On a recent weekday afternoon at 140 Gazebo Place in downtown Johnstown, Meredith Redd spooned black tea leaves into a tea infuser and set a timer for two minutes.
While the leaves steeped, Redd’s customer didn’t wait at a counter; rather, she viewed artwork displayed on the walls.
Welcome to both Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea, the newest addition to Johnstown’s Central Park area.
Art of Tea labels itself as “downtown Johnstown’s finest tea shop.” Indeed, this is a venue where tea lovers can find a wide selection of loose-leaf teas, including jasmine pearls, milk oolong and lapsang souchong.
Gallery on Gazebo, meanwhile, operates as a non-profit art gallery that hosts year-round art exhibits and arts-related programming.
You could say Art of Tea brings all-things-tea to the table, and Gallery on Gazebo brings all-things-art to the walls.
The idea behind this space, explains Rosemary Pawlowski — who worked with representatives from both Vision 2025 and Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to bring Gallery on Gazebo to fruition — is to give patrons the best of both worlds: come for the tea and stay for the art.
Pawlowski says Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea have filled a void in Central Park, which has become home to many new businesses and restaurants over the past few years.
Sharyn Spinelli, who describes herself as a “downtown Johnstown person,” says she believes that when Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea officially opened to the public on April 28, these new ventures began to help make downtown Johnstown even more beautiful, welcoming and unique.
“This is the heart of our city,” Spinelli says while sipping her cup of tea. “A place like this is a great place to relax. You have a nice view of Central Park, and I think it will be an especially great place to be when there are musicians playing in the gazebo.”
Art of Tea is owned by Jennifer and Jeremy Shearer, who also own and operate PRESS Bistro and Stone Bridge Brewing Company, both located within walking distance of their latest business venture.
The Shearers say they strive to create unique flavor combinations at both their restaurant and brewery. Therefore, they gave Redd, Art of Tea’s manager, permission to explore diverse drink options.
“I really like being able to experiment with all the different kind of teas we have, especially when it comes to all the different flavor combinations you never thought were possible,” Redd says.
One of her initial experiments involved making tea popsicles, and they were a hit.
Jennifer Shearer hints that bubble tea (boba) may be available this summer.
“We’re trying to make drinks that appeal to everyone,” she says.
Art of Tea’s menu currently highlights beverages such as London fog lattes, hibiscus coconut coolers and matcha lattes, all of which are designed to appeal to those who wish to enter the world of tea through a side door.
Daily lunch specials (made by the chefs at PRESS Bistro), gelato and an assortment of baked goods round out the menu.
Shearer continues, “I think people who stop in and give us a try will be pleasantly surprised.”
Redd agrees, noting that she wants to make it known that coffee drinkers can be tea drinkers, too. Redd herself is a coffee drinker, and she says that works to her advantage behind the counter.
“I give coffee drinkers recommendations that I think they can appreciate,” Redd says. “If they like a darker roast with nutty, earthy flavors, we have teas that have those same qualities. And the same goes for lighter roasts.”
For those who wish to steep at home, the wall closest to the entrance is lined with equipment such as infusers, mugs and storage canisters. Loose leaves (sold by the ounce) can be purchased at the counter.
The Shearers want to make Art of Tea a “hip” place. Redd is certainly helping to make that happen, especially when it comes to her enthusiasm for learning about tea and her connections to the local music scene. Redd plays in the Johnstown-based band AFRO N’AT and the Greensburg-based band HABATAT.
Making a superb cup of tea isn’t rocket science, but there is a precise, controlled process that should be followed, she says. To help people better understand both the beauty and complexities of loose leaves, “Tea Time Talks” and other tea-related events will be held in the coming months.
“Gallery on Gazebo is trying to offer a healthy mix of free and paid programming,” says Pawlowski, who is currently serving as a site coordinator for Gallery on Gazebo.
“We need to be sustainable, so our goal is to come up with creative programming and collaborate with other organizations for fundraising efforts.”
Gallery on Gazebo’s first major fundraiser is “Sunday on the Square.” It’s scheduled to take place from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 4 on Gazebo Place in Central Park.
Organizers are describing this event as a “street party” complete with live music. Local chefs — representing nearly a dozen restaurants — will make special dishes available for purchase. Tickets for “Sunday on the Square” are on sale now at www.classy.org/event/sunday-on-the-square/e231319.
Gallery on Gazebo’s inaugural exhibit, “CreativiTEA,” was coordinated by Somerset artist Bridget Mayak, and concluded June 2. Next up is an exhibit titled “Tutti Fiori,” which will debut June 16 and remain on display through Aug. 12.
“I think this exhibit is going to bring a lot of people in and send a lot of flowers out the door,” Pawlowski says, adding that the exhibit will consist of floral arrangements, wreaths and other items – all for sale. “Flowers are colorful, and they make people happy. To complement the exhibit, the tea shop is going to feature blended teas that contain flower petals.”
Pawlowski is recruiting volunteers to help with future exhibits and fundraisers. Anyone interested in volunteering should call 814-539-4345.
Monica Ciotti serves as a volunteer for Gallery on Gazebo alongside Spinelli.
“I wanted to volunteer because I was excited about the dash of culture that Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea bring to the square,” Ciotti says. “What I especially love about the gallery is that it gives people from all walks of life an opportunity to show their art here.”
Pawlowski says Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea have attracted a clientele of tea- and art-lovers alike.
“This is a nice, clean, open and safe place, where people can have meetings and meet-ups,” Pawlowski says.
Sean McCool, a member of Vision 2025’s Central Park Square Capture Team, says he hopes people will keep Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea in mind when they need to purchase loose-leaf teas, or perhaps are looking for a unique space to rent.
“Rather than shopping online for loose-leaf teas,” McCool says, “people can now turn to Art of Tea. And instead of people renting out big halls when people just need a small space for gatherings such as bridal and baby showers, they can use Gallery on Gazebo to provide a space right in Central Park.”
McCool says it was rewarding to see Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea finally open to the public and join the list of businesses located in the downtown.
“It takes lots of ideas and people coming together to make something like this happen,” McCool says. “And that’s how we build a stronger Johnstown and make our community a better place.”
Late one morning near the end of May, Pawlowski looked toward the back of the gallery, where a group of women sat at one of the white tables, talking and laughing.
One woman chased her baby boy as he tried to run toward the door.
“It’s interesting to me that when people come in here . . . they’re not on their devices,” Pawlowski said that day. “That, to me, is a sign of success. People are engaging in conversations with each other, opening up new worlds to each other. That’s exactly what we want.”
The mother picked up her baby and carried him back to the table, where more laughter ensued.
Art of Tea’s and Gallery on Gazebo’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
For more information about Gallery on Gazebo and Art of Tea, visit Gallery on Gazebo on Facebook.