the long version
Someone asked me how I got to where I am today. Here is my answer:
My love and reverence for beautiful things, especially china teacups, has been with me since I was a very little girl. I often say I came to the planet with it. The eight year old me used her allowance to buy my mum an English bone china trio (cup, saucer and plate). If you come to Tea, you will see it in her china cabinet which is on display in the dining room at Fancy That. I remember it was wrapped and gift boxed for her. I stopped at the bakery on my walk home that day, my sister Faith in tow, and bought her a small cake decorated with pink flowers. I’m not sure what I asked them to write on the cake, but it must have been “I love you, mom”, because that’s what I told her every day of her life. Another time, I came home from an elementary school fair having bought her a tiny spider plant in a teacup. The plant is still alive, all these years later and sits atop her china cabinet. It’s been separated and re-potted several times over the years, but the center of the plant has always remained in tact.
Later in life when I got engaged, having worked in radio for a number of years, and also as a wedding DJ, I decided for my own nuptials, I was looking for something other than stuffed chicken and a parquet dance floor. I thought of Afternoon Tea.
Back then (in the year 2000, if you can envision a world before Etsy or Pinterest) no one in America was really renting vintage china. I recall locating someone who supplied china, but it was part of a catering package she offered. I just wanted to find a rental company that could provide a proper teacup and saucer. There wasn't one, so I started one. I operated out of a storage space for years, working my corporate job and meeting with brides by appointment. During that time, I also did extensive research on various products that I hoped to offer for sale one day, maybe as part of a gift basket company or in a gift shop perhaps, if I was lucky enough to eventually make that happen.
In 2009, my mom passed, and I found myself profoundly lost. Without her, what was the point of anything? Should I go to law school, as I had always aspired? What was left that truly mattered?
The answer was Tea.
I remained in limbo for a while but by 2011, Brad persuaded me to follow my dream. We opened a small retail shop, selling tea and accoutrements, teacups, honey from England, jams and sugar from France, beautiful round shaped paper napkins from Germany and unique vintage tabletop items.
We were only open on weekends.
Marketing budget? There wasn't one. I remember putting an inexpensive banner in the shop window and a pouch of postcards on the front door, inviting people to our first open house. We set up a couple of banquet tables and served complimentary tea and sweets; a way to introduce ourselves to the community and let them know we were here. My budget to purchase retail inventory was limited, so I supplemented it with pieces from my own personal collection of antiques and what-nots, selecting pieces I felt ready to part with.
I accidentally scheduled the open house for a holiday weekend in May (Memorial Day - the launch of Summer) and I was worried that no one would show. To my happy surprise, attendance was robust, and we had a line of people at the register! I remember how gratifying it felt to see people's hands full with items they wanted to purchase- they clutched them as if the items were little treasures, discovered after careful perusal of my shop’s offerings. These were items I had personally researched and sourced. I felt proud.
Word spread about our place, and our email list grew. Somewhere along the way, I started a Facebook page and our following increased. People loved our unique selection of tea and gifts. But eventually, they began to say they wanted more. They wanted a place to sit and have Tea, not just buy it. Oh, and not just any Tea, mind you; a proper Afternoon Tea. And I wanted to be that place for them.
It had always been a quiet hope of mine, but I didn't know if opening a tearoom would actually be possible. I certainly had all of the paraphernalia, and I was a born party planner and hostess, but running a tearoom? Well, that was another ball of wax. Could the building even pass the necessary codes/inspections?
In 2012 Brad and I decided to do a trial run. We offered a series of themed Teas called "Tea at Two": Afternoon Tea followed by a presentation and/or entertainment (one month an author of a book on the topic of Tea, presented; another month, a character actress portrayed Paul Revere's wife). We obtained one-day permits from the town, and I worked with a local caterer on the food since the building had no kitchen at that time. The groups were intimate - about 16-18 people in attendance each time. The tickets were snatched up right away, and the entire year sold out quickly.
At the end of 2012, inspired by a true sense of purpose, not to mention the response we'd received from the community, we decided to contact an architect and begin the process of installing a small commercial kitchen and obtaining the necessary permits to serve Tea. After a lot of hard work and plenty of uncertain moments, the Tearoom opened in the Spring of 2013.
It's been said if you build it, they will come. We did, and they have... in record numbers. The experience we offer resonates with people, and there is now a 6-8 week wait time to get a reservation on a weekend.
Why did I create Fancy That, someone once asked me. "Because it's my True North," I said.
And now, to sum things up more eloquently than I ever could, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes of all time:
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
Medicine, law, business, engineering.
These are noble pursuits, necessary to sustain life.
But Poetry… Beauty… Romance... Love!
These are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman:
Oh me! Oh life! Of the questions of these recurring,
of the endless trains of the faithless,
of cities filled with the foolish.
What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here and life exists, and identity.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?
~Robin Williams' character, John Keating - Dead Poets Society