Thursday March 4, 2010 | 2 comments
Mark Ukra is better known to the public as “Dr. Tea”. As his alter-ego tea persona, Mark has appeared on such shows as “The View” and “Rachel Ray” as well as on numerous morning TV shows. He comes outfitted in a bright orange jacket and is an enigmatic spokesman for our favorite beverage…tea.
You may have read a book written by Mark: The Ultimate Tea Diet. Or you may have visited his former retail home in West Hollywood known as Dr. Tea’s Tea Emporium – formerly Elixir – where blends were prepared and drinks were concocted with bartending flair using teas and herbals from around the world in original recipes, and where you could take them outside into the most beautiful enclosed garden space in the heart of the big city and “zen out”. Mark has since left the space due to an unrealistic and untenable space rent increase, but he continues his web site, writing, and interviews, one of which he gave me recently.
Mark’s family in Iraq was in the tea and coffee distribution business for decades, but Mark followed another career direction here in America. Sadly, the Iraq war with Iran and then the U.S. invasion of Iraq wreaked havoc on and ultimately destroyed his grandfather’s business.
So when Mark serendipitously decided to enter the tea business two decades ago after working in the “green” industry in Northern California, his father reminded him of the family background. Mark thinks tea might just be in his genes.
While the retail store is, sadly, no more, there is good news. His Internet business is thriving and, without the retail expenses, his bottom line has actually improved. He has enough goodwill and recognition to give him a leg up in the web world and smaller online retailers buy wholesale from him as well.
The latest project his publisher is suggesting is a complete line of small books dedicated to the health benefits of tea that would be impulse-friendly at the POS station of tea-related and/or health-related retailers.
“Dr. Tea” continues to be contacted for interviews and information on tea by the media. He has flair and knows his subject and is “open to whatever the universe sends”.
Would he go into a retail environment again? Yes, he says, under the right circumstances. Tea lover and aesthetic though he is, Mark Ukra is also a sharp businessman who knows that to survive in a very competitive industry in a challenging economy, you have to be able to do more than steep a good cup of tea – you must find the right opportunities and then step out and walk through the door.
If the bright orange coat doesn’t tell you something about Mark Ukra, his ability to take his message to the national media should. He is serious about the business of tea and looking for those right opportunities every day.