Agreed, under-capitalization drives people to cut corners on location, store design, merchandising, staffing, and inventory. Far too many tea shops are in secondary locations (that don't have enough traffic), with inexpensive fixtures and lighting (that don't give the customer the subconscious cues that they'll get a quality product), poor product packaging (because the minimum orders and costs for professional packaging are too high), inexperienced and unavailable sales staff (because staffing for the infrequent rushes is too expensive), and small collections of products with frequent shortages (because they don't have the cash necessary to maintain inventory levels).
Sadly, what I've just described is MOST of the independent tea shops in this country. These shops are having a hard time surviving today, and once competition comes to town (from other tea shops or other retailers beginning to carry premium teas), they're going to be forced to change or close. The "buy local" crowd is there, but like tea connoisseurs, there aren't enough of them to keep a retailer afloat.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a cynic. I am fully confident that a well capitalized tea shop in a good location will be a winning combination. American are primed to fall in love with tea and it's pretty easy to turn a curious passer-by into a tea lover. Tea is a GOOD business to be in, but as I detailed in The Cost of Doing Business (http://www.tearetailer.com/article_36.html
), it takes a couple hundred thousand dollars to do it right and get the wheels turning on a sustainable, self sufficient tea shop.