This year is Sweet Shalom’s tenth anniversary! We can hardly believe we’ve reached this place in our history. Looking back, many memories come flooding in. When we first saw the 1864 house for sale, we immediately envisioned a beautiful Victorian tea room. A vision blossomed in our minds and hearts, and we said to each other “Let’s do it !” We made a mental list of what needed to be done to accomplish our dream. We needed capital in order to fund the restoration of the house, and bring the deteriorated shell of a building up to code. We decided to take tea on the road and did private and community teas to raise the money. We managed to raise about one percent of the money needed! The restoration of the house, out of financial necessity, became a huge DIY project. It took seven years to finish the house, while facing innumerable disasters. The day a squirrel chewed through all the new electrical wiring was difficult. Finishing the veranda only to have a building inspector force us to tear it down and rebuild when one step was found to be one half inch taller than the rest, and having the health department require we install five sinks in the kitchen was very discouraging. Making a $2000.00 mistake on the ventilation hood also slowed the process. Even though these sorts of difficulties continued, we kept putting one foot in front of the other and slowly moved ahead. We had anticipated some set backs but considering what a lovely tea room can do to enhance a community, we were sure we would be welcomed by the city. We soon found out how naive we were. Issues with opening a tea room in Sylvania were unexpectedly difficult and totally shocking to us. Getting a permit to open also took seven hurtful years of working with the planning commission, attending public hearings with city council, letter writing, and gathering signatures for petitions . We were finally able to obtain the coveted permit after helping write new legislation in conjunction with city counsel and the city attorney. Tea rooms were finally legal in Sylvania. Who knew? It took a while to overcome the post traumatic stress syndrome but recover we did. And in September, 2005 we had our grand opening with city officials and the town crier in attendance. What a moment of triumph that was for us when the ribbon was cut, and we were officially and finally in business!
Running a tea room has proven to be both more challenging than we ever could have imagined and more of a blessing than we could have anticipated. Anyone in the food service industry or anyone who owns an old house can empathize with the challenges of health department inspections, freezer breakdowns, weeds in flower beds, crabgrass sprouting up in brick paving, shingles needing to be replaced, staffing issues, and so much more. But the blessings–oh, the blessings!–have made it all worth while.
Our customers have become very dear to us, and in many cases have become close friends. In one instance, a beloved customer who was dying of cancer told her husband that she just wanted to come to Sweet Shalom as long as she could. When she passed away, just days after coming to tea with us, we all grieved with her family. When someone tells us that she feels like she’s been to church after coming to tea, you know you’re doing something right. When a guest tells us that he feels the peace of God–the Shalom–as soon as he walks in our front door, we know we are where we’re supposed to be. When a grandma brings her grandchild for her first Tea and we watch them interacting lovingly over the teacups, we know that the struggles and hard work have all been worthwhile.
Thank you for the memories.