Tea, pastries add to attractions at collectibles shop Room offers a place to read or chat CARROLL COUNTY FARM/BUSINESS


A cup of tea, a few delicate pastries and a place to read or chat. That's what Wendy Mueller is promising with her new Victorian tea room.

The tea room, in Wendy's Collectibles in Westminster, opened this week with little fanfare.

"We want an environment where people will be comfortable and not stuffy," said Ms. Mueller. "For people that don't drink [alcohol], this will be a place where they can meet their friends without having to yell over loud music."

Aside from creating a cozy atmosphere on East Main Street, Ms. Mueller said that she and her husband, Jim, are also hoping that the tea room will attract customers to their shop.

At the very least, it will make the shop unique, Ms. Mueller said.

"We went back and forth between having a tea room and a coffee shop," Ms. Mueller said. "A tea room sounded elegant, and we thought it would complement the antiques and collectibles we sell."

For $2, a customer may have a "bottomless" pot of various flavored coffees or teas, she said. A selection of pastries, finger sandwiches, fruit and cheese is available for $3 more.

"I plan to serve what I made that day," said Ms. Mueller, who was a baker for Martin's and Weis grocery stores before she opened her shop in February 1992. "We were going to open the tea room with the store, but we found out how much restaurant equipment costs. It's not like buying a stove or a refrigerator for the house."

As an added attraction, Ms. Mueller said she would like to have a tarot card reader at the shop.

"I know a lot of women are going down to Baltimore for that, and I'd like to keep the money in Carroll County," she said.

The couple's fascination with purchasing old furniture began when they furnished their Bond Street home with antiques, Ms. Mueller said. When the project was completed after several years, the Muellers found that they couldn't break the habit of visiting antique shops and estate auctions every weekend.

"The house may be done, but you're still out looking for things," she said. "It's like an addiction."

After purchasing more furniture than they would ever need, the Muellers decided to "thin out" the collection by selling unwanted pieces at flea markets.

"When we'd thinned it out, we realized we had some more money to buy more antiques," Ms. Mueller said.

"It just snowballed out of control. We realized we might not get rich, but we could make a little money to support our habit of buying."

When they opened the Main Street store last year, the couple decided to expand their focus, adding collectibles to their antique collection.

"If you just sell antiques, you're limited by quality and the age of the pieces," Ms. Mueller said.

"This way, I can sell anything that I like that is a bit unique. I can buy nicer things at a reasonable price and pass that price on to my customers."

Although there are a few more-expensive, older pieces in the shop, her prices range from $30 to $50, she said.

"Almost anyone can find something to buy in this shop," Ms. Mueller said. "I consider something affordable if I were to see it in someone else's shop, like it and can take it home."

Lower prices also attract customers in the current poor economic climate, she said.

"Only if you have something that is reasonable will people buy it," said Mr. Mueller, who used to manage the flea market in Littlestown. He is now a project superintendent for MAS Contractors Inc.

"People are out and spending if it is less money."

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