Ex-Stevenson and WNBA star Tamika Catchings wants to use Indy tea shop to inspire change

  • Tamika Catchings greets customers at Tea's Me Cafe Indy, her boutique tea shop in Indianapolis.

    Tamika Catchings greets customers at Tea's Me Cafe Indy, her boutique tea shop in Indianapolis. Courtesy OF Vonteria Watts

 
 
Updated 6/9/2020 3:24 PM

Basketball was what Tamika Catchings did as a kid.

And tea is what she drank.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Yes, tea. As in not coffee, but tea.

"I think that came from my mom," Tamika said of her mother Wanda. "We moved around a lot and every place we went, we would come together around coffee or tea. My mom didn't want us kids drinking coffee, so for us, it was tea.

"And my sister, Tauja, she loved throwing tea parties. So we always did a lot of those when we were kids."

For Catchings, who starred at Stevenson High School before becoming one of the best players in the history of women's basketball and retiring from the WNBA's Indiana Fever in 2016, that early affinity for tea led to one of her proudest moments as a young entrepreneur.

In early 2017, Catchings bought one of her favorite hangouts in Indianapolis, a boutique tea shop called Tea's Me Cafe Indy, about five minutes from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Fever and Indiana Pacers play.

Since March, Catchings has been navigating life as a small-business owner through the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and now the racial unrest and rioting over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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Catchings is hoping to use Tea's Me Cafe Indy as a hub for positive social change and open conversations.

She hosted a Facebook Live Community Conversation on Friday from the shop as a way to have an open dialogue about ideas to improve race relations in the United States.

"When I first got to Indy, someone came up to me and told me that they heard I liked tea and asked if I had ever been to Tea's Me," Catchings said. "I had never been, so I went over there and loved it. I loved the tea and I loved the kind of place it was. It's a neighborhood business, real small, a place where you can just relax and blend in. It's peaceful. It was a place I could go that had nothing to do with basketball. It was a place I loved and felt safe.

"When I found out the owner was going to shut it down in 2016, I ended up buying it. And it has been such a blessing. I love seeing the people who come in here. I love putting a smile on people's faces and now I want to use my voice and my platform and my shop for good."

Eight people from all walks of life joined Catchings for the Facebook Live conversation and she hopes to make those online events a regular thing.

"Over the last two weeks, I have been through so many emotions: from anger to frustration to not understanding. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong and what happened to George Floyd is so wrong," Catchings said. "But I am not for rioting or breaking people's business. I am 100 percent against that. People have worked really hard for their businesses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I am for peaceful protests. I am for open dialogues where we come together and engage and come up with action plans that create real change."

Catchings cited support for the #8CantWait campaign, a set of eight standards that is designed to help decrease police violence.

"I want to see more action plans like that and I want to help," Catchings said. "I see that as a responsibility. I don't want to be a face of a movement. That's not what I'm trying to do. But I do want to use my voice and my platform for good. We all need to get more educated, we all need to engage in more conversation, and be comfortable discussing the uncomfortable, and we all need to stand up for what's right."

To join Catchings' Facebook Live discussions, go to Tea's Me Cafe's Facebook page.

To explore the shop's 44 flavors of tea and to order online or to start a tea delivery subscription, visit teasmeindy.com.

Season startup: News came Thursday that the WNBA is working out the details to start an abbreviated season in late July.

According to Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com, sources say that the WNBA is proposing a 22-game regular season, shortened from its 36-game full schedule, beginning on July 24.

All games would be played at a single site, likely IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Playoffs would end in October.

The players have yet to agree to the proposal and the WNBA would not confirm these plans.

"There have been a lot of conversations," Catchings said Friday morning of the WNBA's return. "I'm not sure exactly (how the players feel), but I do know that players want to play. We just need to get everything going."

Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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