“It’s all pristine, nothing shabby-chic about it,” McCracken said.
When she started doing it, no one else was, and business spread by word of mouth. The couple have done events all over the country, shipping the vintage wares in military crates spray-painted in Erlandson’s signature color: hot pink.
The retail shop is built around items that Erlandson looks to purchase but can’t find anywhere — items like a rondo, a decorative lined napkin she imports from Poland that looks like a fan when closed and opens into a circle to be used as a place mat.
Jams and jellies from France and England, loose-leaf and bagged teas, molded sugars, tea bread, sweets, jars of lemon curd and clotted cream line the shelves and antique tables of the small and airy rooms.
The “saucer crackers” — floral packages that open with a snap to reveal scrolls bearing punchy messages that raise a smile or create debate — are a favorite of Marianne Cercome, a self-proclaimed “tea nut” from Walpole who has enjoyed tea all over the world.
“It absolutely adds to the community,” she says. “It’s beautiful and tasteful and it’s just a fun and relaxing place to come.”
The 89-year-old Cercome said she grew up in a different world, and the tea room helps her reminisce about teas she once had with her grandmother and mother, both of whose china she inherited.
While the business lends itself to something that could be stuffy, dusty, cluttered, and chintzy, Erlandson’s shop is none of those things. The elegant appeal is almost nostalgic. Redolent and evocative, the shop is the product of years of scrupulous work.
After years of collecting and studying and researching, Erlandson can take one look at a piece of china and, before turning it over, know who the maker is. By tapping a tea cup and listening to the sound it makes, she can tell if it’s cracked.
Beyond authenticity, Erlandson has an eye — and heart — for beauty, and an appreciation of a bygone era.
“It is so consuming in me that I have no choice but to do this. It just comes out and this is it,” she said, gesturing around the pink room. “Thank God I have a great husband who embraces it — I am blessed that that’s the case and he embraces pink, so we’re good.”
And the shop’s mission goes beyond self-fulfillment.
“I think life is hard, and you never know what someone’s struggle is,” she said. “And I think with a place like this, if I can create a moment where someone can forget their troubles at the door, then I feel like I’ve achieved something.”