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The Flor-Ala

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The Flor-Ala

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Tea shop opens in downtown Florence

The+sign+that+sits+in+front+of+Enchanted+Gatherings.
Whitney Veazey
The sign that sits in front of Enchanted Gatherings.

Shoals residents who wish to enjoy a calming English tea time or simply a cup of fresh hot tea now have a haven to visit. Enchanted Gatherings, a tea room on Court St., is now open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. 

The shop was opened by Chicago native Gaye Box and her partners, business manager Donna Comer and pastry chef Kathy Jacques. All of the women are retired from their previous jobs. Box originally moved to the area to help take care of her elderly in-laws in early 2021. Her husband Edward also assists with the shop, and uses his grandmother’s tea cake recipe for their pastries. 

Box began collecting fine china for her wedding three years ago, and found that she did not want to part with the porcelain when it was over. 

“Everybody assumed [I started Enchanting Gatherings] because I love tea, and that’s not it at all,” she said. “I don’t know about you, but when I get into the buying mode I can’t stop. We decided at one point, and I don’t know how we did, to open a pop-up.”

Box collaborated with the Historic Mapleton in Florence to hold baby showers, wedding showers and other events that a tea party would be popular at. While the pop-up was successful, transporting all of the equipment became tedious work, and the women did not want to risk damaging any of the china, food or linens. 

They seemed to strike gold when the lot at 126 N Court St. opened up. The inside was not the ideal size, and it lacked a kitchen, but once their work was done on the building, it was a quaint and cozy space for their business. 

“What draws me to it more than the tea, is that it’s kind of like going back in time,” Box said. “I don’t know how many people eat on china dishes anymore or drink from crystal glasses or use silverware that you have to polish or napkins that aren’t paper. It’s the tradition of it that I like the best. It’s like going back in time and maybe to a place in time where it was a little more simpler.”

When Box was younger, people would have to register for china at an extremely expensive price. Nowadays, she can locate new teapots or saucers at thrift stores for less than five dollars at times. The dishes remind her of when her mother would unload their fancy china for holidays or special events. Nowadays, most china stays locked behind glass boxes, if they are even owned. 

Walk-in guests receive a pot of tea, along with a cup to pour it in. Charcuterie boards and pastries can be ordered to go along with the beverage. 

“[Customers’] eyes just get wide,” Box said. “They have never been pampered like that in their life. That’s the look that I love. That’s why I started it.”

Donna Comer, the business manager for Enchanted Gatherings, has helped develop a lot of the etiquette and tea selection that the shop offers. Box refers to her as the “research person,” as she has dedicated the most time to making the experience as authentic as possible. 

Comer wants to eventually blend specialty teas for the shop, and teach others about blending teas. She also helped teach the staff about the different kinds of tea and how to differentiate them. All of the different types of tea are all derived from the same plant (save from herbal teas), and the main difference is when and how they are processed. 

The shop ran a contest through First Fridays to find their shop blend from April to October. People were given the choice between two types of tea. The winner was an earl gray called “Enchanted Moonlight,” which has a citrus and blue cornflower base with notes of cream, bergamot and vanilla. The second tea they had was a winter tea, with Christmas-themed and chai spices. Their new seasonal tea will be centered around Valentine’s Day, with notes of chocolate and strawberry. 

What Box loves most about the shop is the ability to connect with people. 

“I’m a very social person, so [Comer and I] tend to draw that out of people,” she said. “I think we just have one of those faces that make people open up. I also think it’s the environment. It’s very cozy and homey, and it’s like you’re part of the family.”

Comer recalls that at their grand opening, a group of people came and sat with her on the sofa, opening up to conversation. 

“It ended up being the nicest, easiest conversation,” she said. “To this day I can’t believe that we all just sat there and had such a nice conversation.”

The shop had a rocky start to opening, and Box feels grateful that they were able to open before the Christmas season. The official opening date was Dec. 7, but they see 2024 as the real year they kick off. They have attended every First Friday event in 2023, and recently reached 1,000 followers on their Facebook page. 

Enchanted Gatherings is divided into two main rooms: the walk-in tea room and the formal tea room. The formal room is only available through reservations on Tuesdays through Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. or Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. The price is $29 per person and includes traditional tea with three courses: savory, scones and sweets. The food is made from scratch and is served on fine china. Crystal stemware is available, and the table is decorated with white linen tablecloths and finely folded napkins. Fancy hats are encouraged, but the shop provides for those who do not own one. 

Private tea parties can also be booked, and are divided into multiple categories. Morning traditional tea takes place before 11 a.m. Two teas, three breakfast savories, three breads and two sweets are provided at $29 per person. Lunch and traditional afternoon tea has the same offering as formal tea, and takes place after 11:30 a.m. for the same price. Child’s tea is for children ages five to ten, and is $20 per person. Children can enjoy two teas, or lemonade (in a teacup), two savories, two breads or scones and two sweets. Tea and cookies is a more laid back, cheaper option, going for $15 per person. You receive three teas and two cookies. 

All teas include sugar, cream, salt and pepper, centerpiece, linens, china place settings, crystal stemware with fruit infused water. Butter, jam, honey and lemon are available upon request. 

Enchanted Gatherings offers special tea times for holidays as well. Their Galentines Tea takes place on Feb. 10 and costs $29. A UNA Galentines Tea is offered Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. at a discounted price of $19. The shop is also holding a benefit with Daisy’s Place on Feb. 18, with tea time costing $50. 

Tea times can be booked on their website, www.enchantedgatherings.net.

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About the Contributors
Emma Tanner, Editor-in-Chief
Emma is Editor-in-Chief of the Flor-Ala. She is a senior from Killen, Ala. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in journalism and digital media. She was previously Managing Editor for the spring 2023 semester. She also served as News Editor from Jan. 2022 to Dec. 2022. She was previously a volunteer writer. Her favorite topics to cover are profiles and local news. Tanner has written since her childhood and grew a passion for journalism during high school. Aside from working on the Flor-Ala, she was also a research assistant for a psychological study at UNA and served as CASE ambassador president for the Fall 2022 semester.
Whitney Veazey, Chief Photographer
Whitney is a sophomore from Greenville, Ala. She is working towards a BFA with a concentration in photography. Whitney started at The Flor-Ala in Fall 2022 as a staff writer/photographer and is currently serving as chief photographer.

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