Homemade goodies, high tea in the woods
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By ADRIANA JANOVICH
CLIFFDELL — It began with bread and jam.
Seven years later, there are six sample menus at Mary’s Place, where high tea meets the mountains.
To get to this cabin in the foothills leading to Chinook Pass, cross the one-car, wooden bridge over the Naches River off State Route 410 and hang a right.
Be sure to call ahead. Shopping and tea parties are by appointment only.
But, if the door’s unlocked, Mary’s around here somewhere — in the kitchen, garden or soaphouse — and unexpected guests are always welcome.
“I want to make people laugh and have a good time. My whole goal is a feel-good, happy place,” says 62-year-old Mary Pelzel, the shopkeeper and owner, high-tea hostess, self-taught chef, self-published writer and grandmother.
She’ll put the kettle on.
A cuppa tea is complimentary for shoppers. Usually, a homemade cookie is, too.
And while they’re enjoying their treats, customers are encouraged to give one — or two — to Mattie, the 10-year-old resident black lab. Dog treats sit in a dish just inside the entryway, which leads to the sunroom, perennially stocked with wares Mary makes by hand — from soap to salad dressing, bread mix and bubble bath, lip balm and lotion.
“I’ve had ladies here for tea parties flip over their plates and want to know if I made them, too,” she says.
Soap scents range from maple sugar and lemon grass to woodland pear, rosemary and honey, Egyptian geranium, almond and aloe vera.
Bread mixes also come in a variety of flavors — from garlic to pepper and onion and cinnamon sunrise. So do salad dressings — from raspberry champagne to soy ginger.
And preserves, too —apricot, peach, beet root, bing cherry, sweet corn, onion, strawberry and plum, huckleberry and jalapeño, and apple pie.
“Everything is local,” Mary says. “A lot of it I grow myself.”
She also started her own North Woods Publishing Company to publish her two recipe books. The latest one, published last year, includes anecdotes about living in the woods along with corresponding recipes.
She also writes and distributes a “Mary’s Place Newsletter.”
Mary moved to the mountains in 1998 with her husband David, 59. He owns an auto repair shop in Selah, where they used to live. Now, he commutes. And she runs her sylvan shop and tea room.
Mary started it as a hobby, something to keep her busy in the woods, where she was caring for her aging parents, who used to live in the cabin where the shop is now.
She sold homemade pepper sauce, gift baskets and “some little gifty things,” offering folks free samples of her fresh-baked bread and homemade preserves as they shopped.
Those free samples led a group of women to request a private tea party or two, which Mary hosted in her home. And the tea room grew from there, eventually moving into her late parents’ old home.
“It kind of grew from bread and jam,” Mary says, adding, “It’s not a hobby anymore. I put 100 percent of all of me into the business.”
These days, she says her biggest challenge is simply “keeping up with myself.”
Customers come from throughout the Yakima Valley as well as west side of the state. They book tea parties to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, reunions and holidays, like Valentine’s Day.
“A large part of the charm of what I do is that my guests are right in the middle of everything with me,” says Mary, who does all the cooking.
“Everything is done from scratch. That’s what makes it special,” she says, adding, “I don’t let anyone else touch my cooking; I’m awfully picky.”
However, menus can be customized. And so can guests’ tea party attire. Mary dons Victorian-style gowns, complete with long, drop earrings and choker necklaces. And she encourages customers to choose from the array of hats and feather boas in the powder room.
Says Mary, “There’s a lot of giggling that goes on in here.”
|Owner: Mary Pelzel
Product or service: Handmade soaps, bubble bath, lip balm and lotion, jam, relish, salad dressing and bread mix, assorted teas and gifts, private tea parties with six menus for six to 30 people
Location: 62 Deer Cove Lane, Naches
Length of ownership: Seven years.
Number of employees: Just herself, although she has six helpers (including her husband) she can call on for tea parties
Average number of hours worked by owner each week: 80-plus