The Village TeaRoom Restaurant and Bake Shop resides in a 200-year-old building, which adds to the classic feel of the place. The atmosphere changes from a bustling village to one of warmth and intimacy as soon as you walk through those vine and fairy light covered arches.
Once through the door, the heavenly scent of sugar surrounds you and you’re met with a wide array of baked goods. This scene is something that almost everyone in New Paltz is familiar with, though one that won’t be around for long since the restaurant will be closing their doors on April 14.
Agnes Devereux and her family moved to New Paltz in 2000 from Brooklyn. Devereux already had a 3-year-old and was pregnant at the time. Thinking of their children, Devereux and her husband decided to relocate for the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School.
When they arrived in New Paltz and bought their house the historic building was something that came with the house, and something they didn’t really touch for their first few years living here. Once Devereux’s husband retired from his job they started to think of what they could do with the building, and soon decided to turn it into a restaurant.
“We had to gut it because it was two apartments and it was pretty old,” Devereux said. “We basically built a new restaurant inside the skin of an old house.”
Devereux hadn’t always had a career in baking. Back in Brooklyn she was an interior designer, but had always loved baking growing up and had done some catering during her time in Brooklyn.
“From when I was little I always baked. Growing up in a hotel we had a lot of demand for desserts and things like that and my mother always let me do the dessert on Sundays,” Devereux said.
Growing up in Ireland, tea was an everyday thing for Devereux, and she wanted to bring that to America.
“I thought in America the attitude toward tea was either very kind of precious and twee or it was very Asian and reverential,” Devereux said. “And in Ireland tea is an every day part of your life, it’s not so precious.”
Once the demolition of the old house began, Devereux expanded her idea from just a tearoom to include a full restaurant as well.
“Something that I wanted when we opened the restaurant was to be very Hudson Valley oriented and very local,” Devereux said. “Coming from the city, I was a huge fan of the farmers markets, so I was excited to come up here where all the farmers came from, but when I got here I realized none of the restaurants were really selling things locally. So I wanted to create a menu that was European influenced but made with Hudson Valley ingredients.”
Though the TeaRoom is still wildly popular, running the restaurant is “very all consuming.” Devereux’s youngest child is graduating high school, giving Devereux and her husband a chance to live an easier lifestyle.
“Part of closing down has made me really realize that people are incredibly emotional about us closing and kind of upset, they’re coming in here to have all their favorites to the point where we’re actually overwhelmed,” Devereux said. “The biggest accomplishment I feel is the impact it’s had on the community. People really consider this their place, people I don’t even know consider this their place.”
Devereux said it’s been a really busy couple of weeks, “we can hardly keep up because people are just so eager to have their favorites.” She specifically noted the demand for the bee cake, as the TeaRoom is the only place that sells it.
The ending is bittersweet for Devereux, she sold the property and a new restaurant will be popping up soon, but she’ll be continuing with her catering business called “Agnes Devereux Catering.”
“It’s been a pleasure working for Agnes and with my lovely coworkers. Honestly we’re all emotional about it [the restaurant closing], 14 years in the restaurant world is a long time,” said employee Nicole Bressi.
Many people visited the TeaRoom at significant parts of their lives, and the restaurant hosted and catered many weddings and private parties. The TeaRoom was such a big part of New Paltz and the culture here that many people are sad about the closing.
“Often I see people mention the Village TeaRoom because they came here on their first date, or we catered their wedding, or people that I’ve never met who this was their favorite place to come to,” Devereux said. “It’s like you’re a big part of people’s lives and the special parts of people’s lives and that’s really cool.”