Thursday, 27 April 2017

We are closing the tea room...

So, the situation is this…with so much gratitude and thanks, we are closing our tea room doors to focus on the events we cater for and style, and, above all else, our family life.
This weekend, will be our last in the tea room in Totley. All of the other parts of our business will continue to grow and thrive as we move forwards with happy hearts.  I’ve talked before about our opening of the tea room being ‘accidental’ rather than a lifelong dream.  That said, we have loved creating a special space and developing a community within it. 

We have had a ball.  However, we are knackered.   Running what is essentially two separate businesses - the tea room and the external events side of things - whilst one of us works full time as a shift-working healthcare professional and we attempt to have a full and balanced happy family life with our two boys is, it turns out, IMPOSSIBLE for us to achieve without completely losing our slow living ideals and potentially our MINDS!!
We have been thinking about how best to proceed since we took an extended break over Christmas.  We have, in the last few days, finally decided that we can no longer attempt to balance so many different responsibilities.  When forced to choose, it seems our hearts are with the external events side of our business where we have the privilege of being a part of the most wonderful life-affirming and heart-warming celebrations.

And so, as quickly as we jumped in to our fabulous tea room adventure, we are, just as quickly, jumping out of it again. We have learnt so much about ourselves during this experience. There have been incredible highs and depressing lows.  We have had amazing support from so many people and ultimately, we are coming out of this time feeling positive and lucky to have experienced all that we have.  We have learnt loads which we shall take forwards with us on new adventures.
To celebrate all that we have enjoyed and achieved over the past eighteen months we are going out with a bang with ALL the PIZZA and ALL the GIN this weekend.  Join us from 11am until 9pm on Friday and Saturday. 

Chin-Chin and heartfelt thanks.
Moving forwards…..
For anyone booked in with us for external events, you now have our FULL FOCUS - hurrah!  We kick-off with our first (and biggest) wedding of the year on Saturday 6th May. 

We shall also be POPPING-UP at local events and creating our own events…our first being at my very favourite landmark in Sheffield,  the fabulous historic Abbeydale Pictcure House at the Antique Market there on Sunday 30th March.  See you there J
In the meantime we shall be reducing the price of our wholesale stock and selling off our fixtures and fittings.

If you are interested in renting the shop - to take over as a going concern  with fixtures and fittings as is,or as a completely new venture - then please contact Julie on 07920 422337.
And finally, if you have unused gift vouchers then please do contact us on and we shall reimburse you.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

The time is now

Warning:  If you are here simply for tea room frolicks then you may wish to look away now....
I don't know about you but I intensely dislike the feeling of being cold.  I am not referring to being a little chilly when caught without a favourite pair of gloves on a beautifully frosty morning.  I mean that bone chilling cold when, despite the layers of clothing you are wearing, the thick woolly jumper, the winter coat, the scarf (sometimes two!), you still feel frozen to your very core.  The only thing that enables you to thaw out is a hot drink whilst snuggled up by the fire that you’ve lit because the central heating just isn’t cutting it today.  Or, maybe you shake off the numbing coldness by sinking into a deep bubble bath because that’s the only thing that could possibly warm you up.

Imagine feeling that cold all day.  Every day.  Then imagine feeling even colder all through the night. Each and every night.  It’s hard to fully imagine that isn’t it.  But the homeless people living on the streets of every city in the UK  don’t need to imagine it.  This is the reality of their lives.   Add to this the gnawing hunger, the constant threat of danger, the lack of dignity, the judgements, the loneliness, the dirt, the untreated mental and physical illness, the lost hope, living with the fear and the memories of whatever led you to have nowhere to call home.  No comforts, no hope, no joy.
Imagine this was the life of one of your parents.  Your sibling.  Your child.   But this wouldn’t happen to them would it because they have you.  Unless of course, you were not able to be there for them, or something got in the way; pride, mental illness, family disputes.

