“My love of tea was nurtured in Ireland, where I lived for three years in the County Wicklow mountains, running a hostel in a 200-year-old stone building,” says Muna Nash, co-founder of Lovejoy’s on Church Street. “In the countryside of Ireland, people often essentially opened up their living rooms to serve tea on Sundays, which I found very charming. I also traveled a lot through rural England and was enchanted by little tearooms I came across.”
“We wanted to recreate that cozy, comforting feeling of walking into an eccentric aunt’s living room,” adds Muna, who opened the tearoom in 2000 with Gillian Briley, her friend since college days at San Diego State more than 35 years ago. “We wanted people to come in and feel magic, a soulfulness that’s missing nowadays. It’s not a precious place, but it’s meant to evoke a feeling of fun.” (In pre-COVID-19 days, customers could borrow a hat from a collection of 50 vintage hats.) “Forty to 50 years ago, there were so many eclectic, wacky places in San Francisco,” she explains. The entrance mosaic is a perfect example.
“In the beginning, there was quite a bit of china breakage. It just killed us. But Gillian, who is very artistic, created [the mosaic] to make good out of something terrible.”
The pair bought Lovejoy’s from the English couple who opened it the 1990s and then moved it a few blocks away to its current location, five times as big as its first address. They packed it with flea market finds from the Bay Area as well as from Ashland, Oregon; street treasures; furnishings from Muna’s mother’s home; plus teapots and cups that Muna collected in Ireland. Their shop, Lovejoy’s Attic, which sells loose-leaf teas, tea paraphernalia, and hot-pink T-shirts with the slogan “tea shirt” opened across the street in 2004.