Fancy a cuppa in Cumbria? Uni lecturer takes over 70-year-old tea rooms

10th July 2023, 9:47 am

A Tourism lecturer from Cumbria has taken over an award-winning tea room with her daughter after securing a loan from specialist lender Together.

Dr Angela Anthonisz and her daughter Jess, 29, have grand plans for the Woodlands Tea Room and Gift Shop in Santon Bridge, Copeland, which was first opened nearly 70 years ago as a small garden shed where the owners served flasks of tea to thirsty walkers.

As a child living in the area, Angela knew the tea rooms, which sits in a stunning woodland area and attracts tourists from all over the UK, and she and Jess bought the place together.

Angela said: “We both have experience of working in hospitality but Jess is also passionate about arts and crafts, having a background in design, so this looked like the ideal opportunity.

“I knew the Woodlands tea room from being a child because I was brought up nearby in Eskdale, and have recently moved back into the valley. Jess will be running the show most of the time and she and I are really excited to see what we can do with the place.”

They made an offer to the previous owners, who were looking to sell after battling through successive Covid lockdowns. Despite there being a great deal of interest from other potential buyers, the owners were impressed by their vision, Angela said.

She said: “They wanted to make sure that whoever took over from them was a good fit. Jess has a teaching qualification and previously worked in a crafts retailer, working with children, so part of our plans are to offer children’s arts and craft workshops.

“There are a lot of campsites and self-catering holiday cottages nearby, so we wanted to offer somewhere for parents to sit and have a cup of tea and piece of cake while their kids take part in the activities.

“Jess is using her creative flair to look at how to redesign the space to make sure that it feels like something really special.”

They are also planning on extending their opening hours, offering breakfasts, and running theme nights for the local community and tourists. Angela will be continuing her job as a lecturer and supporting, whilst Jess will be handling the day-to-day running of the tea room and gift shop.

Angela, the principal lecturer in visitor economy management at The University of Cumbria, added: “It will be really nice to encourage more tourism to this side of the county, because tourists are naturally drawn towards the Lake District hotspots of Keswick, Ambleside and Windermere. It will be great to support the growth of the economy and we have had a lot of positive feedback from locals.”

A Cumbria-based financial advisor introduced the mum and daughter to specialist lender Together, which has its headquarters in Cheshire and provides personal and commercial finance for individuals and businesses across the UK.

The lender agreed a commercial mortgage of £165,000 to fund the purchase and expansion of the tea room and gift shop.

Angela said: “The entire process with Together was surprisingly straight forward. They supported us every step of the way and any questions we could raise through their app and were answered really quickly. I would absolutely use them again if we decide to build our tea room empire!”

Woodlands Tea Room and Gift Shop is well-known locally, having opened in 1954 as a tiny shed at the bottom of a garden. It’s since grown and is now two large cabins, surrounded by woodland, next to the river Irt and a short drive from England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike.

Matt Boggan, Business Development Director at Together, said: “It’s in the perfect spot for tourists and dog walkers to take a break, and buy local produce and gifts.

“The business had traded profitably, but the previous owners bought just before lockdown and decided on a lifestyle change, offering Angela and Jessica the chance to follow their ambitions.

“With their impressive backgrounds in hospitality, education and design we’re pleased to support their exciting venture and look forward to seeing them grow their business.”

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