As I get older, I find that I am more content.  More comfortable.  My life continues to become richer in so many ways. I am lucky that this is largely circumstantial but it is also that I have the luxury of being able to recognise all that I have and for that I am grateful.  I am not wealthy in material terms but then I guess that is relative.  I have all that I need.  I am happy.  The things that provide me with the most pleasure are the simple things in life, being surrounded by the love of my family and friends, the roof over my head in which I retreat to find the many comforts of home.  The time and clarity of mind to see what I have and appreciate it and share it.    When the hard times hit, I am supported and helped through them.  I draw on my reserves and I face my fears.  I overcome the sadness and anxieties.  I wait until the good times return, as they always do.
I deserve to feel this way don’t I?  I have worked hard throughout my life.  I have grown and developed and learnt.  I have evolved.  I have put effort into building relationships and a good family life. I am proud of all I have achieved and who I am.  If I can do it then surely everyone can…can’t they?  Of course, there are personal struggles to conquer but then that is the way of life isn’t it? 

So, why then, are our streets lined with people who have lost their way, lost their homes , lost themselves? 
Figures released last week by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) suggest that the numbers of homeless people in the UK have increased over the last year by 16%, rising from 3569 to 4134.  I have been reading the stories of people who appeared to have life sorted only to find out how easily their lives can crumble; a lost job, being left by a partner, a sick child, personal illness, a lack of family support; things stack up until the situation becomes impossible.  It would be easy to make judgements about who these people are.  Why they, instead of me, and instead of you, are facing such hardship.  As you learn more, it becomes clear, that moving from a position in life of being comfortable and ‘successful’ to becoming homeless can be, it would appear, startlingly easy.

I find it heartbreaking that I have so much whilst others have so little.  But what to do?  I feel guilty but unwilling to compromise the life I enjoy.   I live in an area of Sheffield that is considered to be a ‘good’ area.  The majority of people who live here are comfortable…we don’t tend to see the face of homelessness in Totley.  It is easy to busy ourselves with the challenges of the everyday which distract and shield us from the harsh realities life can offer.  However, I recognise that for me, it is time to make a change.  I have been talking about wanting to do ‘something’ for long enough.  It is time for action.  Time to try to make some small difference to someone elses life, or, rather more hopefully, to the lives of a few people.  Time to be kind to people we don’t yet know but who could benefit from our support .
A number of friends, neighbours and acquaintances have stepped forward to join in.   I have begun to research homeless organisations and projects currently running in the city.  There are a lot of good things already happening but there needs to be more.  I want to be a part of this ‘more’.

I am no martyr.  I have walked past homeless people in the street.  I have judged them.  I have made assumptions and jumped to conclusions.  I have decided not to give them my money, concerned that they are as likely to spend that money on alcohol or drugs as they are on much needed food.  If I am honest with myself, if I had gone through all that a person goes through to lead them to this life of homelessness then I would be really very likely to spend the little cash I came by on drink or drugs in an attempt to want to try to block out some of the pain if only for a short time.  I would lack the motivation and focus to seek out help and support and to always try to do the right thing.  I would, quite possibly, appear to be desperate and pathetic to you as you passed me by in the street on your way home from work.  Maybe my fears of where my money would go would reflect on me rather than on the homeless person in front of me asking for what little I may be willing to give.
Before I opened the tea room I worked in the City Centre at one of the city’s two universities.  When leaving work I would often see the same homeless woman as I walked past her particular ‘bit’ of Sheffield.  One bitterly cold evening I stopped to chat to hear.  Tears rolled down her face as she spoke of her fear of spending that cold night on the street.  I asked her what I could do for her that would make the most difference.  She said a sleeping bag that was easy to carry would be of the most use.  And tampons.  Until then, I had never even considered what a women on the street may face each month when she gets her period.  I promised that I would go back to see her that night.  I had fully intended to return with a sleeping bag and tampons and hot food.  But then I got home and one of my kids was ill.  My husband had to work late.  My life got in the way and I never returned to see that homeless woman whose face I can still picture and whose words I can still hear in my head.  I continue to feel bad about this now, years later.

