After six years on Washington Avenue, the London Tea Room (1520 Washington Avenue; 314-241-6556) is packing up and heading for Tower Grove. Owner Jackie James tells us that a move has actually been in the works for at least two years as more businesses have left the daytime Washington Avenue scene.
"We just felt like an island. Unless we had people literally getting in the car and driving down to us, we just weren't seeing business," James says. "Our weekends were great, but that just wasn't enough to keep us going down there. We had a lot of debates about that."
The new space, at 3128 Morganford Road, will almost double the current square footage, which will give the London Tea Room the ability to host events that were nearly impossible to do downtown.
"We had to turn away a lot of groups because they all want weekends, and that's when we're busy. It's awkward if you don't have your own space," James says. "We realized the back space would actually be perfect to have groups of about up to 40 people, where we could offer a very upscale experience, whether it be a bridal shower or little girl tea party, but keeping it very elegant."
Unfortunately, the lunch menu will be verypared down, though James says some items will still be available. This will allow the owners to focus on their real passion, she says: tea. There will be tables in the front of the cafe with in-house pastries ("of course, our scones"), the beloved quiche, and light lunch fare.
"Eliminating that [lunch] lets us focus on the events and our tea which is the number-one passion we have. Tea is why we started," she says. "While it's great to see the café grow, there hasn't been the time to put in the actual thing that we really want to do, which is tea."
To that end, the owners are planning to develop more tea-infused recipes and even cocktails. They'll use the event space for things like tea education and sampling classes and British movie nights.
The London Tea Room will close January 19 and reopen on February 5 on Morganford Road, with a grand opening celebration following in March.
"Sometimes when you try and do too much, you can't do it well, and if you focus on the things you love and you know you can do well, then you're going to do them well," James says. "If you spread yourself too thin, then everything's going to be half done. It's important that we focus on the things we do love to do, and I think it will boost us in the long run."