Who doesn't love food?
Fifteas Vintage Tearooms has a brightly coloured sign, swinging on the side of the building. It’s the only hint as to what is inside. Ran by sisters Alicia Teasdale and Becci Nye, the tearoom is located in the market place in Bishop Auckland.
I have been working there taking photographs of their menu and the interior of the tearoom. Alicia and Becci were also kind enough to let me take their portrait while they were very much working the tearoom’s breakfast service.
Opened just over 18 months ago, it seems to have cemented itself in the heart of Bishop Auckland’s thriving food scene. ‘Like all new businesses, we had a tough first year.’ Becci tells me while making drinks orders, it’s mid-morning and the orders are coming thick and fast ‘But we do feel established now. We feel we can offer an experience rather than just food and drink.’
The tearooms was founded by Alicia and Becci’s mum who financed the project with her retirement fund. Becci said she had a love of baking and felt the tearooms was a natural business for the family to become involved in. When I asked her why the 50s theme, Becci smiled and answered ‘Post-war, it’s a positive era. No one thinks badly of the 50s. The dresses of the decade are so pretty too.’
When looking for a location for their new business venture, the family returned to their native Bishop Auckland. In recent years the town has started a huge project of regeneration. Auckland Castle has gone from being a private residence to a centre for world class art, open to the public. The impressive plans that form part of The Auckland Project include the creation of a Faith Museum, a new walled garden within the grounds of Auckland Castle, a Mining Art Gallery, along with plans for a new hotel and various restaurants. Not to mention the outdoor ‘live action extravaganza’ of Kynren.
I have lived near Bishop Auckland for almost 10 years and seeing the town grow is exciting. The annual Bishop Auckland Food Festival pulls in huge crowds from across the region and further, and the recent appearance of the Full Moon Streetfood Market is, as well it should, jumping on the success of the trend for artisan produce and feel-good fast-food. ‘The food festival and streetfood market have brought a lot of publicity to Bishop Auckland’ says Becci ‘and rightly so, who doesn’t love food?’ Becci makes an excellent point and I am not one to disagree.
The thing that strikes me most about Fifteas is the amount of regulars that seem to walk through the door and the warm welcome they receive. Becci knows many by their first name, she tells me she tries to make a point of remembering the names of faces she sees coming back to Fifteas. With a total of 11 staff , Becci works at the counter positioned perfectly to greet people coming through the door. It’s a very busy Friday morning and multi-tasking is on! As she makes a dozen different types of tea and coffee and pimps delicious looking hot chocolates, Becci also answers the phones and takes deliveries. A builder who has had his coffee outside returns his cup, Becci asks ‘You coming back later?’, he tells her he’ll be back this afternoon. ‘The visitor centre being built across the road is also good for business.’ she says with a smile.
I asked who decided on the roles between Becci and Alicia, Becci seems such a natural at the front of house. ‘I came from working in care, which I loved!’ Becci tells me ‘Alicia previously worked in retail but took over in the kitchen when the former chef left, after undertaking relevant training.’ All three family members take a keen interest in adding new menu items although the firm favourite of their customers are the afternoon teas.
From what I saw, Fifteas Vintage Tearooms is a thriving business. The relationship I saw between Alicia and Becci was a strong sisterly bond, and one formed on mutual respect. Alicia told me she loved working with her sister ‘Not many sisters would get on working together, but it works for us and I love the opportunity of seeing her most days.’
I wondered what or who inspired them to make the business a success, Becci pondered only for a few seconds before answering ‘My mum and my little girl. I am very proud of my mum and I hope that my daughter will be proud of me some day too.’
I hope that Fifteas continues to build on the success of their first 18 months and lodges itself into the heart of the improvements Bishop Auckland is experiencing.