I’m really good at talking about what could be done to make a difference, offering my opinion without translating the well intentioned thoughts into any kind of action which could make any actual difference.  Well, enough of talking…it’s time to be that difference. 
Watch this space.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Have you heard of it?  Hygge?  A Danish term pronounced something along the lines of ‘Hoo-gah’ and one of the key factors thought to influence the repeated rating of Denmark as one of the world's happiest countries.  So what is it with this ‘hygge’ phenomenon which is thought to contribute to keeping the Danes so happy despite the prolonged cold spells, long hours of darkness during the winter months and high taxes?

There is no direct English translation for Hygge.  The word ‘cosy’ does come up quite regularly in attempts to define Hygge but as Meik Wiking – the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen - highlights in ‘The Little Book of Hygge, ‘cosy’ does not adequately cover ‘the art of creating intimacy’.
In her beautiful blog, ‘Hygge’, half Danish, half English, Louisa Thomsen Brits describes Hygge as:-

“The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive. To create well-being, connection and warmth. A feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. Celebrating the everyday”.

Lou goes on to talk about how Hygge is to do with the simple things in life that make us feel happy, comforting simple rituals which our everyday lives value and meaning and leave us feeling rooted and connected to ourselves, to those we love, to our communities and to nature;

“…it’s an uncomplicated, practical method of weaving the stuff of spirit and heart into daily life without sentimentality…. Hygge is a kind of enchantment …  a way of giving something ordinary a special context, spirit and warmth, taking time to make it extraordinary.

I came across the concept of hygge a couple of years ago and fell in love with the way it seems to encapsulate the sheer enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.  We all do things that embody hygge but maybe we don’t always take the time to fully acknowledge and appreciate them.  It can be this slowing down and fully embracing the simple daily rituals life offers which can all add up to create a deep sense of happiness and contentment.   For me personally, typical moments of hygge can be;
  • being snuggled up under a blanket on the sofa with my boys when it is cold outside; a mug of hot chocolate in hand whilst we watch a film together
  • sharing a meal with friends
  • a walk through the woods
  • a candlelit bath
  • sunset on a deserted beach
  • sharing a random conversation with a stranger which brightens the day for both of us
  • taking the time to try out a new recipe with the joyful anticipation of tucking in to the end result
  • adventures with my love, just the two of us
  • when someone surprises me with their genorousity and kindness
  • the smell of the pages of a new book and the excitement of getting lost amongst those pages
  • spontaneous dancing around the kitchen to a favourite song
  • giving more than is expected
  • fairy lights and candles
  • listening to birdsong
  • embracing the seasons
  • noticing the arrival of spring time flowers
  • sitting outside on a warm summers evening
  • the crunching of autumn leaves beneath my feet
  • Bonfire night
  • Christmas Eve
  • snowman building
  • my morning ritual of being up before anyone else in the house, making tea and baking scones
  • putting the world to rights through conversation and laughter with good friends
  • pottering in the garden
  • taking in a breathtaking view
If this is all sounding a little too idealistic then make no mistake that I am not living in a dream world where my head is buried in the sand to avoid the harsh realities of the world in which we live.  I am an overthinking, plain speaking, non-believing atheist who can all too easily feel overwhelmed and give in to feelings of disappointment, fear, self-doubt, loneliness, anger, worry, cynicism, negativity.  I sometimes feel guilty that I have a life that allows me the luxury of considering such idealisms as hygge when all around the world there is suffering and pain and despair. 

But I also value and recognise how lucky I am to be living the life I have with all that this life of mine provides – not the material things but the relationships, the time, the joy. I believe in people and in the power of joining together to do good things.  By embracing and acknowledging more of the small simple moments that follow on from each other to form the minutes and hours and days and weeks and years of my life, I am able to be increasingly grateful and appreciative for all that I have.  In doing so, I feel lucky even during the more challenging moments that life delivers.  In recent years, despite experiencing some extremely difficult and very sad times, I am, in a general sense, happier, and more content.  Maybe I am more hygge.
Through reaching a place of appreciation and thankfulness for simply being alive, I feel more equipped to give back a little more to others, to my community, to attempt to make my place in the world count for something, to try to make a difference. To make the most of the hand I have been dealt.  To live an honest and authentic life.  A happy hygge-filled life.

