WICHITA — Like a number of restaurants, Wichita’s tea rooms are suffering due to the economy. Two are closing. A third was saved thanks to a rent reduction.
Riverside Cup of Tea’s last day in business is Saturday, and Aunt Hattie’s Tea Room at 1810 W. Douglas will close Dec. 30.
“Wichita’s not really supporting their tea rooms,” says Onalea Gerner Crile, who has owned Riverside Cup of Tea for four of its 12 years.
“We’re the most tucked away of all of the tea rooms,” she says of her location at 1617 Briggs, just south of the Castle Inn Riverside.
Almost a year ago, Crile told Have You Heard? she was looking to move. But she decided it was too expensive.
Part of the problem, Crile and others say, is customers look at tea rooms as places only for special occasions.
“If you have enough people come once a year, it’s OK,” says Pat Crumpton, who owns Aunt Hattie’s.
But she says that’s not the case.
“I don’t think most people even think about it — supporting independents,” Crumpton says. “It’s sad, but it’s time for me to move on and go see my grandkids.”
She’s moving to Salina to be with her three grandchildren.
“I gotta get up there before they get too old and don’t want nothin’ to do with me,” she says, laughing.
Sherry Underwood considered closing her Cup-In-Saucer at 4935 W. Central, but her landlord reduced her rent.
“So I get to stay,” she says.
Underwood says she’s tried to price her 3-year-old business economically so customers feel like they can “afford to come every day if they wanted to.”
As a diner herself, Underwood says she’s noticed restaurants starting to do better. She eats out only on the weekends, and last year at this time she says there was rarely a wait on Friday or Saturday nights.
“You are having to start to wait in line for tables again.”
And that gives Underwood’s business some hope.
She says she’s been told that it “takes five years to build a clientele base that you can survive on.”
“I didn’t want to give up too soon.”