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Pair reopen the Tea Room


Owners Morris and Ann Cates, left, and manager Dee Johnson operate The Tea Room restaurant in The Abbey mall on Redwood Street. The Pilot/Lorna Rodriguez

Dee Johnson and Morris and Ann Cates will combine their people skills, decorating abilities and business experience for a cause close to their hearts – reopening the Tea Room, now Dee-Ann’s Tea Room Cafe, located at 434 Redwood St., on Monday.

“I came to town and my favorite place had closed, and the only thing I could do was buy it,” Ann said. 

Morris and Ann Cates of Tyler, Texas, who own two companies in east Texas and vacation in Brookings during the summer, drove into town at the end of June and learned that the Tea Room would be closing June 29.


Ann loves the restaurant’s chicken salad and pies and couldn’t imagine going without.

While at dinner one evening the Cates ran into the former longtime owner, Fran Harris, and asked her why she was closing. Fran said she wanted to retire and travel. 

Ann was so distraught that she woke up at 5 a.m. unable to sleep.

“I knew everyone loved it,” she said.

A few days later, they ran into their good friend Dee Johnson, who has worked at the Tea Room for 10 years. 

The three agreed to meet and discuss the possibility of reopening the restaurant.

After talking until 10:30 p.m. one night, the three came to a decision.

Ann said she would buy the Tea Room – if Dee could make the pies– but couldn’t run the restaurant since she only lives in Brookings during the summer. Dee said “I’ll run it” and confirmed that she could make the pies. 

Morris made Fran an offer, and sealed the deal.

“When he came back and said ‘Well, I guess we’re the owners of that Tea Room, I jumped out of my chair with excitement,’” Ann said. 

Then it was time to get to work.

During the month that the restaurant was closed, lace was added to the shelves that the 1,500-plus tea pots sit on, new artwork and curtains were hung and a new ceiling was put in to name a few changes.

“She’s just had a lot of different things done,” Ann said.

When Dee-Ann’s Tea Room Cafe opens, the regulars can expect more of the same. 

The hours will still be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, the ginger chicken salad will still be available, as will the pies. With the exception of a few additions such as samples of Ann’s taco soup, the menu will not change.

“We didn’t want to come in and change everything because then it wouldn’t be what we bought,” Ann said. 

Dee will still be there each day, too, putting the regular customers’ food on the table when they walk in the door.

“I love the Tea Room,” she said. “It just feels like home to me. The people, they’re like family to me. I love my customers.”

Morris has picked up on that vibe.

“What I like about Dee is everybody knows her and respects her,” Morris said. “I haven’t heard anybody say anything bad about her.”

“I’ve loved her since the first time I met her, and knew she could run it,” Ann said. 

Now that all of the details have been taken care of, the three can’t wait for Monday.

“Everything’s meant to be, so we’re very excited about it,” Dee said.


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