When I made the leap to open up the tea room, hygge was very much in my mind.  I was keen to create a sense of calm, an informal, relaxing happy place, somewhere to relax and take the time to enjoy the moment; be that the ritual of tea making with loose leaves served in fine china whilst lazing in an armchair that wraps itself around you; or catching up with a friend over a delicious lunch made with simple ingredients beautifully presented.  A place to connect with others, engage in conversation with a stranger, or to get lost in one’s own thoughts, to simply sit and be.

Join us sometime.  Come hygge with us.


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Open all hours?, actually.

We, as in Teatime Vintage,  (me and The Lovely Husband Man, aka full time Radiographer) have now been open for almost eight months. From the start we knew that opening our tea room and shop for as many hours each day as possible, and for as many days of the week as possible, was important for two main reasons:- 

1.  To enable us to provide a good service within our community by being available to meet with customer needs, wants and expectations.

2.  So that we could maximise our potential takings each day - we love what we do but we cannot afford to do it for free.

It's obvious isn't it?  No-one starts a business with the idea that you want to irritate your customers and risk losing money by having inconsistent and relatively limited opening hours.  That said,  we are also realistic about our own personal situation and about maintaining some sense of work-life balance in order to look after our family and to remain happy and, quite frankly, sane.

Whilst this little business of ours is important to us and we want to do it  as well as we possibly can, it is not as important to us as those we love.  We shall NEVER put the business before the needs and wellbeing of our two sons.  We are, at times, at risk  of putting the needs of the business before our own personal needs but we try hard - and sometimes we even succeed - to limit the impact of that.

We chose the location of our business to be within walking distance from home and the two different schools our children attend.  Up until now we have opened up each morning at 10am and for three days a week we have closed at 3pm.  This has meant that we have been able to take and collect our youngest (now five year old) son to and from school during his year in the reception class.

Over the past few months we have built our business up enough to sustain employing part-time staff to help us with both the day-to-day running of the shop and with the external catering and events side of our business (weddings and other celebrations mainly). Prior to this, when we felt we couldn't afford to pay for staff,  I worked in the shop six days a week in addition to us doing all of the external events, until I felt too exhausted to keep up that pace. I continue to do all of the baking and management of both side of the business. 

Our profit margins are moderate. We aim to provide excellent quality and service at a reasonable price.  Some days we are very busy, some days we are very quiet.  There is little to no pattern to this, which results in a challenging decision making process about opening hours and staffing levels.  To manage costs, we, as is the way with many sole traders, perform many different roles to keep the business going...we wear many 'different hats'.  Occasionally, the wheels fall off....we drop some of the juggling balls....some of the plates stop spinning and come crashing to the floor. 

If one of our sons is sick, or if I am ill, then we can be left with no option but to close the shop for a day or two with no prior notice. We also close our shop during our family holidays away - if we didn't do this then we would be losing a considerable amount of money in order to keep the shop open and we cannot afford to do this.  If we have a private party booking then we may decide to close the tea room to walk-ins to accommodate a confirmed booking with guaranteed numbers.

Each time we take the decision to close the shop, it is a decision that is not taken lightly.  We would, of course, prefer to be in a position to keep the shop open regardless.  Which, brings me to the disappointment I feel when apparently well meaning people suggest that they hope they don't offend me when they advise me that (not them but) 'local people' don't like it when I hang up a notice on the shop door to say that I have to close that day because my child is sick.  Or that our inconsistent opening hours put people off supporting our business at all - as if this is something we haven't considered and worried about.    Well, yes, actually, you do offend me.  You offend my morals and my intelligence and I suspect that no matter how much you may like the idea of independent local shops, you are not, in reality, consistently supportive of the independent retailer.

