Antique Maison Ulman
317 Ulman Avenue
- story by Ellis Anderson
Bay St. Louis is known as a town that embraces the unusual. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one Saturday afternoon in October, over two-dozen women dressed in Downton Abbey style – complete with fancy hats - filled the English Tea Room at Antique Maison Ulman.
Eating delectable sandwiches and sweets while sipping hot tea from antique china cups, these elegantly chapeau-ed ladies chatted and laughed during a special celebration of classic English author Jane Austen.
The Tearoom on Ulman Avenue has been open for two years and it’s already acquired a reputation as the go-to place for visitors to the Mississippi Coast who hail from the British Isles – as well as a popular place to host bridal and baby showers, family reunions, wedding anniversaries, birthday and graduation parties and even business meetings and fundraisers.
Proprietor Sylvia Young says it’s the only authentic English Tea Room in South Mississippi. From Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am – 3pm, anyone can take a shopper’s break in the tearoom and be served a pot of tea, pastry or scone.
While reservations are required (48 hours in advance) for the formal High Tea Windors with all the food and frills – Sylvia welcomes groups as small as three people (She recommends that party planners make reservations now for the holiday season).
There’s a private room that can seat up to twenty people (perfect for meetings), while the entire tearoom opened up can seat 55 people. There’s no charge for use of the venue when High Tea is served and made available for up to two hours.
“High Tea” British style is a full meal by American standards. It includes a bounty of goodies served up on a three-tier stand. Guests help themselves from the tiers.
The bottom tier is filled with a variety of small sandwiches, including roasted turkey, chicken salad and cucumber with basil pesto. On the middle tier are side items like potato salad, quiche and artichoke delight. On the top tier are desserts – everything from chocolate-covered strawberries and cherries to ambrosia, to fruit-filled scones served up with lemon curd and fresh clotted cream.
For children’s parties, there’s a special menu that appeals to younger palettes, including homemade cupcakes and finger sandwiches made with Nutella.
“We make everything fresh for all the teas,” says Sylvia. “Nothing’s packaged or processed, it’s all made from scratch. For instance, we roast our own turkey for the turkey sandwiches.” Then she laughs and says, “We do everything but run the turkey down!”
She says her guests from Great Britain are usually surprised to be served gumbo with tea, but after trying it are ready to take back the recipe to their own tearooms in England. But the culture swap goes both ways. They also give their favorite tearoom recipes to Sylvia and share “the secrets of the Queen’s tearoom” to make the experience in South Mississippi more fun.
Then there’s the tea itself. Sylvia currently stocks over 15 different types of tea. It’s all served up in charming antique teapots and cups. Larger private parties can also order a side cart of extra drinks, soft drinks, lemonade and coffee.
Don’t have a costume, but want to post a few photos of your tea event on social media? Sylvia has that covered too, with an array of both ladies and men’s formal hats.
This spring, Sylvia and her husband Ed are expanding the tearoom by creating a “tea garden”. They’re landscaping the courtyard area now, which will feature fountains, birdbaths and garden statues. Beneath the boughs of a large live oak tree, they’re building an arbor where couples can be married, with a seating area for the bridal party.
“We’ve built a great reputation through the years, based on asking reasonable prices for quality merchandise - all attractively displayed, ” says Sylvia. “In Antique Maison on Second Street, I’ve got forty dealers with a waiting list to get in. That’s why we opened the Ulman location and tearoom.”
Spring and fall, auctions take place at Antique Maison Ulman (to sign up for notification, email them at: email@example.com )
The Youngs take furniture on consignment as well at Ulman Avenue, as long as it’s solid wood and in good condition. They research to price fairly and accurately. Since Ed Young grew up in the family furniture business in New Orleans, he’s been a furniture dealer for 60 years plue. Sylvia’s been working in the antiques furniture business for a dozen years.
Pre-Katrina, at the N. Second Street location, the Youngs owned and operated one of the most popular bridal rental operations on the coast, Bon Temps Roulé. After the storm, they were left with a building, but not much else. They reinvented themselves by reopening as Antique Maison just a year after the storm, to provide spaces for local dealers and help residents have a place to shop to refurnish and redecorate their homes.
“We just don’t give up,” says Sylvia, smiling. “My secret is endurance, a progressive attitude to keep up with the market, and just plain old dedication and determination.”
She smiles. “I guess some of those overlap.”