Afternoon tea at Mrs Lyon's Tea Room in Standish
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 September 2016
Some little girls spend hours playing with tea sets. Two sisters from Standish took it a step further as Emma Mayoh discovered
‘Baking reminds us of being at our grandma’s house when we were little,’ explained Elaine Lyon, one half of the sister duo who run Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room in Standish.
‘We used to have these little seats at the side of the fire and she would bring us a cup of milky coffee, sometimes she had cakes and we would pretend to be ladies reading Lancashire Life. It was like our own mini afternoon tea. It was a ritual the three of us did.’
Little has changed for Elaine, 30, and 33-year-old sister Vickie Battersby. For the past two years they have been running their successful tea room in the High Street. Although the milky coffee may have been swapped for a fine selection of loose leaf teas and the choice of cakes is more plentiful, that same ritual they enjoyed so many years ago is still there – including the opportunity to browse the pages of Lancashire Life.
Elaine set up the tea room after encouragement from husband, Brett. She transformed a former bank into the beautifully decorated tea room which is filled with vintage china and mismatched furniture. A month after the doors opened Vickie decided to join the business. They admit it has not been plain sailing.
‘I’d spent a lot of time in cafes and realised there weren’t enough places that had decent coffee and cake,’ said Elaine. ‘I always used to say to Brett that I would be able to do something like that. In the end he said “just do it then”. It was that lecture that sprung me into action.
‘I didn’t realise how busy it was going to be. I never anticipated what was coming. I was exhausted. I think I cried myself to sleep for the first week because it was so overwhelming. I was the only one doing the baking. I was at the tea rooms all night before I went home and then I would be back here early again in the morning.’
Vickie continued: ‘I needed to see it was going to work before I fully went into the business. I was nervous about giving up my job. But as soon as the tea room opened I hated not being here.
‘I wanted to help my sister. I really wanted to ring in sick just so I could do it for her. Doing it full time is the best thing I ever did.’
Mrs Lyon's Tea Room
But those early challenges soon fizzled out giving way to the busy, successful business they run together today, with the help of mum Marchia. People turn up in their droves to sample the afternoon tea – one of their most popular sweet treats – along with their bestselling carrot cake, coconut and raspberry cake and maple and pecan praline cake. As well as doing popular baking sessions at local schools as part of an enterprise project, they also have a celebrity following with Wigan Warriors players and snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan enjoying afternoon tea.
The pair, who both gave up corporate careers in Manchester to open Mrs Lyon’s as well as to be closer and spend more time with their children, also recently bought a separate bakery. This means they can meet the growing demand for their home-baked cakes and scones.
They also create celebration cakes, outside catering for events, picnics and the tea room can be hired for special occasions from baby showers to birthday parties. Opening the bakery was a real milestone for the sisters.
‘I didn’t tell my husband I was looking at the bakery,’ admitted Elaine. ‘The lease came through and he got to it first. He didn’t know anything about it. He wasn’t happy but I always joke with him that he didn’t have the vision we have.’
The cakes and bakes are tremendous but a visit to Mrs Lyon’s Tea Room shows the sisters are the real stars of the show. Despite spending every day together running a business, the pair have never squabbled.
Their grandma – still an avid Lancashire Life reader – is proud of what her granddaughters’ have achieved and you’ll often find her in the tea room enjoying finger sandwiches or ringing up for her own personal delivery.
‘She is really proud of us,’ said Vickie. ‘She brings her friends in here and tells everyone about us. It makes us happy.
‘We wanted to leave those careers behind and have a lifestyle that meant we could be on hand for our children. We never started the business thinking it would be so successful.
‘We are amazed. And we get excited by everything we do. I can’t believe how many people know who we are. We’re having such fun.’