BILLY SUTER has some sad news… the quirky and fun Deborah’s tea lounge and gift shop in Kloof, which he wrote about a few weeks ago – see earlier article below – is closing on May 31 (ironically, owner Deborah Nel’s birthday). Since road works were done some months ago in the area, regulars have stopped coming, says Deborah, who has been forced to close and sell it all. Below is my original feature on this delightful venue with a quaint gift shop and Victorian-inspired tea lounge . Highlighting all things vintage, shabby chic and enchantingly kitsch, it’s in a building in the large garden of a private home. One can buy novel gifts then enjoy coffee, good cake and savoury items while surrounded by quirky items of nostalgia in a cosy setting.
VARIOUS old lampshades and strings of white fairylights hang from bare, white rafters dominated by showers of colourful, dangling women’s hats from the 1920s through to the ’60s . Here and there, fun mobiles created with colourful teacups jostle for space.
Welcome to the fun, sublime Mad Hatter Tea Party-meets Fairytale Granny Cottage-meets Kitschy-Quaint Collective that is Deborah’s, a wood, brick and-corrugated-iron tea garden and gift shop at 5 Pioneer Road in Kloof, not far from Thomas More College.
There’s hardly a bare corner in this delightful venue’s two rooms and al fresco area, all built by owner Deborah Nel’s husband, Peter, using assorted doors, windows and other bits and bobs they acquired from demolished homes.
There’s just so much here to catch the eye, raise a smile, spark a conversation or encourage a closer look.
Take, for instance, the pair of white gloves draped at the base of an empty, ornate picture frame that hangs on a bright-pink wall in the tea lounge. Or, also there, the old-fashioned black telephones atop bookcases spilling old books.
It is in the tea lounge, which flows from the gift shop, that you will find the most cheerful clutter of cuteness and kitsch – mismatched, comfy old chairs; floral couches draped with assorted covers and cushions; chairs and tables; and various coffee tables featuring faded-hue flowers in lace-covered jam jars.
Mismatched mirrors, patterned plates and saucers, and old show-tune sheet music are among the novelties on the walls, one of which is pale pink, another of which is white.
Then there’s a wall in vibrant salmon and gaudy-yellow stripes, offset by a window with a billowing puff of pink netting, alongside which stands a lampstand with a white shade edged in white feathers, while, nearby, white ‘grandma’ doilies cling to pelmets.
Not to forget the old white wedding dresses on headless mannequins – one of which takes pride of place in the gift shop, having been bought by Deborah from a Mrs Humphrey, who got married in the frock, in Durban’s Musgrave area, when she was 18, in 1944.
“I met her at the age of 91 when I bought the dress,” says Deborah, as she hurries between her gift shop till and a small kitchen area where she displays her cakes of the day – her own-recipe Banting Baked Cheesecake with a Lindt topping, Lemon Meringue, Tipsy Tart, Carrot Cake, Scones and Chocolate Brownies.
The first time I visited Deborah’s, more than a year ago, was on the advice of a friend who insisted I simply had to get a taste of heaven by trying Deborah’s Macadamia Nut Nougat Baked Cheesecake. Wow! Not cheap at R44 for a modest slice, but worth every cent, in my opinion.
Deborah says she long had a passion to create a tea-garden/lounge with a quirky vintage feel – and first started collecting old, quirky things about six years ago.
“I have always loved the old things,” she says with a wide smile. “Growing up in an old homestead, and having grannies that baked, knitted and crocheted, got me into that love.”
The first “vintage” item Deborah owned was a teacup, saucer and cake plate.
“It was from my Ouma. She passed her set onto my mom, who then passed it onto me,” she recalls, explaining that the tea garden idea began in 2011, at her former Kloof home, when she would have a “pop-up tea garden” one weekend every three months.
Then she and her husband acquired their home in Pioneer Road, and about four years ago they cleared an area of bush on the property to make way for the Deborah’s buildings, the gift shop being first to arrive.
“Peter built the existing shop and I served cake and toasted sandwiches. Then, a year later, he built the Victorian Lounge extension, and I extended my menu to what it is today,” says Deborah, who was born and raised in Kloof and previously worked as a bank teller, then a secretary.
Her menu now features a variety extending from sandwiches and salads to various quiches, and there is also a take-away menu.
Lovely touches include lemon-scented towelling napkins waiting on a saucer when one arrives in the lounge, and chilled water in jugs should you want it.
Some of the varied nostalgic items on display at Deborah’s are for sale or hire, others for show, and Deborah finds it difficult to single out any one item that she rates as most special.
“There isn’t really a single item I could choose… it is all special. Special because it was as I dreamt it would be,” she says.
Complimented on her cakes, Deborah explains that she started cooking and baking when she was 14.
“I used to watch my mom and help her until I could do some things on my own. Also I did Home Economics at school,” she explains.
Certainly a visit to Deborah’s for a browse and/or bite is highly recommended. Do yourself the favour…
The Deborah’s phone number is 082 257 3497 and the website is at www.deborahs.co.za