In our modern day and age, grabbing a coffee or tea is as simple as pulling in to the nearest drive-thru, speaking into an electronic box, ordering your drink and speeding off.
But when Claire Robinson moved to Fernie to purchase and run the Side Street Sweet Shoppe, she wanted locals and visitors to have a different experience.
Now renamed the Sweet Tea Parlour, Robinson has shifted the focus of the classic candy shop.
Although ice cream, taffy and fudge favourites remain on the menu, catering to local sweet tooths and wide-eyed children, the shop now also provides patrons with an old English-style tearoom.
Floral China tea sets are part of the experience at Sweet Tea Parlour. K.Dingman
“I’m taking a step back in time and I think sometimes we need that step back,” Robinson said. “Modern society is always on the go and it would be nice to sit back and relax and see people sit back and relax.”
The classic tearoom has replaced the antique portion of the store, managed by the Side Street Sweet Shoppe’s previous owners, and with china floral printed tea cups and saucers arranged on tables, the new set up brings Robinson back to her days spent in United Kingdom (U.K.) tea shops.
The U.K. business owner moved to Canada five years ago, originally settling in Nova Scotia, before a brief stint in Ontario. Robinson settled in to Fernie nearly two months ago.
She said she welcomed the opportunity to purchase her own already-established business in a small town.
“I’ve always worked for someone else and I’ve always had a yearning to do something for me,” the Sweet Tea Parlour owner said. “I thought, I’ll take a chance. I’m not as young as I used to be, so this is my last go now.”
She went on to say, “I never thought at my age that I would move halfway across the world and start a business. There’s life in this old girl yet.”
After taking over the store, Robinson has already made some significant changes, including the opening of the tea section, in addition to selling Bee by the Sea skin care products, milkshakes, floats and sundaes.
With above-average summer heat engulfing Fernie this July, Robinson said the expansion of the ice cream parlour has been welcomed.
“We’re trying to keep a good selection of ice cream as well,” she added, noting that she hopes to offer build-your-own ice cream and sundae in the near future.
Robinson’s dreams of expanding the Sweet Tea Parlour’s products and services extend to the tearoom as well, where she said she plans to host children’s tea parties in addition to baby and wedding showers.
“We’re not going to have a really big menu,” she said of the tearoom, adding, “It will just be a variety of teas.”
Robinson’s partner Tom Lomonte is also managing the store, with the two of them preparing the store and adding final touches to establish the Sweet Tea Parlour as a unique shop separate from the previous Side Street Sweet Shoppe.
Robinson said that so far, the customer feedback has been great.
“People are lovely here, they’re really friendly,” she said, adding, “How can you not love living in Fernie? It’s beautiful.”
Currently the Sweet Tea Parlour is open on Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information on the Sweet Tea Parlour’s products and services, look for Side Street Sweet Shoppe on Facebook.