” Kat Connolly said of her mother. 

 

Diana died just 10 days shy of Papillion Tea Shop’s one-year anniversary in 2017. Her friend Julie Ricceri bought the store and renamed it Diana’s Papillion Tea Shop in her honor. It stayed that way until May 2021, when the Hokinsons purchased the store and renamed it Diana’s Tea Shop & Room. 

 

Angie Hokinson’s mom was a shop owner when Angie was a young girl, which eventually fueled her dream of becoming a small business owner herself. 

 

“When I was younger, my mom had a tiny little store where she sold candy and toys, and I just enjoyed helping her with it,” Angie Hokinson said. “I never realized until I grew up that I really just wanted to own my own business.” 

 

Diana Connolly had initially sold her first store,  Morning, Noon, Night, because she felt she was missing many of her kids’ activities and extracurriculars. 

 

“Opening [Papillion Tea Shop] allowed her to be a successful businesswoman and a 10-out-of-10 mom,” Kat said. 

 

Not only was Diana feeling disconnected from her children’s lives, but she also was undergoing cancer treatments. She spent her last year of life with family, which according to Kat was always her first priority, and starting the tea shop. 

 

The Hokinsons had no prior connection to the Connolly family. 

 

“We found the shop in 2017, just shortly after Diana passed away, and at the time someone who had been volunteering for her was running the shop,” Angie Hokinson said. “Teavana was shutting down, and we just wanted a new tea place. That’s how eventually we ended up owning this place.”

 

Kat and Des Connolly both recalled their first memories of the shop being Kat at her mother’s side. 

 

“My first memory of the shop is probably before it started,” Kat said. “I would always go with her to help build shelves, drawers, and all the furniture that would be inside of it. My first real memory of the shop has to be just sitting behind the big Japanese shelf doing my homework or just sitting and talking to her while she worked.” 

 

Des recalled  “Kathleen as an 11-year-old helping her mom in the shop after school.”

 

The Connollys are thankful for the Hokinsons keeping Diana’s shop and memory alive. 

 

“[The shop] shows how determined she was to … be her own business lady,” Kat Connolly said of her mother. “It just makes me so proud of her, and proud to be her daughter.” 

 

“It’s a testament to how Diana related to people that Tim and Angie, and Julie before them, have kept her a part of the shop,” Des Connolly said. “Popping into the shop today and seeing her portrait on the wall gives me such a source of pride to what she’s accomplished.” 

 

The store currently consists of three rooms dedicated to creating a comfortable and enjoyable atmosphere for customers. There is a small wall of loose-leaf teas ready for purchase, as well as other merchandise related to tea. The rest of the space is filled with couches, chairs, stools and a welcoming window seat. 

Loose leaf teas that are available for purchase at the shop Photo: (Gigi Sedlacek)

“Over time [we are] making it as warm and welcoming as possible, between the visual aesthetics and the music and just interactions, period,” Tim Hokinson said. 

 

“I loved that tea shop so much,” Kat Connolly said. “I think that if I ever walked in downtown Papillion and I didn’t see Diana’s Papillion Tea Shop, it would hurt so much. The fact that they pour everything into that tea shop just shows what kind of impact my mom has made on people, and how she can spread her love for something to others. Tim and Angie, thank you both so much.”

The Hokinsons love the shop just as much as the Connollys and hope to keep their doors open as long as possible. 

 

“We’re still trying to stay hopefully optimistic,” Tim Hokinson said, “but we’re also trying to stay as realistic as possible, because part of us is like: Yes, we can do this now; but also, just because it’s good for now doesn’t mean it’s going to keep being this way all the time.” 

Graphic: (Gigi Sedlacek)

 

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About the Contributor
Gigi Sedlacek, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Hi! I’m Gigi Sedlacek and this will be my second year on Legacy staff. Outside of the journalism room, I enjoy drinking coffee, listening to music, and being outdoors. Alongside the magazine I participate in student council, show choir, athletic training academy and hope squad. If you have any questions, comments, or story ideas please feel free to contact me :)
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