The developer of a traditional English tearoom in a historic building on South LaSalle Street said Monday she hopes to have it open by mid-October. Tonya Barkdoll said a lot has to happen first, but some work has already begun on the inside of the building at 83 S. LaSalle St., which was built in 1892 as a corner grocery store.
“I like historic Aurora, the idea of growing Aurora and bringing it back,” said Barkdoll, who grew up on the city’s far West Side. “I really liked the building, the history of the spot.”
It has been many things since that first grocery operation, including a pet store and an Army surplus store. About six years ago, there was a fire in the building, and it has been vacant since.
Barkdoll and an investor are looking to renovate the entire building. On the second floor, there would be a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment, and in the basement level, a gift shop. That level has its own access along Benton Street.
On the first floor, Barkdoll would operate the tearoom, which she said would serve a traditional, three-tier English tea, patterned after the Harrod’s Department Store tea in London, as well as homemade soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts.
It would be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only, strictly for lunch. And while there will be a coffee pot on the premises, Barkdoll said, “it’s really not a coffee shop.”
“It will be all tea,” she said. “We have a very expansive tea list.”
Barkdoll is the owner and operator of The Calla Lily Salon and Day Spa at Wolsfelt’s Bridal Store in Montgomery. For a few years, she ran a tearoom in conjunction with the spa but ran out of room for everything at the present location.
So, the salon and spa will stay in Montgomery, and the tearoom is moving and expanding to the downtown Aurora site.
The site might be familiar to some as the location of a proposed city-sponsored mural on the wall facing Benton Street. Last week, the Aurora Public Art Commission said it would decide between the proposal to paint window boxes along the side of the 83 S. LaSalle St. building or another proposal for an Auto Row-based, abstract mural on the side of a building at the other end of the block from the tearoom building.
That decision will come in a couple of weeks.