Reporting and writing by Brynne Olsen
Would you love to host your next special event in an elegant tea room? How about perusing a premium boutique or renting a beautiful tablescape to wow your guests for the holidays?
Renea Woods-Baylor, owner of The Tea Lady Inc./Ohio Tea Lady, sat down with me to share her love of tea. Her business specializes in event hosting in elegant tea rooms at their location on King James Way, with customizable options like ambiance enhancements, pastries including vegan options and private rooms.
“There’s tea for everything. A tea when you’re not feeling well, a tea when you want to rest,” Renea says.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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Brynne Olsen: So I have to know: What is the secret to making a great cup of tea?
Renea Woods-Baylor: Oh gosh. Well, it really starts with the water. A lot of people don’t think that that matters, but water is what brings out everything in the tea. Get the best water you can afford, then the right temperature according to the type of tea. Then whatever compliments you like — a slice of orange, lemon, sugar or honey.
BO: Tell me about your childhood growing up in West Akron.
RWB: I had an interesting childhood growing up in West Akron, in an entrepreneurship family. My parents purchased a home in West Akron. My parents owned and operated two stores in Akron and two in Cleveland. The two in Akron were on Copley Road, by Mr. Pantry and the other by Roslyn Avenue. As a child I did everything, from cheerleading [to] playing with kids in school, and being a little business owner at the same time.
BO: Who inspires you?
RWB: “My mom, other business people, great writers, people that have done great things. I was inspired years ago by Oprah. Some amazing women in the church. I pull jewels from different people that I see that would be good for me. There is no one person that inspires me — I take little pearls and diamonds from each one of them.
BO: How did it feel to launch your business and fulfill your personal motto of “Make it Happen”?
RWB: Oh, I was nervous! I was able to start living that part of my dream through my late husband. He was an executive chef out of Baltimore and Washington D.C., with over 30 years of experience. I started doing tea parties once or twice a year through him because he could prepare all the food. Sadly, three and a half ago years ago, he had kidney cancer and passed away. Before he passed, he asked me, “what are we going to do with all the china and crystal?” I said, “I’m going to use it.”
It took me a couple of years to go through mourning and figure out what I wanted to do. And I said well, I might as well open a tea room. I put out on Facebook. I asked all my friends on Facebook what should be the name of my business. My hair stylist said, “You’re the tea lady.” I was so super excited, but I was very nervous because this was me out here on my own, without the support of my husband.
I just said, “If I don’t order business cards, then I’m not going do it. You made an investment, put your name on it.” When my husband passed away, I wanted to do something that’s not stressful, something I really enjoy doing every day. This was it and I love it. I always did it anyway, so it was just a natural transition.”
BO: What were some unexpected hurdles, especially with the pandemic?
RWB: The hurdle was being shut down. We were booked all the way to July of this year, so that put an immediate halt on my business, But it allowed me to really look at what direction I want to go into, what I want to do, what is going to be our new COVID-19 before-and-after look. It gave me a lot of time to really concentrate on my company and marketing.
BO: What do you like to do for fun?
RWB: I have eight grandchildren. Oh yeah, that’s enough to keep being busy. I enjoy hanging out with them. I love traveling, going for walks. I like to just get out and experience new places and venues and do a little shopping here and there. That’s what relaxes me. And of course I love flowers. I pick flowers as often as someone buys water.
Brynne Olsen is a wanderer who enjoys eating dessert first, writing, photography, and meeting the demands of her fur children.