New Tea Barn Owners Open Eatery Despite Hardship
Hikers using Grant's Trail provide a boost to Sappington House Tea Barn and its new owners' hopes.
Sappington House Tea Barn Restaurant is open under new local ownership after a year closed and after a restaurant chain's owners took a pass on operating it.
Crestwood Elementary School physical education teacher Kit Norton and his wife Gina Pona-Norton took on the business end of things at the familiar site along Grant's Trail. It opened Nov. 1 with breakfast and lunch on the menu.
"This is something they have always wanted to do," according to Joan Spink, a co-worker of Kit Norton at Crestwood School. "They wanted to own a restaurant and when the opportunity became available, they were excited about it."
Rick Syberg, who owns Helen Fitzgerald's in Sunset Hills and four other area restaurants, said the Syberg Restaurant business had considered taking on the Tea Barn's operations earlier, but dropped out of discussions with the city. He said they did not want to make the repairs on a building they did not own.
"There was a lot that needed to be done with the property," Syberg said, adding he thought it needed a new roof, kitchen floor and plumbing repairs.
"We were interested, but it would have been up to us to make those repairs," Syberg said.
The Nortons however spent most of this past year fixing the place up.
"My father donated a bunch of time helping us," Pona-Norton said. "Fathers, uncles, friends and family came every Saturday."
They repaired the floor, upgraded the electrical and plumbing systems and made other upgrades to the property.
Syberg had decided parking was a problem at the Barn.
"It's on Grant's Trail and the parking is controlled by the city of Crestwood. On a nice day you could have cars of people parked for the trail, and then there's no place for the restaurant customers to park. It's a neat place, but there were just too many things going on for us," Syberg said.
The Nortons think they found a way to overcome some of the hurdles.
In order to combat a lack of parking, they are catering to Grant's Trail users by serving early morning breakfasts, free water on the trail and in the future, bike rentals.
"Twenty percent of our business comes from Grant's Trail," Pona-Norton said. "We have great breakfasts."
Pona-Norton said customers also seem to love the salads.
"The food's great," Spink confirmed. "Gina's mother makes the chicken salad and it's the good kind with the grapes in it."
Pona-Norton said she appreciated volunteers who helped in getting the Tea Barn ready for business.
"The volunteers felt like it was a nice gift to the city of Crestwood, which is struggling due to Crestwood mall," Pona-Norton said. "Everyone with the city has been so nice."
Crestwood Court, often called the mall by residents, has operated at partial capacity in recent years, reducing sales tax revenue to the city by nearly $2 million annually, according to city officials.
The Tea Barn is open early for breakfast and lunch every day of the week but closed Mondays. Specialties include desserts, wraps, coffees and vegetarian selections.
Syberg lives in Sunset Hills and the Syberg Restaurant business recently opened an eatery in Chesterfield.