Monday, October 24, 2011

Teatime is a Family Affair

Tea room legacy lives on... in the name of an adorable little 20-month-old called McKenna
by Joie de Vivre

The kettle has been on the boil at 810 Electric Avenue in Seal Beach, CA for nearly 20 years.  First came Verna's Off Main, the elegant tea room and antique shop.  When Verna was forced to close down in order to act as executor to a family member's estate, her manager Barbara took over and renamed the quaint spot The Green Door.  When it looked like Barbara too would have to close, with plans to move out of the area, a loyal patron 'saved' the place and opened The Best of Times Tea Cottage.  During this period the tea spot expanded in every way imaginable, adding increased shop space, curating the History of Tea Museum, and hosting Front & Centre's intimate theatrical plays.  Thereafter, a string of owners plied their trade in old town Seal Beach, most recently Loretta, proprietress of Fairy Tea Cottage.

In an era when charming tea establishments have all but gone the way of the dodo, Kristen Alexander has done the unthinkable -- no, she has not closed down yet another tea room -- she has actually opened one!  And bless her for it.  Thanks to her, along with her supportive and involved family, tea is still being served seaside.  The new digs are named McKenna's Tea Cottage -- the namesake being her own baby daughter.  Mom Donna handles the gift shop and attendant details, talented sister Megan handles social media (when not fulfilling the duties of her day job as staff photographer for the city of Huntington Beach), handsome hubby Israel covers "whatever is needed" -- everything from serving to gardening to acting as handyman, and Dad manages the finances.... when not watching granddaughter McKenna, that is.

When I asked Kristen what on earth made her want a tea room, she ingenuously answered, "I am so excited about the people I am going to meet!"... "I've always wanted to have a tea room and gift shop.  It's been a dream of mine.... The whole thing was a fluke.  I looked online and there it was! That was on a Friday at midnight. The next morning [Saturday] I came to look at it and the following morning [Sunday] I made an offer!" And thus the Fairy Tea Cottage enjoyed its own happy ending.  

During my visit, within just 2 days of their taking over, Kristen and crew already had a shiny new menu at the ready; new merchandise lined their entryway bakers' rack, and their gift shop window brimmed with cozy decorations of the season.  My made-to-order sandwich was hearty as well as tasty.  Marguerita, the glue who has held the tea kitchen together through three owners, was prepared with my tea before I even ordered it, and the warm fluffy buttermilk scone and freshly prepared cream made for a thoroughly delightful tea experience.  Add to that the warm, friendly service and relaxed atmosphere and you can be sure I will be going back time and again.

McKenna's grand opening is slated for some time early to mid December, which means I will have an excuse to write about them again!  As Kristen herself said, "The fun is here!" So come enjoy tea by the sea, as part of the family.

McKenna's is open Wed - Sat 11am-3pm.  You may reach them via their Website or Facebook page or the old-fashioned and gentile way, by ringing them at 562-431-0200.