AKRON, Ohio -- West Point Market has taken on a huge challenge with the opening of an English-style tearoom, creating a menu that includes a cheese selection served with port wine-marinated, sliced pears and port wine by the glass.
Dubbed Mrs. Ticklemore's Tea, Cakes & Savouries, the tearoom inside the market in its first month has exceeded original volume projections, said Russell Vernon, chairman of the family-owned company known for its outstanding customer service and merchandising of fresh foods.
The tearoom also offers sets of miniature sandwiches and sets of miniature pastries.
"We use two-tiered trays, instead of the three-tiered ones you usually see, because we can pile food up and it emphasizes the value. We are providing an idea and value as well as quality," Vernon said.
Prices range from $7.95 for the sandwich and pastry trays to $9.95 for a plate of assorted desserts. Port, in two qualities, is $3 and $5 a glass.
The tearoom, which seats 40 people, was launched in October in the space formerly occupied by the retailer's Beside the Point Cafe. As part of recent remodeling, the cafe was relocated to another part of the store and was expanded by bumping out a portion of the outside wall into the parking lot. The restaurant, too, is doing well, Vernon said.
"There's no conflict between the cafe and the tearoom."
A large part of the challenge the single-unit retailer faced with Mrs. Ticklemore's was drawing sufficient traffic and it aimed to do that by targeting men as well as women.
"We want men. Most tearooms target women but we want them both and we think we can appeal to both by not having all the lacey, Victorian things. Our research in England showed us that none of the tearooms there are frilly. They're nice, but very straightforward," Vernon said.
So West Point Market's tearoom shows off a lot of large timbers and natural wood and it's painted "a warm, butterscotch yellow."
"We don't want to send a don't-touch-me, too-elegant message either. We want the room to be warm and fuzzy and friendly -- and fun," Vernon said.
Thus the name Mrs. Ticklemore's. Mrs. T. is a creation of Vernon's imagination. She allegedly hails from Whitby, England, on the country's East Coast, where Vernon did some of his tearoom research.
Open from 8 in the morning till 6 in the evening, the tearoom serves scones with clotted cream from Ireland, sweet butter and wild strawberry preserves until 11 a.m. Then, the tiered trays of miniature sandwiches and pastries and a dessert tray are available after 11.
At four, the Royal Collection -- which includes small wedges of Stilton and farmhouse British cheddar served with toasted walnuts and fresh, sliced pears marinated in port and fanned out on a plate -- makes its appearance, Vernon said.
"That kicks up the afternoon tea, makes it a 'high' tea, except we're not using that word because we want to be free to do what we want. We don't want to promise people what they might think of as 'high tea' they might get at the Ritz."
In the city of Akron, which has a population topping 200,000, there is not one tearoom, Vernon said. Sixteen miles away in Medina there are three, but they're all "the frilly kind." So by marketing his tearoom to everybody, Vernon expects to draw more customers into the store and to keep them there longer.
After six in the evening, the tearoom can by reserved for organization meetings, baby and wedding showers, and the like. Also, West Point Market will schedule themed events of its own and plans to put tea tastings and seminars on the agenda, Vernon said.