Photos by Meg Johnson
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Underneath the large oak and maple trees of Versailles, Missouri, lies a 114-year-old Victorian house-turned-teahouse restaurant. Ladies, couples, and families come in for their weekly teatime, or even fly in from as far as England to get the Midwestern tea experience.
Shady Gables makes over 140 different kinds of teas. Co-owner Pam Unruh brews all of the loose-leaf teas and handpicks the menu. Customers can get the Queen’s Choice, which is a full luncheon meal, or they can order the Princess Preference, the smaller luncheon option with tea and scones.
“The homemade lemon curd and jam for the rich scones keep us coming back,” says regular Mary Evans, while having a ladies luncheon with church friends. “We first had some of her tea from her gift shop at a church outing and wanted to see the house for ourselves.”
Owners Terry Silvey and Unruh maintain one of the main tourist attractions in the Lake the of Ozarks area, but it wasn’t always a teahouse. A family lived in the house prior to Silvey transforming the home into a teahouse. Silvey was always fascinated by the house from a young age.
“He used to play in the yard when his mother visited across the street and always said he would own the house someday,” says Unruh. “And look what happened.”
After buying the house in 2000, Silvey did some remodeling so the house would be more restaurant-esque, and eventually he added on the gift shop.
“We just started from word of mouth, and to having regulars, to now having visitors from England try our tea to feel a sense of home.”- Terry Silvey
“I knew the house needed some work, so I expanded the kitchen area after our tearoom kept selling out,” says Silvey. “There really isn’t anything like this around here, and I liked hot tea a lot, and I wanted to bring more people to Versailles.”
Silvey is the mayor of Versailles and has brought tourists from all over the country to Shady Gables. “This is our 18th year, and we are just trying to get better every year,” says Silvey. “We just started from word of mouth, and to having regulars, to now having visitors from England try our tea to feel a sense of home.”
Silvey and Unruh both balance working for Shady Gables. Unruh creates the seasonal menu and uses her background in baking and sales, while Silvey does the gardening and helps their small staff on busy days.
“This restaurant allows me to use my creativity within my cooking and with the teas.” -Pam Unruh
“I am a people person, so I’ve combined that with my passion for baking when my mom and I used to bake,” says Unruh. “This restaurant allows me to use my creativity within my cooking and with the teas.”
Shady Gables brings in a diverse clientele, ranging from ages three to 90. Silvey adds that this teahouse is not just for ladies.
“I see a lot of young men that will come in with their mothers and sisters,” Silvey says. He adds that a motorcycle group on a road trip from Kansas City of 15 to 20 people come every year with their wives to have tea.
“You can hear their motorcycles from about a mile away and they come every year or two,” Silvey says.
“The homemade lemon curd and jam for the rich scones keep us coming back.” – Mary Evans
Silvey and Unruh both love the community and want to bring more people to the town of Versailles with their tearoom’s uniqueness.
“I don’t know any other man that owns and operates a tearoom, so if that isn’t unique I don’t know what is,” laughs Silvey.
The Central Missouri tearoom has an online gift shop and takes reservations for birthday parties, private events, or just afternoon tea with friends. You can make reservations for tea by calling (573) 378-2740