Today we are talking with Beth and David Melling, owners of the Smith-Byrd House in Prattville. If you have not visited their gift shop or tea room yet, you are missing out! They have many unique items for sale in their gift shop, ranging from tussie mussies to bags of their own delicious teas. Their loose tea menu is quite extensive-it’s almost impossible to pick a flavor you wouldn’t like. Some of our favorites are Snowflake and Strawberry Shortcake. Their tea room menu is delicious as well. Once you taste their blackberry currant scones and strawberry cream scones, you might just be hooked for life. The Mellings even contributed a scone recipe and their recipe for clotted cream to the book Scones & Tea: The Ultimate Collection of Recipes for Teatime. The book is available in their gift shop.
Not only is this tea room and bed and breakfast perfect for a weekend getaway or an afternoon with friends, it is a great space for wedding events-whether it’s a shower or rehearsal dinner or both. To find out a little more about the inspiration behind Beth and David’s Victorian tea room and bed and breakfast, as well as their offerings for wedding events, we asked them the questions below:
1) How did you become interested in opening a tea room and a bed and breakfast?
David had just returned from a trip to England and Scotland when we met, and he loved the tea there. After we married, we went through a phase of enjoying flavored coffees. We started trying tea and found that to be more satisfying. David also had a boss at the time who loved tea and they began ordering loose tea together to save on shipping. A couple of sisters Beth knew from Georgia had opened up a tea room and when we were back visiting her parents, we made time to go have afternoon tea. We found several tea rooms near our home that we would frequent from time to time as well.
We both loved the aspect of taking your time and relaxing in this day where everyone seems to be in a hurry. At some point we found ourselves saying, “wouldn’t it be fun to open a tea room somewhere, someday.” Early on we also developed a love of historic homes, particularly from the Victorian era. After about 10 or more years of dreaming about someday, David found himself in one of the rounds of layoffs from his company. Beth told him that maybe now was the time, and immediately started going online and looking for old houses for sale. Wanting to return to her roots, Beth focused her search in the south, primarily Alabama and Georgia. As David got more excited about the idea, they developed a business plan which included both a tea room and bed & breakfast. We both enjoyed staying in B&B’s when possible as we traveled. Beth also had done a lot of volunteer work with our local university campus, so we were used to people coming in and out of our house. It was a natural progression for us. We love people, and both avenues allow us to utilize our natural gifts of hospitality and serving.
2) How long has the Smith-Byrd House been open?
May will be our 4th anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! We bought the house in April of 2007 and spent most of the next year working to get it to a place where we could open for business. We currently have 2 rooms for the bed & breakfast, and we utilize the large dining room and the parlor for the tea room. We also use one of the downstairs rooms as a gift shop. We have over 100 varieties of loose tea that are available for purchase along with other tea related items.
3) How early do brides or shower hostesses need to contact you about an event?
Since we are starting to get more reservations for showers and luncheons, I would suggest at least a month or two before you plan to have it. We have some who plan it 3-6 months out and others who are trying to put something together fairly quickly. The earlier you contact us, the better chances of your date being available as some months tend to be busier or more popular than others.
4) Do you offer special menus for bridal events?
We do have several menu options in addition to our regular menu depending on the type of event. Our Princess Tea and Queen’s Tea are the most popular menu items for bridal teas and luncheons. We’ve even served those to smaller, more intimate showers. We have another menu for the more traditional shower where 25 or more people are expected. This option is served buffet style. We also do private dinners and have developed a menu for that too.
5) What types of wedding events can be held at the Smith-Byrd House?
We are a great location for Bridal Teas, Bridesmaids Luncheons, and Showers. If the wedding party is smaller, we can host the rehearsal dinner. Our dining room can seat around 25 comfortably. We might be able to accommodate a small intimate reception. The one thing we are not set up for is the wedding itself. The main reason is that even for an outdoor wedding, the house is located on a very busy and noisy corner lot. We felt like it is just not conducive to weddings.
With the bed & breakfast, we would be suitable for either out of town wedding guests, or if the bride and groom wanted a nice place to stay that is close so as not to have to drive too far right after a busy wedding day.
6) Is there one event that you have hosted so far that stands out as being most memorable? If so, what was it?
We hosted a party for the wife of one of the generals who retired from Maxwell Air Force Base. She had been a regular patron of the tea room, always bringing 2-3 women with her. Once her husband retired, they would be moving back to their home state in the mid-west. She had such a sweet spirit about her and we were honored that she chose to have her retirement luncheon here. We did our best to make it extra special, and I think we succeeded.
Fun Facts about the Smith-Byrd House:
-It was originally built in the 1880’s
-Beth and David offer a murder mystery dinner every few months
-Beth and David also offer scone making classes and tea tasting classes
Here is the contact information for the Smith-Byrd House:
Note: All pictures were obtained from http://www.smithbyrdhouse.com