About the Store
Phoenix Pearl Tea has a long and storied history. It began as a bookstore in 1986 under the name Broadway Bookstore. The original store was about a block away from its current location, and about a quarter the size. The original owners had a metaphysical focus, the next owner ran it as a used bookstore, and the third owner had a mix of new and used books with a focus on Montana history.
Gary and Kathy Robson purchased the store on October 15, 2001, renamed it Red Lodge Books & Tea, and moved it to larger quarters in May 2002. They expanded again and moved the store to its current location in February 2010. In addition to new and used books, they opened a tea bar and brought in journals, maps, toys & games, and quality cigars.
In 2016, Red Lodge Books & Tea sold to a new bookstore opening in Billings, taking with it all the inventory, fixtures, and management. After less than a year, Gary and the tea bar manager, Gwen Gunn, decided they couldn't stay away from Red Lodge any longer and came back, opening a new shop under their own banner once more. Thus was born the Phoenix Pearl Tea Tavern.
Phoenix Pearl Tea came about not only for our love of tea, our love of Red Lodge, and our yearning to run a store independently again. The name is not just an allusion to 'rising from the ashes' of Red Lodge Books & Tea, but also from the style of tea that all of us adore. We wanted to open a store that wasn't just a return-to-form of the bookstore, so we focused on tea. We couldn't leave the books behind, so we invested in a few shelves and a small selection of local history, local guidebooks, tea and cookbooks, as well as some local authors (including both Gary and Gwen).
In addition to the roughly 100 different teas and herbs, as well as the books, that we stock, we also have a wide variety of tabletop games! Some may not be aware, but Tabletop Gaming is having a renaissance, and we're along for the ride. We host game nights every Thursday to allow people to try these games before they buy them, but we also keep our demos available for use any time.
About the Staff
Gary Robson — Co-Owner
Gary is a writer and accessibility technology consultant who has written 25 books and hundreds of articles for magazines, encyclopedias, newspapers, and Web sites. All of his in-print books are available here at Red Lodge Books & Tea (of course). He has served on the boards of a number of area nonprofits, including the Red Lodge Festival of Nations, Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce, Beartooth Elks Lodge #534, and the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Whenever there’s a Scottish event going on in town, Gary is always involved and often the emcee.
Kathy Robson — Co-Owner
Kathy performs realtime television closed captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. She can write at over 250 words per minute on her special shorthand machine with better than 99% accuracy. If you turn on the captioning on your television, you’ll see her mostly on baseball, football, and rodeo, but also on a variety of other sports, news, and talk shows. She chaired the Belfry, Montana school board, and has served on the boards of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce and Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary.
Gwen is an accomplished tea master, managing the teas in both Red Lodge Books & Tea, the store it became in Billings, MT, and continues her work here. She is a trained master of masala chai, and is a sucker for mint and lapsang souchong (though not necessarily together. Although...).
She's also an author! She publishes under her middle name, Desdemona Gunn, and writes fantasy, known for her predominantly female casts, transhumanist themes, and inclusiveness to the LGBT community.