Forest Park has many businesses that are owned by refugees from the corporate world. One of these is Todd & Holland Tea Merchants. The new owner, Laurie Jackson, left corporate consulting to buy the business from longtime owners, Bill and Janet Todd.  They couldn’t have found a better person to carry on the tradition of selling tea at 7311 Madison St.

Laurie’s background makes her ideally suited for operating a retail business. She was introduced to retail as an intern at Marshall Field’s. Her engaging personality helped her become a top salesperson at Field’s and other department stores. 

The next phase of her “long and winding” career was becoming a consultant to small, struggling businesses. She turned around their fortunes and made regular visits to keep them on track. Next she learned how to operate financial software by working for IBM. Her longest stint, though, was 20 years as a technical trainer at Northwestern Hospital.

Laurie Jackson

Laurie’s dream, though, was to own a business. She comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her father, James Jackson, manufactured laundry detergent for Sears for 13 years. He and Anita have steadfastly supported their daughter along her non-traditional career path. 

On the way, she acquired skills needed to operate a successful business. Laurie is well-versed in retail, finances and consulting. She just needed a business to buy. All the stars aligned, when Todd & Holland became available. Bill and Janet had to abruptly sell the business to travel out-of-state to help a family member. No family members were interested in the tea business, so they felt blessed to find Laurie. 

She took over the shop in July 2023 and, despite a few glitches, is off to an encouraging start. Faithful to the practices that helped Todd & Holland survive the pandemic, when many tea shops closed, she plays classical music to preserve the Zen feeling of the shop and brews tea for customers to sample.

The serene atmosphere is very conducive for selling tea. The shop already had a solid customer base, selling tea online to customers across the nation. Plus, their many long-term local customers love the warm atmosphere of the shop. 

Laurie sells much more than rich flavorful tea. The shop offers tea pots, electric kettles and infusing mugs. It also has a vast selection of colorful tea towels and sells jams, honey and scones to complement the tea. It is one of few shops on Madison that carries greeting cards. 

Still learning about tea, Laurie says it is a never-ending process. So many varieties with so many different benefits. Matcha green tea from Japan supports immunity and helps digestion. Customers can buy a grinder for turning Matcha leaves into powder. Chamomile tea contains lavender and is a sleep aid. Ajir is a strong black tea from Kenya that provides a great source of energy.

Laurie loves her location and is becoming acclimated to Madison Street. She just held her Annual September Sale and is looking forward to Fall Flavor Fest, featuring autumnal flavors like pumpkin, apple spice and maple. She supplies the tea to Kribi Coffee and is looking forward to participating in the Holiday Walk.

She couldn’t run her business, without her right-hand person, Melissa Ortez, who was her colleague at Northwestern. She has nine employees, mostly students, who work there after school and on weekends. They still return after college and love the flexibility of the work schedules.

But most of all she’s looking forward to hosting a much-deserved retirement party for Bill and Janet Todd. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.