I'm going to take a risk and spell it out here... we very much value our customers and want to provide a good service within the local area. We appreciate genuine feedback from customers about what we do and how we can improve the experience we provide.  However, there may be times when it is impossible for us to open up, to get staffing cover.  To clarify, IF EITHER OF MY KIDS ARE ILL THEN THEY ARE MY PRIOIRTY I WILL BE HOME WITH THEM and not serving you tea and cake.  I'm guessing that if I am ill then you don't really want me baking the cake you will eat or me in the shop coughing into your afternoon tea.

Thankfully, our loyal regular customers have been wonderfully understanding and supportive of our need to balance our business with the needs of our family.  We are truly appreciative and thankful for this. We are also in the fortunate position of being able to continue to develop our business.  It is with this in mind that we are happy to share with you our new longer opening hours that we are able to bring to you with the support and commitment of our growing team:-

From Monday 5th September, when we will be offering our newly expanded menu, we shall be open from Monday to Friday from 8.45am until 4.30pm and on Saturday's we shall be open from 10am until 4pm.  We shall continue to remain closed on Sunday's and Bank Holiday Monday's.  We hark back to years gone by when the world seemed to move at a slower pace with these times reserved for fun with family and friends. 

There will inevitably continue to be the occasional 'sick day' when we may need to close without advance warning. We shall also continue to close during our family holidays.  We apologise in advance that we will not be open ALL of the hours on ALL of the days but we shall keep doing what we do as well as we can, as often as we can.  Huge thanks to all who 'get it' and support us in this. 

Supporting local independent businesses feels good.  Your support enables the business to thrive and to enrich the community of which it is a part, by bringing character and diversity.  Share the love.  Build and connect with your community. Shop local.  Embrace slow living.  Enjoy the experience.  Say 'no' to the 'open all hours' culture that the big chain retailers have groomed us to believe is the shiny new way.

Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing our ongoing adventure. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Oops I accidentally opened a tea room....part three.

Finally....the last  instalment of the trilogy of posts to bring you up to speed with how we 'accidentally' opened a tea room.

In the six weeks from advising the shop landlady (mid October 2015) that yes, indeed, we not only wanted to take on the shop but also, that we wanted to be in the shop and open before Christmas, to ACTUALLY opening our tea room,  a number of things happened. In no particular order -
  1. There was a considerable amount of number crunching and extensive list making activity,
  2. All manner of outcomes and scenarios were 'put out there' in 'what if...?' type conversations between me and The Husband.
  3. My sleeping patterns became erratic as I became increasingly EXCITED and SCARED in equal measure
  4. Frantic online shopping for supplies, sourcing wholesalers for all those 'hidden' things you don't immediately consider when you conjure up the romantic image of running a vintage tea room...loo rolls...hand towels....chalk pens....till rolls...a till...
  5. Lot's of fun was had sourcing furniture that would fit in with the image in my head of how the tea room would look. Followed by the gripping FEAR that the things I had purchased may not work in the way I had hoped.
  6. I received tremendous encouragement and support from my family and close friends and people I hadn't been in touch with for years who offered advice and became my' cheering squad'.
  7. I looked to the many Sheffield based independent retailers, many of whom are woman in business, working Mum's like myself, and found inspiration and hope that 'it' was do-able.
  8. We had the perfect excuse to visit other tea rooms and cafes to check out similar businesses and scrutinise how other people were doing it.
  9. We AGONISED over setting our prices - too high, not offering good value for money and putting customers off; too low and we might look cheap.
  10. We made contact with some really very talented and lovely local artisans and suppliers, told them about what we do and crossed our fingers in the hope that they would come on board and collaborate with us.
  11. We went on tea-tasting and coffee-tasting visits to choose our two key drinks suppliers.  More about this another time...the coffee tasting trip was particularly entertaining.
  12. The talented illustrator Jenny Robins  who designed our logo a few years ago, took a GIANT leap of faith and despite never having met us came to stay at our home for a few nights to hand paint our beautiful shop sign. 
  13. We decorated and fitted the shop in the space of a week - late nights, early mornings.  Part of the 'fitting' process involved the removal of the 'surprise' gas pipe that came to light when the old sink was taken out and the two day delay that ensued and included a lack of running water until the day before we opened....not stressful at!!!
  14. The night before we were due to open - still not knowing if we would get our act together on time despite having SHOUTED about our opening on social media - I  stayed in the shop until after midnight with my sister-in-law; pricing stock, eating takeaway and feeling a sense of hysteria rising and wondering if we would get any customers.
At 12pm on Saturday 5th December 2016, I turned around our handpainted sign to 'open'.  I joined The Husband who was standing behind our counter - our recently acquired, newly positioned vintage map drawers.  As our first customer approached, we felt like kids playing at cafe's. 

