Attention to detail is evident in the 1892 Queen Anne exterior and attention to detail in food and service are hallmarks of The Ruby Pear, which opened in 2005.
“Service is the best thing we do,” says Mary Ann Lucas, who co-owns the business with her parents, Steve and Connie Lucas. Customers at The Ruby Pear often spend an hour or two at the shop where they are encouraged to relax and enjoy themselves. To ensure everything served looks good, tastes good and makes customers feel good, the Lucas family makes their food from scratch, at times spending hours developing signature recipes, like their popular scones and “fat rascal” cookies.
They even blend their own chocolate for the chocolate-covered strawberries. The Ruby Pear enjoys accommodating customers with special diets, such as nut or gluten allergies, and will even serve food brought to the restaurant so that each customer feels pampered.
Four part-time employees with the right attitude are part of The Ruby Pear’s secret to success. Each cares about the customers, says Mary Ann. The owners shared stories about customers who chose their shop to celebrate life’s milestones such as announcing a pregnancy, or marking the successful end of cancer treatments.
Steve, Connie, and Mary Ann have all cross-trained so that each can handle any job in the business, although they each have their preferences. Connie heads up recipe development and cooking, for example, but each knows how to make the recipes, and they all wait on tables.
Location is a big part of their success. The business regularly draws customers from a 50-mile radius, and, although not directly on the busy town square, the shop is near a sizable population that values and can afford what they offer. The shop is fortunate to be near a municipal parking lot and the town hall.
Expansions to the business in 2006 and 2010 divided the 2,500 sq. ft. first floor into six rooms. This allows multiple semi-private tea parties while the restaurant seats up to 60 people. Each room is uniquely decorated with vintage tables, chairs and tableware to add a welcoming, yet elegant, feel. The sunny back garden-themed room, which seats four, is among the most popular spots.
The menu includes luncheon teas and a la carte items. The most popular items are the scones ($1.85) in white chocolate cashew, cinnamon chip, dark chocolate orange, lemon, or cranberry white chocolate pecan, and the “fat rascal” cookies ($.75), an old family recipe. Other items include pecan chicken salad with fresh greens ($6.85), soup of the day ($4.20), tea sachet or iced tea ($2.50), and pot of tea ($5). Luncheon teas feature tea, pecan chicken salad and cucumber cream cheese tea sandwiches, or a soup or salad and sandwich, scone, cookies and a chocolate covered strawberry ($13.50), and is served 11-2:30. The average ticket is about $20.
About 60 percent of business revenue is from the restaurant, including special events and parties, and catering, a new service from The Ruby Pear. The remaining 40 percent is from sales in the gift shop. Along with tea, the shop sells teapots and teaware, vintage and new glassware, hats, and jewelry, and purses, shawls and more. Traffic is best during spring and summer, with winter the slowest except around the holidays, and fall is in between. Weekly traffic is about 40-70 people. They have a Facebook page and blog to stay in touch with customers and found that advertising in Tea Time magazine is effective.
The Lucas family praised the training they received from the board of health, and encouraged other tea shops to work collegially with local health officials, especially when starting out. Rather than spend more than necessary on expensive equipment, they use regular kitchen appliances that meet health requirements. Because they serve on vintage teaware, they wash dishes by hand in a three sink system, and they heat water in regular coffee makers that have never been used for coffee.
“We want people to enjoy each other and the space,” says Steve. The many positive customer reviews show they do.