The walls of the British Collection and Tea Room are bare, the tables without placemats. After 15 years on Royal Street, owner Vivian Bacon has called it quits, and sold off the last of the framed posters, teapots, cozies, sandwiches, truffles, scones and tea to eager, loyal customers who will have to go somewhere else on Sundays or for bridal and baby showers.
Im just exhausted, Bacon said. Ive worked six to seven days a week for the last 15 years.
Sure, her lease is up and the rent would most likely increase, Bacon said, but after a long vacation in her hometown of Norwich, England, she will come back to Alexandria to embark on her next adventure.
Two loyal customers, Shelton Brown and Allie Phillips drank their last cups of tea, bittersweetly talking about where they would go next weekend.
This is a huge loss. My nephew will be devastated. I havent told him yet, said Brown.
Well said Phillips, My family lives in Michigan and came here for Labor Day. I called home and after I told him he walked over to my mother and said, I have some really bad news, and my mother thinks something horrible happened. He told her about the tea shop and she said Oh, for goodness sake, you almost gave me a coronary!
Lauren Park sat with friends. It was her first and last experience with the shop. Oh, today? I had no idea it was closing, she said. I heard of this place for a while and Im very glad to have come.
The experience of owning the shop was wonderful, said Bacon, and was glad she could go out on a high. But, When you do a job like this you live it, she said.
Bacon moved to the area in the early 1980s with a background in hotel management. She once owned another business in Old Town, the Profiles Plus beauty salon on Union Street.
Bacon said that one should never say never about opening another business, but she stressed that she was getting out while the getting was good. Business was slowing in Old Town, and competition from neighboring hot spots was taking people, mostly the locals, away.
You have Clarendon, Potomac Yards, the Eisenhower complex, Shirlington … 15 years ago there was no Pentagon City. After all, people can only go out so many days a week. At least Im getting out while people still love the shop, she said.