The Husband turned to me and said "just remind do you serve loose leaf tea?"!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Oops...I accidentally opened a tea room - Part two

Me:  "Hello.  I've been given your number by the current shop tenant.  I'm just ringing to find out a little more information about rent and length of lease and....stuff like that.....".

Shop landlady:  "Ok.  That's great.  I'm actually speaking to you from Tenerife.  We get home on Friday.  I'll call you back then if that's ok?".

Me:  "Of course.  Great!  Enjoy the rest of your holiday".

Crikey, WHAT am I doing?!

Four days later, and only five days since my initial viewing of the shop with the 'TO LET' sign still in the window.

Shop landlady: " unless you have any more questions then I'll leave it with you to decide if you want to go ahead.  We will need an answer by Monday if at all possible as there are four other parties interested in leasing the shop and I don't want to keep them hanging on unnecessarily.  But you were the first to contact me and so you have first refusal".

One weekend - all of two days - later....

Me:  "So yes, we definitely want to take on the lease for the shop as soon as possible please".

After finishing the call. I turn to face The Husband who is sat beside me...

Me (wide eyed and with an increasingly knotted stomach):  "It would seem that we are about to open a tea room".

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Oops....I accidentally opened a tea room : Part one

"I've seen a shop" I said to my husband on his return home from a busy day of Radiography-ing at a local-ish hospital.

"Right" he replied carefully with a suspicious narrowing of the eyes whilst trying to simultaneously  get a grasp of both the situation and of our youngest son who was hugging (neck locking) him."When you say you have 'seen' a shop...?"

Me:  "It's up for lease.  The gift shop.  Just up on Baslow Road.  At the top of Main Street.  Next to the hairdressers.  Across the road from the Farm Shop who catered the pie and pea supper for our wedding.  I only went in to have a look.  I was on the way home from the school run and there was a sign that said 'TO LET'.

The Husband:  "OK".

Me:  "There's so much more space on offer than you might expect.  It's not just the one room where the shop is, they also have an office attached and there's a little yard outside and a fancy garage space that is being used as a store room.  You could do so many different things with the 'bits'.  I can see how it would work as a tea room and gift shop.  I mean, I know I've always said that I would NEVER want to run a café or anything but it was there with the 'TO LET' sign and I was passing by on my way back from school this morning and just thought I'll go and have a quick know, like when you're out shopping and you're not really looking to buy anything but you see THE perfect dress only it's a bit pricey and you know you can't really afford it and so you just try it on anyway 'cos chances are it will look bad on you and so you can just walk away from it knowing it never was actually THE perfect dress and then you need never think about that dress again".

The Husband (slightly bewildered by my onslaught):  "Right.  Ok.  So, you went to have a look at the shop?"

Me: " I did. Just out of interest to have a look round and to find out how much it is and everything.  Just so that I can then walk away from it knowing it isn't 'doable'.  I mean, I know it's not something we have been planning to do necessarily (at all) but it's not often local shops come up situated right between your own home and your youngest child's the ONLY place you could currently consider opening up a tea room or something and still being able to have a life".

The Husband: "So, are we saying that even though you NEVER want to run a café we are might be looking to open up a tea room"?

Me: "Hmmm...when you put it like that I guess that yes, maybe that is what we are looking to do. SURPRISE!".