Tea room will be 'dripping' with elegance

August 01, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA.-One doesn't drink tea in TranquiliTEA. One "takes" tea.

The distinction is important to Kelly McGahen and Donna Shaffer, who are converting an 1880s brick Victorian building at 117 W. Main St. into a formal tea room they call TranquiliTEA.

The women are hoping for a Sept. 1 opening for their new business.

McGahen took advantage of the borough's facade-improvement program for a $6,000 matching grant to rehabilitate the front of the building, which has been painted pink with green trim.

McGahen's father, Robert Gray, did most of the carpentry work. The kitchen and bathrooms have been redone and the rooms have been painted. New carpet is scheduled to go down Monday.


Shaffer, who said her contribution to the project is "sweat equity," wallpapered several rooms and the ceiling in the foyer.

There will be two tea rooms. The Toile Room left of the foyer, the more elegant of the two, has burgundy walls and gold trim.

"It's dripping with Victorian elegance," McGahen said. "There's even going to be a Victorian-era velvet dress on an antique form to add to the atmosphere."

The Garden Room in back lends itself to a less formal setting.

"It will have a more casual, floral motif," Shaffer said. "It will be like sitting in a garden."

A gift shop sits to the right of the foyer. Large jars of loose-leaf teas from around the world already occupy shelves. Patrons can buy tea by the ounce. Fine china, tea accessories and gifts also will make up the inventory.

McGahen, 39, and Shaffer, 46, met at Otterbein United Brethren Church.

McGahen was the general manager of her husband Joel McGahen's optometry office directly across West Main Street from the tea room for 18 years.

"I was burned out from doing the paperwork and dealing with all the red tape," she said.

Shaffer worked as an administrative assistant at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa.

McGahen said a tea room "provides a respite from our hectic, fast-paced society. Women in general feel they have less time for friendship and real conversation. There's a huge movement in the country toward tea rooms, where people can recapture what they have lost from an earlier time."

"People laughed when Starbucks came out with a $5 cup of coffee," McGahen said. "Now, Starbucks is all over the country. They get the busy people, those who rush in for a jolt of coffee, then bolt out. My customers want to catch their breath and relax."

She said her customer base could include people who want the ambiance of an elegant tea room, home-school parents who want to expose their children to the ways of proper etiquette, mothers who "just want to get out while their kids are in school and men who want to earn brownie points with their wives by coming in here with them."

McGahen spent a lot of time in antique shops buying china cups and saucers and crystal serving pieces for the tea room, Shaffer said. The partners are sewing their own table linens.

McGahen believes the business will succeed because of a market survey done by Penn State University that she read showing income levels and growth in the area. She also attended a weeklong course in Florida on running a tea room.

McGahen is investing about $200,000 in the project including buying the house, renovating it and buying furnishings, equipment and inventory.

"We want to create an experience for our diners," Shaffer said.

The menu, which runs from $16 to $18, will include finger sandwiches, appetizers, desserts, scones, soups and salads.

"Customers will be stuffed when they leave here," McGahen said.

The tea room will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

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