“I am the last one,” says Sherry Underwood, who is closing her Cup N Saucer on the west side.
“That’s really what makes it sad.”
Cup N Saucer has been open on Central between West Street and I-235 for five years. Underwood says her lease is up and there are nonnegotiable issues that prevent her from signing another one there.
“I have looked for some other places,” she says. “There just isn’t anyplace that I have found that I would not have to put a lot of money into it.”
Part of the expense is what the city requires for businesses that serve food.
“What I would have to go in and do to make it up to code is just ridiculous,” Underwood says. She estimates it would cost $8,000 to $10,000 at most places she’s considered.
“I mean, the list of what the city of Wichita wants … is just incredible.”
The other expense would be transforming a space into a suitable tearoom.
“I want it to look great,” Underwood says.
Cup N Saucer has an English feel, and it’s filled with antiques and collectibles she sells in addition to the lunch and high teas she offers.
“It’s such a sweet atmosphere,” Underwood says.
Cup N Saucer also is a popular place for events such as wedding and baby showers.
“My first two years were wonderful,” Underwood says. “Then the economy kicked in.”
She says her business dropped in half. Underwood called the owners of Riverside Cup of Tea and Aunt Hattie’s Tea Room and heard the same thing.
“People were scared to spend any money except if they had to.”
She let full-time staff go and started doing most everything herself, from cooking and baking to cleaning the bathroom.
Business eventually got better, but Underwood says none of the tearooms recovered to where they once were.
One by one, they began to close, until Cup N Saucer was the only full-service tearoom left.
Dec. 24 is Cup N Saucer’s final day in business.
Underwood will have a sale of the tearoom’s contents from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Dec. 27 and going through Dec. 31.
The lack of traditional tearooms will be a loss for the city, Underwood says.
“I think that ladies need a place to come,” she says. “It is such a nice, comfortable, quiet place to visit.”
There’s no loud music or booming big-screen TVs.
“It’s just a quiet time to sit and relax with friends,” Underwood says.
She says it’s an especially nice break for working women.
“They’re not even in here very long, and I see their shoulders relax, and they’re smiling,” Underwood says. “Maybe they’re in the door three or four steps, and it’s just like, ‘Ahhhh.’”
At this point, Underwood doesn’t plan to reopen, but she hopes someone else will.
“It would be wonderful if someone did.”