Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Goodness Gracious Tea room

It was rare that something new happened in Gallagher, well one exception being Anna Belle's Club. However this week 2 citizens from the grander families in town were opening a tea room. Naturally, it would not be just any tea room, but one in the downstairs of a Victorian home on the main street. These women had been planning it for years. There was an additional room that could be used for private parties.

Caroline (Mrs. Paten Ratliff (Paten) Hollingsworth III) was well known for the dinners, balls, teas, luncheons, and cocktail parties she had at their grand home. She was the ultimate hostess. Her secret was Hattie. Caroline was a very good cook. Hattie was even better. She had started working for them as a young woman when the Hollingsworths were in their 50's.

Hattie had initially worked for Caroline's in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Paten Ratliff Hollingsworth, Jr. When they no longer needed a cook, Caroline swooped in and employed Hattie before anyone knew the cook was available. Caroline's 2 sister-in-laws were still peeved over her quick move. They called her action, underhanded at best .

Hattie's mother had worked for Olivia Hampton (Mrs.Quinton Gallagher Hampton Jr - Wade's grandmother) for years. Caroline had taken advantage of what Hattie had learned, as a little girl holding onto her mother's apron strings, and from 'Miss' Olivia. In addition to all that valuable experience Caroline had time to hone Hattie's skills. Now the presentation was as lovely as the food was delicious. Hattie loved to cook and Caroline had given her free rein of the kitchen and the family's menus. It was a good call. Hattie prepared incredible meals using a combination of traditional food from the South, recipes her elders had brought from the West Indies, and Creole flavors.

Even though the Hollingsworth house was now an empty nest, Caroline had continued entertaining on the same grand scale. But with the kids gone, Hattie had plenty of time to work with Caroline on her new project. Caroline knew that her entertaining skills paired with the well known culinary skills of Hattie, would be successful at any food enterprise they decided to undertake.

Caroline's partner in this endeavour was Blanche, (Mrs. Royce Royal (Roy) Sullivan Jr.). The Sullivans were another one of the old families of Gallagher, like the Hollingsworths and the Hamptons, they were descendants of the original founders of the Grand Gallagher Assembly. Blanche was known for her panache and flare in decorating. She had a unique style that was the envy of all the ladies in town. Roy's great grandfather had made a windfall from investments  in oil and coal. He then invested the earnings in lucrative and safe investments, including, the then new, power companies. This incredible wealth had the family set. They were well off for generations to come.

Caroline and Blanche spent several months carefully planning their new business. Details were important - from the sources of the best international teas and coffees to the toilet paper hangers in the ladies Powder Room. Both ladies had several sets of sterling patterns that they had inherited. One of Blanche's hobbies had been collecting fine china cup and saucers with matching salad plates. She had dozens. Those together with the pieces from the unused extra fine china sets each lady had also inherited, gave them enough for the tea room. Blanche continued scouring EBay for additional pieces to add to their supply.

They had their eyes on the old Adkinson home, a large early 1900's Victorian house that was in excellent condition. The late Mrs. Adkinson was the last to live in the house. She had passed away a year earlier. Caroline had learned that the heirs wanted to get rid of the house, so it was for sale, an unknown fact to most folks in town. Blanche bought the house for cash at a price that was a fraction of its worth. In addition to Roy's family's wealth, Blanche had her own family money. She saw this as another investment to add to her portfolio.

Soon Hattie had the kitchen brought up to her standards and the larder stocked with what she needed. Blanche had put the final touches on the decorations. She selected fine Fitzgerald Irish linens, contracted with Lavenia's House of Lilies and Lavender to provide fresh flowers twice a week, and made sure the business had  both a reputable and dependable repairman and a cleaning person on staff.

Caroline had made sure there was enough china and silver, as well as serving pieces to handle as many guests as the establishment  could hold. Hattie suggested an initial menu of little sandwiches (naturally with the crust off), small muffins, scones, and wafers. All three of the ladies had researched, tasted, and selected premium teas and coffees that they felt would most likely be enjoyed by their clientele.

The women put together a guest list for the soft opening on a Friday. The Grand Opening would be the following Monday. When all the details were taken care of and the invitations sent out, Caroline and Blanche walked through the rooms, making sure every small detail was taken care of. The Goodness Gracious Tea House and Social Parlor was ready for business.

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