When walking through the door at Sweet Willow & Company, your senses are met with the tantalizing aroma of British baking, in addition to the plethora of unique gifts available in the shop.
Opening day, Tuesday, July 13, Karen George greeted her first customers to her new business, AK's Tea and Bake Shoppe. The unique shoppe is located at the back of the store, featuring British baking, including shortbreads and just about anything you might find on the menu from "The Great British Baking Show." The buttercream frosting is unique to British baking and there is less sugar than traditional baking, and George noted that she cooks with butter, rather than shortening.
"I think we process differently," commented George of the gluten-free baking that she brings from England.
On the left side of her counter—which includes a display of luscious baked goods, are tables and chairs and a décor that comes straight from England. George comes from a background in finance. She has also had a cake decorating business, in addition to a tea room she previously owned and operated in Redmond. She has a delightful English accent, which she acquired from growing up in Windsor, which is approximately 20 miles west of London, England.
George, who lives in Prineville, laughed about the story of how she came about her previous tea room in Redmond, and now her current bakeshop in the back of Sweet Willow & Company.
"The tea room started as a joke," she said of the Redmond tea room—known then as AK's Tea Room.
She indicated that she was having coffee and bagels in Prineville with a friend, which did not have a hint of British, whatsoever.
"We decided we couldn't get a decent cup of tea anyway," she laughed. "The gentleman said. 'I think you should just add a tea room.' I said, 'I think you are right.' Eight weeks later, we opened AK's (Tea Room). I wanted somewhere people could just come and sit down. It was like the tea rooms I knew that I grew up in. That is kind of what we wanted to do."
"AK is Aunty Karen, which is what my other kids—my nieces, call me—Aunt Karen."
She was in the location at the old downtown hotel in Redmond and had AK's Tea Room for eight years. They closed last year in June.
She said they kept part of the name, so her old customers could still find them from their old tea room. George indicated that a combination of things—especially COVID—brought about their closure at the hotel.
When she closed her tea room in Redmond, she quickly became restless and missed having her business. She opened Tuesday, July 13, and she offers teas, soups and sandwiches, and baked goods. She is known for her gluten-free baked goods and breads. For the immediate future, her food will be take-out only.
George has a seating area, and she has plans to offer group events, with seating up to 15 people. She is hoping to be able to offer her China dinnerware soon and serve up tea in the traditional British style for her customers.
AK's Tea amd Bake Shoppe
Owner: Karen George
Address: 233 NW Third St.
Located in the back of Sweet Willow & Company
Offers shortbreads, baked goods, sandwiches and soups, and English teas.
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