Tea room rises from Younkers' ashes as modern events venue – DesMoinesRegister.com


The historic Tea Room has reopened as an occasion house on the highest flooring of the Wilkins Constructing, the previous house of the downtown Des Moines Younkers division retailer. Wochit

The tea room is again. 

Greater than three years after hearth practically destroyed the long-lasting downtown Des Moines restaurant, the previous Younkers Tea Room has a brand new look and a brand new mission.

As soon as a ballroom and lunch venue identified for its rarebit burgers, hen salad and cinnamon rolls, The Tea Room has reopened as an occasion house for receptions, events, galas and conferences.

Gone are the floral drapes and heavy darkish carpet, darkish partitions and ornate lighting. They have been changed with gentle colours and minimal decor.  

It wasn’t a straightforward journey.

There have been years of neglect after the Younkers division retailer closed in 2005 and the constructing was shuttered. Then got here the devastating hearth in 2014 that just about erased the entire historic tea room's remaining glory. 

Rechristened as The Tea Room — the Younkers title now gone — the venue hosted its first official occasion final week.  

“It's over and above what I assumed it might be,” mentioned Katy Nelson, who operates the venue along with her father, Mark Nelson, by way of a partnership with the constructing proprietor Blackbird Investments. “Strolling in right here the primary time final July (2016), it was a multitude.”

The Tea Room takes up the whole prime flooring of the six-story Wilkins Constructing at Seventh and Walnut streets.

As soon as half of the Younkers division retailer, the Wilkins Constructing was spared the worst of the 2014 hearth, which leveled its sister constructing to the east. An enormous gap nonetheless exists the place that constructing as soon as stood. 

However smoke and water harm left the tea room a crumbling and charred catastrophe. 

The Alexander Co. of Madison, Wisconsin, was renovating the constructing on the time of the fireplace. The historic constructing restoration firm thought-about resuming work however ended up promoting the property to Blackbird in 2015. The Des Moines-based mostly developer assembled a group from Neuman-Monson Architects, Weitz Co. development and Modus Engineering to complete the job.

It partnered with the Nelsons, who personal and function Scenic Route Bakery within the East Village, to handle the house.

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Extra: Tea room in burned out Younkers building to be revived

The Tea Room is a modern, easy house with white partitions and gray, black and gold accents.

However its not all new. Ornately carved trim alongside the ceiling and on the tops of columns have been painstakingly restored by specialists from New York who took items of ornamental molding that survived the fireplace and created new plaster trim by hand.

“It was in such a terrific state of destruction that it's unbelievable that they'd the power to deliver it again to its historic significance,” mentioned Harry Doyle, a Blackbird associate. “That is rather more than a tea room, it’s part of the material of the group.”

There are different little touches, just like the restored black and blue tile within the foyer and Juliet balconies that hark again to the tea room's opening days within the Wilkins Constructing in 1925.

A small mahogany carved chest sitting close to the elevators is likely one of the tea room's earlier items, Mark Nelson mentioned. Its proprietor, a man whose father had been a tea room chef from 1951 to 1985, needed the chest to be a part of the renovated house.

“Having grown up within the tea room, he was a wealth of knowledge. We additionally acquired menus from him and recipes just like the rarebit burger sauce,” Nelson mentioned. 

The connection that the tea room has with the group is robust, he mentioned. At an occasion Wednesday night, two former tea room waitresses confirmed up of their uniforms, one sporting a pencil behind her ear.

“That’s the legacy of the tea room,” Mark Nelson mentioned. “We would like individuals to return and revel in it.”

And it’s not solely a treasure for many who bear in mind lunching on the tea room with their grandmothers as kids.

“This can be a likelihood to introduce the tea room to a complete new technology,” mentioned Laura Fetter, basic supervisor.

Total, the occasion house consists of:

  • The ballroom with seating for about 265, a detachable dance flooring and a stage;
  • The Backyard Room, an area for smaller gatherings, with room for about 125 individuals;
  • The Jubilee Room, adjoining to the ballroom it could actually seat one other 40 to 50 individuals and serves as a spillover house to the ballroom;
  • The Rose Room, a small, personal house for VIPs or brides;
  • A totally geared up catering kitchen;
  • And bar service space.

Maya Boettcher, proprietor of Plum Occasion + Design in Des Moines, has already booked the house for 2 marriage ceremony receptions.

“Persons are in search of upscale occasion venues that aren't essentially in a resort ballroom. Lots of my shoppers need one thing out of the field and in contrast to anybody else’s marriage ceremony,” she mentioned.

The Tea Room’s impartial colours make it simple to customise for an occasion, however extra importantly, the house has historic significance, Boettcher mentioned. 

The Nelsons additionally wish to host public events at The Tea Room like a New 12 months’s Eve get together, breakfast with Santa or a Valentine’s Day dinner. There’s even some dialogue of providing a dinner theater. The probabilities with the brand new house are quite a few, Mark Nelson mentioned.

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Flats open at former Younkers web site

Flats, which occupy 4 flooring under The Tea Room within the renovated Wilkins Constructing, are prepared for occupancy, mentioned Harry Doyle, a associate in Blackbird Investments, the undertaking’s developer.

Blackbird spent about $26 million reviving the constructing that was gutted by hearth on March 29, 2014.

Blackbird not too long ago completed work on the sixth flooring of the constructing, which homes the revamped former Younkers division retailer tea room.

The Wilkins Constructing consists of 60 residences on 4 flooring with business and retail on the primary flooring. 5 of the one- and two-bed room residences are occupied and three extra are leased.

Blackbird plans to construct a 33-story residential co-op tower dealing with Walnut Avenue within the spot the place the Younkers division retailer stood earlier than hearth razed the constructing in 2014.

Doyle mentioned with approvals anticipated, development ought to start Dec. . The constructing needs to be accomplished in about two years.

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Tea room rises from Younkers' ashes as modern events venue - DesMoinesRegister.com