The recession drove Eileen Nolan to open Mary Anne’s Tearooms. Before it struck, her husband ran his own business and she was a busy stay-at-home mother.
“The business folded so we had to do something,” she says. Luckily, they owned a townhouse on Denny Street in Tralee, an elegant street in the centre of town. “We had leased it out but I went back into it myself and ran a restaurant there for two years.”
On a day off in Killarney, she visited some tearooms and suddenly realised there was nothing like them in Tralee. “They were beautiful and quaint and relaxing,” she says. “I thought they were something that Tralee needed.”
Eileen spent the next three months converting her premises into tearooms and they opened four years ago this Easter. She remembers feeling nervous. Although her business was centrally located, it was at the wrong end of Denny Street.
“I worried people wouldn’t bother coming the whole way down,” she says. “So, that first day, I got my staff to go to the top of the street with leaflets and they enticed people in. People haven’t stopped coming since.”
There are lots of reasons why this is so. Eileen has created a peaceful environment with old-style music, tables set with tablecloths and food and drinks served on fine china.
“I wanted there to be a sense of stepping back in time,” she says.
[pull_quote_center]It’s all hustle and bustle everywhere else in Tralee. I wanted to offer something more relaxing, something that reminded me of my grandmother, after whom I have called the tearooms.[/pull_quote_center]
The choice of food on offer in Mary Anne’s Tearooms is the other big thing that attracts customers. Eileen doesn’t just serve cake. There is a mixture of sweet and savoury dishes, including all-day breakfast options, soups, chowder, open sandwiches and specials such as chicken parmesan bake as well as buns and cakes.
“There are so many coffee shops in Tralee now that we have to compete on choice, service, portions and price,” says Eileen.
Last year’s summer season was the best yet for Mary Anne’s Tearooms and Eileen thinks that the opening of the Wild Atlantic Way had something to do with it. She noticed more Americans in Tralee as well as tourists from countries like Switzerland, Austria and Norway.
“We wouldn’t have seen many of those tourists before,” says Eileen.
[pull_quote_center]I think the Wild Atlantic Way attracts them because it provides them with a guided tour. It does all the work by telling them where to go.[/pull_quote_center]
Winning some coveted awards has also helped Eileen with her business. The tearooms have won the Georgina Campbell Award and a McKenna’s Guides Award. “All awards are positive,” says Eileen, “especially the Georgina Campbell one. She doesn’t give those out easily.”
For now, Eileen is looking forward to the summer and focusing on maintaining the high standards she has set. “That’s all we can do really,” she says. “We need to give our customers what they’ve come to expect from Mary Anne’s Tearooms.”
[quote_box_center]For more information on Mary Anne’s Tearooms, visit their Facebook page.[/quote_box_center]