Marni Woodson is still wowed by the generosity of everyone from her landlord to passersby to customers in welcoming Asher & Bee Apothecary and Tea House to downtown Pensacola. It began with her landlord. “He believed in my vision immediately. Before I could wrap my brain around owning a brick and mortar, he said it would work.” It has worked, and the teahouse’s customer base continues to increase significantly.
Asher & Bee is one of three black-owned businesses operating in the busy, heavy-traffic area known as The Blocks in downtown Pensacola. The Blocks was at one time the epicenter of black life in Pensacola. There were clubs, grocers, professionals and the district thrived until the city desegregated, and then the area was neglected as blacks moved out. Woodson counts her presence as a homecoming. “People with fond memories of The Blocks are finding us, and visiting.” She says that black visitors often express surprise to see her storefront and pleasant face, which has led to more customers frequenting Asher & Bee to buy tea, herbs, essential oils, and locally-sourced crafted foods or simply relax with a drink from the iced tea bar.
The University of West Florida graduate says, “There are few places in Pensacola, where black creatives and plant-based eaters can meet.” Asher & Bee’s event calendar includes former MLB player Adron Chambers’ “Broga” yoga classes for men and other wellness demonstrations, mini concerts and monthly Sunday Sol Food dinners. The popularity of the suppers has moved Woodson to offer them every Sunday beginning in August.
“We eat family-style and don’t worry about who can pay. We want people to eat and meet.”
She also wants people to be well. Asher & Bee’s beginnings can be traced before the pop-up and market stalls Woodson sold her teas from only two years ago. The foundation had been laid in Melvin, Mississippi, when as a child she observed her grandmother and mother creating homemade tinctures to treat any number of ailments. “My granny taught me that you can use fresh herbs in food, teas, and even ice cream.” As her mother toured in the Navy and her grandmother worked as a nurse, Woodson held onto the remedies she’d been given by both women. Those remedies came in handy when one of her four children became ill. Today, her daughter is fine and sometimes works in the teahouse, but the illness propelled Woodson to become a certified herbalist.
“I wanted to learn more for the sake of mixing teas.” Her teas would become sought-after favorites of family and friends, and one day she decided to share them on a broader scale in the marketplace. She found the name of her business right at home: Asher is her 2-year old daughter, who is also known as “Bee.”
Asher & Bee from vision to reality has been a series of winks and nods that affirm its own viability in Pensacola, but most importantly to the women of all ages and backgrounds who stop in. Some come in with friends, others come in to find community through the programming, and all have complimented the wonderful scent of tea wafting in the air as incentive to shop.
Yet, there is one more wink and nod that continually affirms Marni Woodson’s decision to open Asher & Bee. The gifts of china tea cups and saucers customers have given her. “We have plenty here, but they just do it out of the kindness of their hearts.” If you live in Pensacola or plan to visit, Asher & Bee is located at 7 E. Gregory Street. They are open daily Noon to 6 p.m. Call (850) 565-9476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about programming, and you can visit their Facebook page to leave a message or watch some of Marni’s instructional videos. Lastly, visit and follow their Instagram profile (@ashernbee).16