MBA Grad Opens Tea Shop In Historic Greensburg Train Station
Marcus Weakland graduated with a B.S. in sports management from Seton Hill in 2017. By 2019, he’d earned his Seton Hill MBA. And in 2022, he and his mother, Judy Weakland, opened the doors to their new joint venture, Steep Mountain Tea Company. This specialty tea shop offers a wide variety of teas as well as ice cream, baked goods, and handmade and vintage products. Located in downtown Greensburg’s historic train station - right below main campus and across the street from the Performing Arts Center - Steep Mountain became an instant hit with Seton Hill faculty, staff and students. Which is not surprising, since it’s run by a big family of Griffins. Here, in an exclusive interview, Marcus and Judy Weakland spill the tea on the creation of Steep Mountain.
So how did you two come up with the idea of opening a tea shop in Greensburg?
Marcus: I always thought it would be neat to own a cafe… except I don’t like coffee.
Judy: I keep saying Steep Mountain Tea Company began to take on a life of its own from the moment we saw the Greensburg Train Station space for rent.
Marcus: We visited, saw the potential of the space, and knew we had a great team that could make it awesome. Honestly, it all happened so fast and the next thing we know we’re signing a five year lease!
Marcus, did your Seton Hill business classes help you when it came to getting the business up and running?
Yes! Having my MBA helped me with business planning and getting things running. From learning about balancing finances to effectively finding and working with different suppliers, my MBA experience greatly helped me start Steep Mountain.
What is a typical day at Steep Mountain like?
Marcus: Prep for the day, make the tea (best part), check inventory and order if needed, plan for future offerings. If it’s not busy, make Taiwan milk oolong for myself and hang out.
"From learning about balancing finances to effectively finding and working with different suppliers, my MBA experience greatly helped me start Steep Mountain. "
Everyone who visits Steep Mountain comments on how charming it is. Judy, I understand the design is your doing. What inspired you?
It started with the architecture of the building and our family love for vintage. We wanted a place where people could just stop for a minute and sip tea and kind of feel at home. We hope we achieved this with the colors we chose, the vintage wall decor, the soft velvet seating as well as the fountain surrounded by plants, and the fireplace.
What’s it like co-owning and running a family business?
Judy: We are not strangers to self-employment . My husband and I have owned our own outpatient physical therapy clinic for 30 plus years and the kids basically grew up there. We homeschooled all four of our children so working as a team came naturally when we opened the tea shop.
Marcus: We couldn’t have done any of this without my dad, Mark Weakland, and my fianceé (and Seton Hill alum) Danielle Hegyes. They helped build it from the ground up. Also, Ariel Colon (also a Seton Hill alum!) works so hard for this business and we’re so grateful to have her on our team!
Judy, I understand all of your children are Seton Hill alumni! What’s it like being the mother to a bunch of Griffins?
It is fantastic to say the least! In addition to Marcus, my daughter Alexa graduated in biology as well as LECOM Medical School and is currently a physician in Blairsville. My son Zachary graduated with a computer science and cybersecurity degree and was hired immediately upon graduation as an instructor for Seton Hill in computer science. And my son Lucas just graduated this year in computer science! This is the first fall in 12 years that I have not had a child at Seton Hill. They all support Steep Mountain - without each one of them this tea shop would not be what it is today.
I have to ask - why did you decide to use the family dog in the logo for Steep Mountain Tea?
Marcus: Well first, we all just really like dogs. But also, Sophie’s a Great Pyrenees (old dog breed from the Pyrenees MOUNTAINS), and good tea is grown on high mountains, and it works with our name.
Judy: We love the Great Pyrenees breed. We have two rescues currently and donate a portion of our income to animal rescues.
How would you describe the Steep Mountain Experience so far?
Marcus: It’s been amazing and we’re truly grateful. From getting to own my own business, to working with family and friends. One thing I didn’t really expect was meeting all the awesome people that come into the store. They’re what gives this place life and we’re so thankful for each and every person that comes here.
Judy: We have been so overwhelmed with generosity, kindness, and love from the community. It is most certainly more than we could have ever imagined. The students of Seton Hill are amazing! They bring such energy to our space - such joy and warmth - and are simply the kindest humans! To say we are thankful that we live in this beautiful town is an understatement.