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story.lead_photo.caption Dr. Rebecca Leighton designed Urban Tea Town — a place where visitors can enjoy varieties of teas, coffees and baked goods while appreciating and enjoying art and literature. Photo by Kelsi Brinkmeyer / Texarkana Gazette.

A longtime academic and once-aspiring architect is living her life to a tea as owner of Urban Tea Town. Opened a year ago next door to Old Tyme Burger Shoppe at the intersection of Jefferson and Arkansas Boulevard, Dr. Rebecca Leighton designed the cozy space — a place where visitors can enjoy varieties of teas, coffees and baked goods while appreciating and enjoying art and literature.

"I knew I wanted it to be a tea shop because I love Savoy Tea Co. in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Bill Beyer met with me and told me his story about how he got started in the tea industry," Rebecca said. "I buy all my tea from them, source it from them and rebrand it. The signature drinks are their recipes."

Rebecca knew there would have to be a food element to Urban Tea Town, so she set about studying and researching.

"When I started, I didn't know much about owning a cafe," she said.

She enrolled in Small Business Administration classes. She sought out experts in the business. Then she created a menu: Cookies, muffins and scones that are baked on the premises; colorful Alchemy Macarons from Fayetteville; and bagels flown in from New York. She did everything with style.

Rebecca has carefully curated every detail of the shop from the alternating blue-and-green colored table stands to the business' signature feature — a round bookcase encircling a blue clock face.

"I've always had an affinity for design. If you look around this shop, you can pick that up. If you came to my home, you would see that. All it takes to design is money, my husband says," Rebecca said with a laugh.

Acquiring the large clock made for an interesting time.

When people visit Urban Tea Town, Rebecca's wants them to take the time to savor a custom-made drink and baked goods while feeding their spirit with good books. It's her mission.

"I am a lover of the written word. I love to read," she said.

There are a few rules regarding the books at the shop, which operates on a take a book, leave a book policy.

"It has to be a work of fiction, a story to get absorbed into. No self-help, no agenda pushed here. Write in the cover of your books so as they cycle through the shop, it will build a community in itself," she said.

Rebecca says she is blessed to have the support of her family and the community in managing Urban Tea Town. She hopes to expand the concept, perhaps to downtown.

But for now, her business suits her — and Texarkana — to a tea.

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