Tea Guys equipment, inventory heads to online auction

The Tea Guys factory building at 110 Christian Lane in Whately.

The Tea Guys factory building at 110 Christian Lane in Whately. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-27-2023 2:43 PM

Modified: 11-28-2023 2:26 PM


WHATELY — It appears everything must go at the Tea Guys factory, as the equipment and inventory at 110 Christian Lane is scheduled to be auctioned off on Dec. 4.

Rasmus Auctions has been hired to handle an online auction at the local tea business, which is being sued by Zest Tea LLC, a Baltimore company that alleges breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Tea Guys, a tea manufacturing business owned by Oliver Rich, is believed to be permanently closed.

In July, Judge David Hodge froze up to $5.67 million in accounts at Greenfield Savings Bank and Evolve Bank & Trust, which is the amount Zest Tea seeks in damages. The figure represents the $1.87 million that Zest Tea alleges it had lost up to that date, and that amount could triple under state law if Tea Guys is found guilty of unfair business practices. The company could also be liable for other costs such as attorney fees.

At the time, Robert Dambrov, Zest Tea’s attorney, argued before the judge to have Tea Guys’ accounts frozen. He alleged Tea Guys breached a memorandum of understanding shortly after Zest Tea founder and CEO James Fayal signed it on Jan. 19 by failing to comply with its obligations to make vendor payments and complete shipments. Zest Tea manufactures and sells functional beverages, including a line of tea bags and loose-leaf teas, ready-to-drink canned beverages and hydration powders.

Anyone interested in participating in the auction can visit bit.ly/3GcGHhn to register and become authorized. There are also photos of the 250 items up for sale, as well as a way to bid on each one. The page also includes a video tour of some of the merchandise for sale. That video is also on YouTube at bit.ly/3QUk9XA. The items includes tea packaging equipment, mixers, conveyors, a forklift, pallet racks, storage drums and a popcorn machine. An 18% buyer’s premium is added to every purchase. Buyers schedule their own merchandise removal and all items must be off site by 6 p.m. on Dec. 6.

“Everything starts at zero and it brings what it brings,” said Christopher Rasmus, who founded Rasmus Auctions in 1975.

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Rasmus said Rich reached out to his company in mid-October to auction off his equipment. He also said Rich is selling the Christian Lane building and that deal is expected to close this week.

Employees with Rasmus Auctions visited the site about five weeks ago to document the inventory and film that YouTube video. Rasmus said his company, based in Washington D.C., was one of the first to conduct online auctions and now holds about 1,300 each year.

“We consider ourselves recyclers,” he said. “We get this stuff back into the market and start making money for somebody again.”

Multiple attempts to reach Rich by phone and email have been unsuccessful in recent weeks. The company’s website has recently been removed, however its Facebook is still up and running. The most recent post, a Christmas meme on Dec. 2, 2022, once consisted of several customers complaining about paying for tea they had not received. Those comments have been deleted, though there are new ones discussing how the company has gone out of business.

A display at Greenfield’s Big Y supermarket once exclusively offered Tea Guys products, though Claire D’Amour-Daley, at the supermarket chain’s corporate office, said Big Y no longer carries them.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.