When Renea Woods Baylor introduced she would maintain a Mom’s Day tea at her North Canton residence, individuals knew it was a not-to-be-missed occasion.
They anticipated connoisseur delicacies ready by her husband, the late govt chef Dennis C. Baylor, an impeccably set desk with nice linens and shined silverware, significant dialog, and, in fact, the best teas.
As all the time, the Baylors delivered.
“It offered out yearly in about 10 or 15 days,” Woods Baylor stated. “All people would stroll in with their hats and clothes and flowers. I would throw out a desk dialog and there’d be tears and crying whereas everybody was sharing their tales, and it was simply superb.”
Since her husband’s loss of life in 2017, Woods Baylor has turned their annual at-home occasion into the The Tea Lady, a reservation-only tea room in downtown Akron’s Delaware Constructing.
Armed with a household historical past of entrepreneurship, a ardour for entertaining and a background in finance, Woods Baylor is able to develop her enterprise and cross on her information to the subsequent generations.
Studying from the legacy
Rising up within the 1960s in Akron, Woods Baylor was surrounded by enterprise homeowners.
Her grandfather Aaron Boganney owned a fencing firm, whereas her dad and mom, Gertrude Robinson and Roosevelt Overstreet owned 4 high-end shoe shops in Cleveland and Akron.
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“It was essential to show my kids entrepreneurship,” stated Robinson, who additionally offered her handmade garments on the shops. “I took up shorthand in class, and that is what I taught my ladies to do too, however Renea was the one who wished to do all the things that I taught her. ”
Robinson additionally handed on an appreciation for the finer issues in life and the talents to be a considerate hostess.
“Tablescapes have been an enormous a part of what my mother did in the home, and the eating room desk was all the time set, all the time stunning,” Woods Baylor stated. “Within the ’60s, generally children did not go in sure rooms, however my mom wasn’t like that.”
As an alternative, Woods Baylor and her siblings used the identical bone china and crystal glasses as their dad and mom.
She practiced recreating her mom’s aesthetic within the basement playroom, the place she held tea events together with her youngest sister, Susie.
“That went by junior excessive and highschool,” Woods Baylor stated. “I would inform my sister, ‘Let’s go and have a tea’, and naturally it was simply Lipton then, however we might have our tea, speak about boys and faculty and lecturers. That is what tea’s about: sitting down and having conversations.”
Changing into The Tea Girl
As an grownup, tea continued to be a staple of Woods Baylor’s skilled and private life.
At her accounting agency OFG Advisors Inc., which Woods Baylor has owned for 22 years, she would all the time ship thanks notes enclosed with a teabag and an identical serviette.
In the meantime, at residence, she had a visitor room for girlfriends that all the time included a small desk with a recent pot of tea prepared for his or her arrival.
When she married Baylor, a D.C. and Baltimore-based chef, within the late 2000s, she realized that their mixed expertise might take her tea events to a brand new degree.
“I assumed I would stay my little dream by him. I can maintain tea events and he can put together the meals,” Woods Baylor stated of the beginning of their annual Mom’s Day tea. “We turned this dynamic energy crew of husband and spouse working to offer everybody a wonderful expertise round tea.”
When Baylor was recognized with most cancers, he requested his spouse what they need to do with the big stock they’d amassed for the tea events, and he or she responded that she did not know, however she would discover a manner to make use of it.
“Eight months later he handed away, and I did not wish to do accounting anymore,” she stated. “I did not wish to do something that introduced me stress. I wanted to have peace as a result of dropping him was devastating. I wanted one thing that gave me peace and made me really feel good, one thing that I’d do for myself.”
Naturally, Woods Baylor turned to tea.
She put a message out on Fb that she wished to begin her personal tea room, wrote a marketing strategy, ordered enterprise playing cards to encourage herself to maneuver ahead and remodeled a small room in her accounting workplace into her tea room, opening in August 2018.
Woods Baylor additionally started touring the nation to see how different tea rooms function and researched the historical past of Black-owned tea rooms, which all helped her perceive that she wished an English-style tea room that didn’t really feel like a restaurant.
“I wished individuals to come back for extra than simply the meals. I wished them to come back for the expertise as a result of the expertise is what is going to hold you coming again,” she stated.
Throughout that first 12 months, the tea room was solely open on weekends as a result of downtown development that lower off entry. Nonetheless, it was in excessive demand and booked by July 2020.
When COVID-19 hit, Woods Baylor was pressured to close down. Throughout that interval, she devoted herself to engaged on the enterprise quite than in it, by creating a advertising plan and designing her web site.
She only recently reopened, and is in negotiations to maneuver into a bigger area subsequent to the Akron Civic Theatre, the place she is going to proceed to supply morning, afternoon and excessive teas that embrace various combos of sandwiches, salads, cookies, pastries and muffins, starting from $30-$50 per individual.
With a further price, friends could hire out rooms, add mimosas, or have off-site occasions.
Passing the baton
Simply as Robinson shared her entrepreneurial information with Woods Baylor, Woods Baylor has handed it to her kids and grandchildren.
“Once I was little, I did not know my mother to work for anyone else,” stated Woods Baylor’s daughter, Natasha Overstreet, who now owns Overstreet Travel Salon within Muath’s Barbershop on East Market Road.
“She all the time had her personal enterprise and that was part of our training.”
Woods Baylor inspired Overstreet and her siblings to open a sweet retailer on their entrance porch the place they’d find yourself making $60 in a weekend promoting wholesale sweet from the ACDC Low cost retailer at South Arlington Road and Cole Avenue, and beebops, frozen Kool-Help cups.
Round that very same time, Overstreet, who additionally discovered about enterprise from her grandparents, began braiding hair for neighborhood children, and at 13 earned her first $20 for doing hair.
“They taught me that if I am earning money, I additionally need to put it again within the enterprise, and you do not all the time come out on prime immediately,” she stated. “You need to reinvest and save correctly and anticipate wet days.”
Overstreet is now within the strategy of instructing these classes to her personal kids Tyler Kirksey, 10; Trevor Washington, 7; and TiaMarie Washington, 6, who have began their very own Canton-based firm, Triple T’s Candy Machines, making them fifth-generation entrepreneurs.
Overstreet paid for Triple T’s first sweet machine and the sweet to fill it, however the three kids have since used their income to buy extra machines and hold them well-stocked. Their machines are in Akron and Canton, and the kids journey to every location to empty out the quarters and refill the sweet.
The kids, who stay in Canton, have even been given a particular room of their credit score union the place they do their banking.
“It is great to see,” Robinson stated of the household companies. “I’ve loved each minute of it. At the very least it wasn’t in vane.”
Reporter Krista S. Kano might be reached at 330-541-9416, [email protected] or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.
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All through the month of February, the Beacon Journal is profiling Black-owned companies in Summit County. Learn extra of those profiles at https://bit.ly/3jb0h1e. The Beacon Journal will proceed to focus on minority-owned companies as a part of its ongoing common protection.
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