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Find traditional English tea room atmosphere in downtown McGregor

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Enjoy a traditional English tea room experience in the heart of downtown McGregor at the new McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe. The business opened Sept. 30 at 240 Main St., fulfilling a long-time dream for owner Maureen Wild. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe offers 45 different kinds of tea as well as coffee, quiche, soup, tea sandwiches and baked goods.

Owner Maureen Wild hopes McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe will be an oasis—where people can relax by the fire or sit in one of the windows and people watch. Wi-fi is available, allowing people to work if they’d like. “I want it to be like an English tea room. I think people love the atmosphere of it. It’s not rushed. It’s a place to come and relax,” Wild said. “Almost everybody who comes in spends at least an hour sitting with whoever they are with and enjoying the atmosphere.”

Opening the doors wasn’t easy. Wild had to create a business plan and secure financing. The building also underwent a rehabilitation, including new windows and paint and electrical and plumbing upgrades.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Enjoy a traditional English tea room experience in the heart of downtown McGregor at the new McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe. The business opened Sept. 30 at 240 Main St., fulfilling a long-time dream for owner Maureen Wild.

 

Wild grew up in a Chicago three-flat owned by her Great-Aunt Jo. Her aunt lived on the first level, her grandparents on the second, then her large Italian-Irish family on the top. It wasn’t uncommon for the kids to visit their relatives below.

 

“They’d let us come in and make us tea,” Wild recalled. “I learned tea was really more of an event than it was just a beverage. And that’s what I loved. It was a relationship.”

 

Early on, Wild thought, “I’d love to have a tea room.”

 

She began exploring the idea in her 20s, taking classes on owning a tea shop as well as European cake decorating. As she and husband Mel traveled, she bought tea cups and tea pots.

 

“I had all kinds,” Wild said.

 

But by her 50s, Wild became discouraged the dream would never come to fruition. She even sold most of her favorite tea cups and tea pots at a garage sale.

 

Three years ago, though, the vision reignited, after she and Mel purchased the downtown building with their children.

 

“We rented out the apartments but said, ‘What should we do with the storefront?’ Suddenly, I thought, ‘I could do a tea room.’ All of a sudden, this dream I had put on a shelf and thought was over suddenly came alive again,” Wild said.

 

Opening the doors wasn’t easy. Wild had to create a business plan and secure financing. The building also underwent a rehabilitation: new windows and paint, electrical and plumbing. The kitchen was converted into a commercial kitchen and the bathroom from the downstairs apartment unit into a laundry room.

 

“Everything took time,” Wild said, “but, finally, here I am three years later and I’m open. I’m excited.”

 

McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe offers 45 different kinds of tea, including black, green, pu-erh, oolong, herbal and white. 

 

“I also have straight teas and flavored teas, and those can come in fruity flavors or spicy flavors. Especially in fall, those are popular,” Wild said.

 

She is happy to help patrons select a new favorite.

 

“They’re like, ‘I’m really not a tea person, so can you help me?’ I ask them some questions: ‘Do you prefer a caffeinated tea or de-caffeinated?’ I narrow it down. It’s fun to do that,” she shared.

 

Coffee—Ethiopian regular and Colombian de-caf—are available too, as are multiple food options. Three types of quiche are regularly on the menu, changed out week to week, along with three or four types of tea sandwiches and a soup of the day.

 

There are four different kinds of afternoon tea. English comes with tea sandwiches, scones and desserts and a pot of tea, then French with a croissant or brioche, piece of quiche, tea and desserts. The cream tea comes with scones and lemon curd and clotted cream. Finally, a children’s tea includes a choice of peanut butter or cream cheese and jam tea sandwiches, scone and dessert assortment.

 

Bagels, English muffins, crumpets, scones, brioche and muffins are also available a la carte with a selection of jams. The scones, muffins and bread for the tea sandwiches are made locally at The Local Oven in Prairie du Chien.

 

Said Wild, “You could come in every day and get something different. And there’s enough variety you can come in for breakfast and lunch.”

 

All patrons have the option to enjoy their tea in a fancy cup and saucer, with a colorful selection hanging from the wall. While Wild’s favorites—which didn’t end up in the garage sale—are displayed on shelves in the tea shop, the cups and saucers for guests are equally treasured.

 

“Because I told my friends and people at church what happened, that I got rid of all my stuff, I’ve gotten more cups and saucers and tea pots from friends. They actually mean more to me now, rather than I just bought them at a store,” Wild said.

 

Even most of the tables in the tea shop were gifted by The Local Oven, and a long table came from a friend. The chairs were purchased at the Schoolhouse Mall in Marquette.

 

“Everything came from local,” Wild said, “and it’s come together in such a wonderful way. I think if it would have gone like I thought it would—just whip it up and do it—it wouldn’t be the place it is right now. It’s a mixture of gifts from people who care about me, and things I would have never thought of because I did that big business plan and really thought things through.” 

 

“There’s a scripture that says, ‘What the enemy means for evil, God uses for good.’ That long stretch where I thought, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ It was really a God-send because I was able to create this. It is what it is because of the hard work that went into it,” she continued.

 

Wild values the support from her husband, children and siblings. A sister is even working with her at McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe. The community support has also blown her away.

 

“Every day, people I know come in and want to support me and see what it’s like. I’ve gotten so much good feedback,” she said. “A lot of people tell me they’re going to be my regulars. In fact, I have one woman who’s come in every single day I’ve been open. When the construction gets done and the street is open, I’m expecting to have more.”

 

Wild hopes McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe will be an oasis—where people can relax by the fire or sit in one of the windows and people watch. Wi-fi is available, allowing people to work if they’d like. 

 

“I want it to be like an English tea room. I think people love the atmosphere of it. It’s not rushed. It’s a place to come and relax,” Wild said. “Almost everybody who comes in spends at least an hour sitting with whoever they are with and enjoying the atmosphere.”

 

 The tables are spaced close enough together that groups can even chat among each other. 

 

“I love that people from town who don’t really know each other, they’ll talk from table to table. I think it’s going to help the community get to know each other better,” she remarked. “I plan on building a lot of close relationships with people who come in, and I want them to build their relationships.”

 

McGregor SpecialTea Shoppe is open daily, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The business also includes a gift shop selling tea, infusers, timers, individual cups and pots and other items. The space is available for private parties and showers, and after the holidays, Wild intends to offer tea tasting events and workshops.

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