Liam Maguire: Growing Up In The Tea Room

By Liam Maguire

Another Manotick landmark falls to the wrecking ball. The building known for decades as the Manotick Tea Room is no more.

Although it had been vacant for a number of years, the white two-story building at 5536 Main Street was arguably thee second most known building in the village next to the Mill.

A structure was first erected at that location in 1865 and went through several owners and incarnations until it became a snack bar in the late 1920’s. That was also the time period it was first referred to as a ‘Tea Room’, but for the majority of us who have a history in and around the village pre-dating 1988 our memories of that place will always be the time period when it was owned by Pete and Tess Krupa.

The Krupa’s bought the place in 1952 and formally changed the name to the Manotick Tea Room. At the time, there were two pin ball machines inside, and I can tell you from firsthand experience, these were the greatest source of entertainment within 20 miles in the mid to late 1960s and into the 1970s.

Highway 16 (Now Prince of Wales) ran through the Village until 1963, so the Tea Room served as a truck stop as much as it did a restaurant for the village and it served as a place for the local sports teams to gather either postgame or for their banquets. Although it was never licensed to sell alcohol under the Krupa ownership, rumour has it late at night if you were staying in one of the rooms upstairs, a bottle might be found to help you take the edge off before you embarked on your trip the next day into Ottawa or south to Prescott.

Pete and Tess Krupa

The Krupas owned the Tea Room until 1988. For me personally it will always be the first place our family dined out after moving to the Kars Road in 1966. I remember it vividly. At the time, it was as fancy a place as I’d ever been in. My brothers and I had hamburgers, fries and a Coke and then raced wide eyed to the pinball machines. When I think of it now – If you weren’t around then and I tried to describe the village compared to today – it’s just amazing how much things have changed.

There is not one single person who spent any significant time there who would not remember the Krupas, especially Tess (Teresa). She passed away in 2004 at 79 years of age, preceded by her husband Peter. ‘Pete’ may have been the kindest, most gentle man I ever met in my life. A total opposite of Tess! LOL. I know underneath her gruff exterior lay the heart of an angel, but my goodness she could put the fear of God in you with one of her roars if you were acting up, or a yell for Peter to quicken his pace to get the breakfast out or for their dog to move out of the way. She was something else. Later, the Krupas leased out the back of the building for a hair salon all the while maintaining their lock on the best place to go for breakfast or a quick snack and catch up on the local gossip.

For a few years in the early 1980s, myself and the late John ‘JT’ Daly and Norm ‘Ya you!’ Scissons would meet there every Saturday morning at 1030 am. It was the day after the night before sort of thing. Our Friday nights would always start at the Legion for Happy Hour where you’d try and drill as many of the 75c pints into you as you could before embarking on your night. The Saturday morning breakfasts at the Tea Room were instrumental in finding out what the night before activities had been. Same three questions all the time; any fights, any ladies, any parties after? We’d finish eating and be on our way. That all ended in 1988.

Liam Maguire and Pete Krupa on the Krupa’s final Saturday of operation 33 years ago.

I grabbed the above picture with Peter on their final Saturday of operation 33 years ago. Main Street Manotick for me through my first couple of decades living in the area meant stopping at Lindsay and McCaffery’s and chatting up ‘ol Mr. Del McCaffery. The Royal Bank was where Leona Rushleau worked, mother to my longtime friend Paul Rushleau and who I opened my first bank account with in 1971. Sonny’s Garage opened in 1976. The Mill Restaurant was the McEvoy house, home to a large family all of whom I knew. Charlie Cochrane lived ‘up the road’. The Kettles were at the top of the Hill. Manotick Gift and Stationary was right where Manotick Office Pro is now and Vince Daly’s home was right behind it. The old Fina station was on Main Street and once you rolled over the hill toward Century Road, your last stop was Wilson’s Shell until Ross Nicholls opened his pizza place, Ross’s Pizza, located where the fire hall is now. But thee place, the one that stood out as much or more than any, was the Tea Room.

I learned a long while ago you can’t stop father time, progress or change. It is inevitable. Several restaurants gave it a real good go after the Krupa’s sold it notably the Kuiacks, who did a fantastic job while there. Once it was no longer the Tea Room, the old regulars congregated at Tommy’s Pizza and some could still be found at the Legion especially on a Friday night. Over time they have found their way to the Creekside Restaurant, specifically the stools around the bar. Those 8-10 regulars combine for 600+ years in our community. If you ever want to find out what Manotick was like back in the day, drop in, introduce yourself and just ask who was around the village pre-1970. You’ll get tons of responses, stories and anecdotes. Just don’t sit in John Cronk’s chair.

As I stood there last week –  by the now gaping hole in the ground talking to the construction men working the site – I swear I could see a table at the back by the washroom with an assortment of Delaney’s, Cliff Wiggins, a young Bobby Sherman, congregated around their cups of coffee – one more time – with Tess yelling from the kitchen and Pete shuffling out with the pot for refills. It was a great era, a fantastic time and it’s ingrained in my mind as part of my youth in the village of Manotick. RIP the Tea Room! May you live on in spirit to all you served.