Phyllis and Al Wilkerson must have read the tea leaves and seen the Governor Croswell Tea Room in Adrian in their future.
Such a forecast was good for them and for downtown Adrian. Mr. Wilkerson long had a yen to open a business in his home city. The tearoom idea also worked for Mrs. Wilkerson. She is a retired home economics teacher with a background in food service management and teaches at Eastern Michigan University. She is also particular about table settings and manners, both of which matter in a tearoom.
The Wilkersons came to Adrian with a workable blueprint for the new venture, which opened in May. They have operated the Sweet Afton Tea Room in Plymouth, Mich., for several years and figured "what flies in Plymouth should fly in Adrian."
It took nearly two years for the renovation of the old building to be completed. Though renovation was extensive inside and out to convert the former retail space to a cafe, the charm of the old building is retained.
The name Governor Croswell Tea Room was a given. It is next door to the Croswell Opera House and is one reason Mr. Wilkerson was drawn to the location and plans to work with the theater to coordinate performance schedules with the food service. A retired Romulus High School history teacher, he is a member of the Adrian Downtown Development Authority board.
The community welcome has been as warm as the scones that are served with lemon curd and Devonshire cream, a small sampling of the British inspired menu. Mrs. Wilkerson's interior design flair gives it a turn-of-the-century charm with floral-patterned linens, fresh flowers on each table, and fine china service that includes a collection of teapots. This is not a place where a cup of hot water and a tea bag are brought to the table. The tea is steeped in the pot from four to seven minutes before being served.
Thomas Kuderik, an enthusiastic 24-year-old who heads the kitchen staff, says his goal is "to take customers back to grandma's house." He is a graduate of the culinary program at Schoolcraft College in Detroit.
High tea at the Governor's may be as close to the real British tradition as we can hope for. It is filling and served in courses beginning with two finger sandwiches and two quiches. Two scones from a variety of flavors, such as blueberry lemon, are the second course. Two mini-tarts complete the $16.95 high tea and, as expected, a pot of tea is the proper beverage and is included. Oh, yes, a dainty dish of sweet pickles are a British must.
The house tea is orange spice, but there are 36 others from which to choose. On my third visit to the Governor's for high tea at 3 in the afternoon on a stressful day, Herbal Unwind lived up to the name.
Customers who have traveled to British pubs and tearooms will find familiar menu listings. The Ploughman is crusty bread, hard-boiled eggs, soup, and dill pickles. Chicken Pot Pie and Shepherds Pie are also traditional fare.
Thanks to manager Amy Keck for suggesting the Ayrshire pudding though the warm bread pudding on a previous visit was, as Chef Thomas promises, "just like grandma's."
In the midst of whatever is ordered and served, delightful young Adrian vocalists stop in their tracks, put down their service trays, and sing. Lisa Schrock and Matt Decker, who have been in Croswell productions, have learned that tearoom audiences also appreciate their talents.
Like Mr. Wilkerson I grew up in Adrian, went to the Croswell to see 20-cent movies, and remember the store next door to the theater where Leona Kaufman made and sold beautiful millinery to the fashion-conscious women of Adrian and Lenawee County.
That chapter in the building's history has not sifted into its new life. In three visits to the Governor's I have yet to see a woman wearing a hat, but it's been a hot summer. Perhaps in the fall they will. In the meantime it's an ideal place to take "little ladies" for a dress-up lunch and to order high tea cut to their size and including heart shaped-cheese, butterfly crackers, and chocolate milk or apple juice instead of tea. Mrs. Wilkerson will even include a lesson in proper manners.
The address is 125 E. Maumee St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Private parties can be booked.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org