Mad as a hatter? Dog friendly Wanstead tea room celebrates first anniversary
- Credit: Archant
Sitting at a drab desk dreaming of tempting teas, scrumptious scones and crunchy crumpets was a regular occurrence for a South Woodford pair – until they made it their day job.
Friends Debbie Roper and Tracy Reed have known each other for 15 years, and had always harboured the ambition of opening a tea room similar to those they would visit on holidays in Cornwall.
After calling time on their nine-to-fives, the pair jumped head first into opening Time for Tea, in Station Parade, Wanstead, last year and are now celebrating their first year in business.
They’ve also gone a long way to ensuring dog-owners can enjoy a break while sitting with their pet, as it was important to both of them that the tea room be pooch-friendly.
“We both had bog standard jobs,” explains Debbie. “I worked in a college, and Tracy worked as a receptionist.
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“We talked about it in depth for a long time and one day we thought ‘let’s just do it and see what happens’. Once we found a premises, our husbands re-decorated it for us and we haven’t looked back.”
The 49-year-old has since roped in her daughter, Ellouise, 17, to help out at weekends – as has Tracy, with her daughter Sienna a regular fixture behind the counter.
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Despite never owning a business before, the pair have flourished – though Debbie concedes she underestimated the physical strain of serving tea and cake.
She says: “You would think it would be a nice and quaint life, but it’s hard work.
“We do the baking on site, so that can lead to long hours. We left our nine to fives with five weeks holiday, and have both had about five days off in the past year.
“It’s been a challenge, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Debbie and Tracy originally met as neighbours, and have been inseparable ever since. Aside from working together, in recent years the pair moved into the same road again within six months of each other.
Though a bond was formed over their shared dream, they also share a love for their pooches and made the decision to ensure Time for Tea was dog friendly.
Debbie adds: “It’s such a huge relief when you go away and find somewhere to eat that lets dogs in.
“Our dog is part of our family, so having to leave him at home seems a bit wrong. Health and safety told us there’s no rule against it, as long as they are not on the counter – but they said it might offend some people.
“I don’t think it’s put people off, so far we’ve only had good feedback – plus we’ve got a nice little courtyard for the really big dogs.”
Breaking the stereotype that tea rooms are for elderly ladies, Debbie and Tracy have hosted 21st and 40th birthday parties, as well as hen dos – and the business has become a beacon for young mothers.
“We get them coming in when they’re pregnant,” says Debbie. “And then again when they’ve had their little babies – that’s really nice to see.
“It really is all sorts we get in here, from teenagers right up to pensioners.”
You can keep up-to-date with the goings on at the Wanstead tea room on Twitter @TimeFor_Tea.