Thirty years ago Pat Hill made a promise to herself.
“I was told I had to have a surgery at Mayo Clinic. I didn’t want to have it, but it was critical,” Hill recalled.
“I looked down those long halls at all those people in that hospital and I thought 'when I get better, I am going to go into business.'”
Hill opened Wicker Hill Tea Room in April 1999 at 1038 Third Ave. SE, where the business stood until three years ago when the MedQuarter Regional Medical District expanded and her building was sold.
One of her customers told her about a house in Marion that was on the market.
“We stopped out here that night and made an offer the next day,” Hill said. “Although it was smaller than what I’d had downtown, it was perfect for what I needed.
"This house was built in 1865 and it has worked out for me. I do love it.”
The tea room portion of the business offers two seatings a day for lunch Tuesdays through Saturdays.
“We serve four entrees every day,” Hill explained, noting that Wicker Hill rotates choices so as not to serve the same thing every week.
“Our quiches are very popular, and there is always a dessert tray,” she added.
The tea room’s busiest season is summer and its clientele includes women’s sorority groups, Red Hat Clubs, church organizations, showers and birthday parties, as well as couples who come in for a leisurely lunch together.
A new trend is tea parties for children, Hill said.
“The children’s tea parties are fun,” she said. “We fix the little fingertip breads and sandwiches, making sure not to include anything with nuts for the sake of those with allergies.”
The beverage of choice is iced tea, and Hill noted that small bite-sized petit fours cakes are a favorite dessert item for kids.
“Some of the little girls come in ready for their tea party wearing their fancy little dresses and all that,” Hill added.
Two employees assist Hill with the cooking and serving in the tea room as well as the retail end of the business.
In addition to the dining areas displaying P. Buckley Moss prints for sale, the remainder of the rooms in the historic house are filled with gift items such as furniture, quilts, placemats, unique jewelry, teapot sets and gourmet edibles.
“I like the patriotic,” Hill added, “so one room on the second story is called the 4th of July Room.”
Hill can order P. Buckley Moss prints for her customers, as well as furniture, fabrics, curtains and many other types of gifts or decorating items. “If we know where to get it, we will order it,” she said.
Hill and hospitality are not strangers.
“We want people to come join us here and have fun,” she said. “That’s the nice thing about antique wicker. It’s comfortable and sociable.”
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