Business brews TranquiliTEA

September 12, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Things were serendipitous and elegance ruled Thursday at TranquiliTEA.

Seven members of the Rambling Wrecks, a Red Hat Society chapter in Fayetteville, Pa., chose TranquiliTEA, a new tearoom that opened Wednesday at 117 W. Main St., as the site of its September luncheon meeting.

Darlene Fowler, the chapter's queen mother, touted the surroundings for her fellow hatters.

"I went to a high tea at Harrods in London and this place is head and shoulders above that in food, service and atmosphere," Fowler said.

The seven women, dressed in the uniform of their organization - red hats and purple outfits - took over two tables in the south corner of the Toile Room.


The room, one of three dining rooms in the tearoom, was named by owner Kelly McGahen for fabric in the drapes and table linens.

McGahen and Donna Shaffer, her partner in the venture, sewed the accessories themselves.

They worked almost daily since April, converting the 1880s brick Victorian into their vision of what an elegant tearoom should be.

McGahen estimates that it took more than $200,000 to renovate, furnish and equip the building.

"I loved the building," McGahen said. "It needed a lot of work, but it had character and charm. I wanted to create a cornerstone business that would attract other businesses and make this town go again."

McGahen shopped antique stores to find china cups, saucers and teapots. She found a couple dozen women's hats from the 1920s through the 1950s and hung them on the walls. Customers can don them and the colored feather boas "just for fun," McGahen said.

An 18th-century riding gown covers a dress form as a Toile Room decoration. A working water fountain adds ambiance to the Garden Room and a white wedding gown on a form at the top of the stairs greets customers in the foyer.

Lunch prices range from $4.95 for tea and scones to $16.95 for high tea topped off with soup and sandwiches.

The gift shop right of the foyer sells 36 varieties of tea plus accessories for making and drinking it. Shelves, display cases and counters hold cards, baskets, homemade soaps, Victorian decorations, books and pillows, plus some merchandise for Red Hat Society members.

"We have a lot of girlie gifts," McGahen said.

"I think this is unique," said Dolly Lucas, a Red Hatter from Fayetteville and Bowie, Md. "There are so few places like this around."

The Red Hat Society was created in 1997 by Sue Ellen Cooper, the founder and queen mother of Red Hat Society Inc.

According to the society's Web site, Cooper was in Tucson, Ariz., when, on an impulse, she bought a bright red hat in a thrift shop to give to a friend for her birthday.

She included the poem "Warning" by Jenny Joseph.

The poem's first two lines read, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me."

McGahen said she has received calls from several area Red Hat Society chapters seeking luncheon reservations.

The society's statement of purpose, according to the Web site, said it was established when a few women decided to "greet middle age with verve, humor and lan ... We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life ... Underneath the frivolity we share a bond of affection forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next."

Fowler organized the Rambling Wrecks in May by calling women she knew.

They met for the first time at Pat's Pub & Grill in Fayetteville.

Most of the women didn't know each other, but their association in the club has grown into close friendships, they said.

Listening to the women as they sat around TranquiliTEA's tables Thursday left an impression that they had been sharing friendships and confidences for decades, especially when the subject turned to death and diamonds.

Marge Pepper said she heard that diamonds can be made from the ashes of people who have been cremated.

The subject quickly turned to husbands.

"I would love to have a diamond made from my husband," Pepper said. "Plus, I love him."

"I could wear it around my neck," Nancy Gray said. "That way, I could always have him with me."

The members meet on the second Thursday of each month.

"We have a different activity every month," said Toni Condor of Fayetteville. "In August, we went to the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown (W.Va.) for lunch and shopping. In July, we went boating on Raystown Lake."

The club went on a ghost tour at Gettysburg (Pa.) National Battlefield earlier this summer.

"That's the advantage of having a small group," Gray said. "We can do more things."

The women said they get together to have fun.

"We don't have any rules," Pepper said.

"She's our anti-disestablishment officer," Condor said of Pepper. "That means no rules."

There is one right of passage that the society won't bend. Women younger than 50 can join, but they are not allowed to wear red hats and purple outfits. They wear pink hats and lavender outfits.

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