For nearly two decades, the Front Porch Tea Room has served as the region’s, well, cup of tea.
Now that cup can be sipped by a different owner as the business is up for sale.
“After an amazing 18 years, we have decided to retire and move closer to our children,” said owner and founder Bonnie Helm, who will turn 75 in May.”I will miss all the wonderful customers and friends I have made at the Tea Room, and my fantastic staff will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Throughout that time, Helm says she’s served guests from all 50 states and 53 countries.
“I stopped keeping track about four years ago,” she said.
Built in 1869 on about three-quarters of an acre in Hallam, the two-story Victorian-style building was a rental property for which Helm and her husband Jack were the landlords for 12 years. Once the tenants left, Helm said she decided not to rent it out anymore and opted to pursue her dream of opening her own restaurant. A bank turned her down. But after she came back and presented the idea of a tea room, Helm said she was approved for a loan.
“And everything fell into place,” she said, noting how she was able to find eggplant-colored carpeting and furniture with eggplant and teal accents that were initially slated for the dump. “The Lord directed it.”
In Helm’s 18 years with the business, she’s also published and sold more than 170 cookbooks that have been shipped all over the country.
The 24 W. Market St. tea room sits in a 3,410-square-foot, newly remodeled home with two bedrooms and one full bathroom. The tea room seats 40 people, while the gardens can accommodate up to 175 patrons. It has been featured in TeaTime magazine. Currently, Helm says there are about seven part-time employees that assist with events and regular teatimes.
The sale price, listed by ROCK Commercial Real Estate, is $430,000, and includes the business, real estate and furniture, fixtures and equipment. Heather Kreiger of ROCK Commercial Real Estate said the property and business have the “potential to be an outstanding wedding and special events destination.”
Helm hopes that her established business will continues to flourish in the hands of the right buyer.
“I really hope someone doesn’t turn it into a hair salon and real estate office,” she said. “The Tea Room has truly been a blessing to me, and I look forward to finding a person who will carry on the tradition.”
Helm also noted that she would stick around a few months after the sale to help train the prospective buyer to get into the swing of things.
“I love it, but it’s time to retire,” she said.