The roots of the shop go back to 1870, when George Watts, an immigrant from Bristol, England, took an excursion boat from Chicago to Milwaukee. While walking along Reed Street, the 18-year-old responded to a “Boy Wanted” sign hanging in the window of Massey and Co., merchants of china, glass and sundries. He was hired and immediately put to work, tasked with sweeping the floor and unpacking merchandise. Watts was able to buy partnership in the company with a loan, and later the entire store. When it outgrew its original digs, the store, now under the George Watts banner, moved to a narrow three-story building on North Milwaukee Street in 1879.
The Cook sisters, who opened the Cook Tea Shop in 1901, moved their restaurant from Jackson Street to a space designed according to their specifications on the second floor of Watts’ new building. They brought with them their recipe for Sunshine Cake, a stunning triple-layer sponge cake filled with French custard and topped with a boiled frosting that is still served today. So my friend and I shrugged off our every day personas and became, for two blissful hours, ladies who lunch. In style.
Quiche, fresh fruit, English muffin and Earl Grey tea, followed by the famous Sunshine Cake
As I dined and conversed with my friend, I couldn't help but think how much I would have loved growing up having tea at the Watts on special occasions with my mother. And looking around at all the gracious older women having fun with their friends, I vowed to make this a special place for any granddaughters that I may be blessed with in the future. I can't wait to experience the famous Watts Tea Room children's tea special!
My friend and I a few years ago at a garden wedding
My Mother's Hats
She kept them high on the top shelf,
In boxes big as drums—
Bright, crescent-shaped boats
With little fishnets dangling down—
And wore them with her best dress
To teas, coffee parties, department stores.
What a lovely catch, my father used to say,
Watching her sail off into the afternoon waters.
My mother and I all decked out in our finery!
Happy Wednesday--let's have a wonderful day!