tampabay.com

Tearoom closer to reality

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published June 22, 2007


The quaint, wooden teacup hanging from a moss-draped live oak in front of Lynn Davis' Teacup Tearoom says: "Coming Soon."

The sign Davis carved with her teenage son has dangled for months in front of the 1960s Florida ranch house she bought last year along a scenic stretch of Lithia-Pinecrest Road in Brandon.

It's more of a promise than anything, a way of telling passing motorists that Davis' dream will come to fruition.

"One day the 'coming soon' part was down and a woman called and asked, 'Are you open, are you finally open?' and I had to say 'No, that part of the sign was down for weekend repairs, ' " she said.

She and her husband, Paul, an electrical engineer who works for Tampa Electric, and their two children, Olivia, 8, and Cameron, 14, have lived in Valrico for nine years.

A stay-at-home mom with a serious love of family and home, she calls herself "an in-progress Christian."

"I'm learning to lean on God, " explains Davis, 44, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Brandon. "I'm learning to spend more time in prayer rather than frustration. I want this tearoom when it opens to be a blessing for the people of Brandon. I want it to be good for the community and good for our families."

The tearoom is Davis' dream - a place she hopes will combine her love of entertaining and antiques that will bring people together over lunch and a pot of Earl Grey.

She's also hoping to host events such as bridal and baby showers, and even small wedding ceremonies, on the bricked terrace.

Her projected opening day is Sept. 1, which has been pushed back twice so far this year. The delays, she said, are a result of the learning curve involved with starting a small business - especially when it involves starting one in a 1, 816-square-foot house in a growing area.

"I've always been business minded and had a great aptitude for numbers, but I had never owned a business, " she says. "It's a long learning process. If you don't know the right questions to ask, you won't get the right answers."

Since she planned to serve food in the tearoom, Davis had to comply with a long list of county regulations, from installing a proper water system to having a site plan drawn up by an engineer.

Each step of the process has pushed her opening date back by a few months, but the end is in sight.

The pine floors in what were once the bedrooms of the house have been completely refurbished, the kitchen and banquet room are nearly complete. The banquet room will be decorated with antique stained glass windows, canopied seating areas and crystal chandeliers. A serious devotee of garage and estate sales, Davis has been slowly filling the house with her finds that include antique dining chairs and china cabinets, a corner hutch, a porch swing and pretty patio furniture. Her husband and children, along with in-laws who drive down from Ocala and stay in a pop-up camper in her back yard, have all gotten into the act by helping out on weekends. Slowly, they've coaxed the old brick house with white columns back into shape.

Everyone has found a niche for his or her talents.

"My son, who is a great carpenter, has helped me make the fireplace mantel, " she says.

Davis fell in love with the house after her Realtor, Regina Fox, showed her a number of properties around Brandon.

The woman who first lived in the house, Lillian Monroe, made it known that she wanted a place friends could gather for tea in the back yard

A woman came by one day and dropped off Monroe's old tea set - just a little gift for the proprietor of a tearoom. Davis plans to display it in an alcove off the kitchen.

She's welcoming visitors while she remodels.

She'll serve you a strong cup of faith, sweetened with all her "dreams and good intentions."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.