Meet Your Neighbor: Divinitea

Where tasty treats and treasures abound, Homer woman strives to build community through her store

Step through the doors of Divinitea on Pioneer Avenue and you will find yourself surrounded by a treasure trove of jewelry, macramé, feathers, beads, stones, gems, crowns, tiaras, tea hats, ferry wings, plants, novelty items, and more. Two large, open rooms receive natural light through windows on all sides and tables and chairs are scattered throughout. On the tables are free jump rings and tools, inviting individuals to sit and bead, craft, drink tea, and chat with owner, Karalee Bechtol, her employees, and other shoppers.

In a corner of the front room sits an upright piano whose history includes being debuted at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. At the back of the building are the restaurant, coffee shop, and teashop, as well as more tables, chairs, artwork and merchandise, and a purple velvet couch. In the windows, stained glass and light catchers create prisms along adjacent walls and nearby bins overflow with rocks, shells, and beads.

Bechtol and her employees greet and interact with shoppers who come in search of gifts for themselves and others, and for the tarot readings and ritual sessions that Bechtol offers. In addition to her own beaded jewelry, which includes necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, Bechtol carries work by nearly a dozen local artists — yarn, macramé, silversmithing, other beaded jewelry, and fiber arts, to name just a few of the items shoppers will find in a range of prices from 50 cents to several hundreds of dollars.

“I wanted to create a place where anyone can come in and be able to afford something,” Bechtol said. “What I enjoy most about this store is that all kinds of people come in, from locals to individuals from all over the world.”

While Homer youth try on crowns and tiaras, several women sort through beads and inquire about jewelry classes. Bechtol and several of the artists she represents offer workshops in everything from tarot readings, Rituals, herbal first aid, silversmithing, macramé, and beaded jewelry, offered by Bechtol and others.

Bechtol began beading more than 10 years ago while living in California, as a way to unwind from the stress of her job as a mental health therapist. While working full time, she took weekend beading classes and learned from YouTube videos.

“Working with beads was such a great way to unwind at the end of the day,” she shared. “Bead actually means prayer and so beading is a prayerful meditative purpose in addition to decorative ornamentation.”

In California, Bechtol’s husband Jay, who is also a therapist, encouraged her to sell her work. She made her first sales at a racetrack in Los Angeles, adding horse charms to her jewelry.

In 2017, wanting to move to a small town to raise their daughters, the couple began looking for jobs in areas around the country. On the top of their list was easy access to natural beauty and a community steeped in creativity. When Jay found the job at The Center in Homer, they both got excited.

“I looked up Homer online and knew immediately that it was going to be home for us,” Bechtol said. “I had no idea there were views across oceans with glaciers and hourlong twilight. When we arrived, I would pinch myself that the beauty was beyond anything I could have imagined. When I was stressed at work, I imagined beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and here we are.”

The family moved to Homer in 2017 and Bechtol began selling her work around town and on the Spit, and for a time, operated a tiny studio beneath Bunnell Street Arts Center. There, she began seed bead weaving, and today, her pieces are crocheted, hand knotted, and braided with natural stones.

Raised in California by parents who preferred books to toys and art, and choosing a career that was serious and often intense, Bechtol shared that her inner child runs her store.

“Building this store is my inner child learning how to play with things,” she said. “While I felt satisfied and fulfilled with my career, I’m now having more fun.”

Trained in Jungian Dream Analysis, Bechtol has been a licensed therapist for more than 25 years. In California, she ran mental health programs for close to 15 years and had a private mental health practice for eight years. Seeking more creative avenues to help people, she studied tarot reading for several years. In Homer, she is taking a break from mental health work and offers tarot readings and ritual sessions to help individuals through times of transition and to help with healing.

Formerly operating the small studio space beneath Bunnell, when her present location between the Hair Gallery and Don Jose’s became available in late 2019, Bechtol opened as Homer Beads and Things a few months later, at first selling her own jewelry and then carrying more and more items. Open for just a few weeks, she closed during the early days of Covid-19, and then reopened by appointment. When she decided to add a restaurant to what she offers the community, she closed in early 2022 to build that part of the business. Preparing to reopen in spring 2022, Bechtol was in a car accident, and was partly paralyzed. Hearing of her struggles, numerous community members stepped up to help.

“People came and helped put the whole store together,” she said. “Some of those people I didn’t know well, like Sherry Robinson, who came in twice a week to help me when I couldn’t move. She told me that she loved my store and wanted it to succeed. I’m here because of community members like her.”

With her physical health improved and her restaurant in place, Bechtol decided to add a teashop to the store, an ode to her mother and her mother’s friends and their love of afternoon and high teas.

“My mom loves experiences and for Mother’s Day and Christmas, I’d take her to tea places all over Los Angeles and when we traveled,” Bechtol said. “There was no place in Homer serving high tea and I thought it would be fun and well received.”

Educating herself on teas, Bechtol shared that while she had been to a lot of fancy tea places, she knew nothing about the ritual of tea, including how to serve tea and which teas are served at which temperatures.

“I upped my game because of a few local men who are tea connoisseurs and came in asking for specific teas,” she said.

Offering 32 different loose-leaf teas, all her high tea treats — scones, curds, cakes, cinnamon rolls, teacup salads, and more — are made in house. The restaurant menu includes curried chicken, sardines with garlic, chives and capers, Miso chickpea, hummus plates, cheese plates, soups, and other items. Customers can also order single cups of tea and there is a coffee menu as well.

Bechtol’s short-term goals include expanding her social media presence and adding an online store to her business. Her long-term goals include owning a building in town and continuing to build on what she has created.

“I used to run community mental health programs and I don’t see myself as a shop owner or that my job is selling stuff,” she said. “I really wanted to create a space for community to come together. I’m trying to be successful through all these things and I’m ready for opportunity and growth.”

Located at 111 W Pioneer Avenue, Divinitea offers classes through local artists, from macramé, beading, and silversmithing to Tarot readings and herbal first aid. A teahouse, coffee shop, restaurant, retail store, healing space and class space, find Divinitea, including hours, menu and class schedule, at and on Facebook, DiviniteaHomer.

High tea on Monday, March 20 at Divinitea<ins> in Homer, Alaska</ins>.

High tea on Monday, March 20 at Divinitea in Homer, Alaska.