Wake Forest’s Olde English Tea Room is closing Friday

The outside of the Olde English Tea Room in Wake Forest, which is closing Friday.
The outside of the Olde English Tea Room in Wake Forest, which is closing Friday. Andrea Weigl

The Olde English Tea Room, which has been a fixture in downtown Wake Forest for 20 years, is serving its last afternoon tea on Friday.

Owner Allison Esguerra said Thursday that she decided to close the shop, which serves breakfast, lunch and traditional English tea service. Why? Esguerra said the business is a lot of work and wasn’t profitable enough. Esguerra and her husband, Jeff, bought the shop in 2012 from the previous owners, Tom and Judy Wishart, who opened the shop in 1996. There are no reservations left before it closes Friday night.

Starting at 11 a.m. Monday, Esguerra will hold a liquidation sale, selling most of the items in the shop. Cash only.

The space at 219 S. White St. will become Sugar Magnolia Cafe and Emporium by the end of February. The new owners are Christine and Howard Sadel. Christine Sadel, a designer, project manager and event planner, said the eatery will serve soup, sandwiches, salads, baked goods and an afternoon tea, as well as beer and wine from 9 a.m.-9 or 10 p.m. every day. They will even offer food delivery to customers enjoying beer at White Street Brewing Co., across the street.

Sadel said there will be an artists’ cooperative and gift shop in the building’s basement and the restaurant will be available for private events.

Triangle fans of English tea can also get their fix at the Umstead Hotel in Cary, the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill or the Oak Park Tea Room in Raleigh.

Esguerra said she has been overwhelmed by customers’ reactions about the tea room’s closing. Just yesterday, Esguerra said, a father and 20-year-old daughter came in to have tea as they have done since the woman was 7-years-old. She’s heard from families who come every year at the holidays and who have held baby and bridal showers over the years and now are bringing their young children.

“I’m not exaggerating,” Esguerra said. “Every time, I walked by a table someone grabbed my arm and told me, ‘Thank you for being here.’”

She added: “Our tagline is making sweet memories. It has.”

Esguerra said she’s not sure what’s next for her. She going to take some trips and likely volunteer to help victims of sexual misconduct. She has been approached by potential business partners about opening another tea room.

For now, Esguerra said, she is happy knowing the tea room meant so much to so many people. “You cannot ask for a better reward than feeling what you have done has made a difference,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many people show appreciation.”

Andrea Weigl: 919-829-4848, @andreaweigl