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FOCUS: No time for tea! Popular Rozel tearoom forced to close

FOCUS: No time for tea! Popular Rozel tearoom forced to close

Friday 18 November 2022

FOCUS: No time for tea! Popular Rozel tearoom forced to close

Friday 18 November 2022


A local business owner who has been supplying the island with sweet treats for more than a decade has thanked her customers and former staff for all their support after being forced to close her second café premises in a year.

Run for 11 years by Maria Smith, Rozel Bay Tearoom will be closing its doors for the final time next weekend.

It comes just as her other café, Love Cake, was forced to leave Colomberie and become online-only after falling victim to rental and ingredient price rises.

She opened up to Express about the challenges for small hospitality businesses...

Maria had just opened Rozel Bay Tearoom for the day when she received a call to let her know that her new landlord was selling the building.

She described being so "shocked" that she had to immediately close and go home as she "couldn't bear to face the customers".

"The tearoom has been my whole life for many years, so it's going to be extremely hard to see it go," she said.

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Pictured: Maria Smith has owned Rozel Bay Tearoom since 2011.

The blow came at a time when Maria has already been struggling with rising costs impacting her other business, Love Cake.

It had started life online, but moved into a premises at Colomberie.

However, Love Cake was forced to move back online when a more-than-doubling of Maria's annual rent made it unfeasible to continue – particularly while costs were shooting up too.

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Pictured: Maria also had to close her Love Cake café after the rent was due to increase by over 250%.

Maria said: "I have noticed ingredient prices shoot up and almost double. Like with Jersey Wonders, I use a lot of oil in my baking and I have seen the price of a drum of vegetable oil go up from about £30 to nearly £50 a drum!

"I also make cakes for people with dietary requirements, such as gluten-free or dairy-free, which require specialist ingredients and the cost of these have increased hugely too. Margarine, which I used in dairy-free cakes, has increased from £3 to £7 a tub which has a huge impact on my profits. It just feels like whatever you make is gone."

She added: "The issue is that I can't pass the impact of these costs on to my customers or they will just stop buying my cakes! Everyone is struggling with the cost of living, so if I increase my prices there will be no incentive to buy a bespoke cake when you can get supermarket cakes for so much cheaper. I just can't compete."

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Pictured: Rozel Bay Tearoom prided itself on delicious homemade afternoon teas.

Maria has also had to stop employing delivery drivers as the rising fuel costs mean that this would completely use up any profits she makes, and the increasing costs of electricity and water bills have also taken their toll.

Maria admitted that the closure of the tearoom is "perhaps a blessing in disguise" in light of the increasing challenges that small businesses face.

"For the last few years, it's basically been me running the tearoom alone with some young students to help out in the busy summer holidays. I had to cut the menu right down just to keep going.

"On some days I had to close our lovely outdoor sun terrace as I simply couldn't staff it. We would lose customers as people wanted to sit outside on sunny days, but it's impossible to serve that many tables when it's just me with one 14-year-old student helping out!"

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Pictured: “On some days I had to close our lovely outdoor sun terrace as I simply couldn’t staff it."

Maria expressed her gratitude to the many students who have worked for her as summer staff over the years, with one even coming back to visit when he heard the news of the tearoom's closure.

She said: "One of my old Saturday kids came back to the tearoom to say goodbye, and he said to me: 'You haven't failed because you survived Covid.' That was really nice to hear."

It's not just former employees that have shared their support – there has been a "massive" response from the community too.

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Pictured: The tearoom has been a central part of Rozel Bay for over a decade.

"So many customers have made sure to come and see me in person to say goodbye," Maria said.

Since sharing news of the closure on social media, Maria says a few companies have been in touch to discuss a future way forward for the tearoom business, but Maria says she will need some time to consider her options while she continues with Love Cake.

If she could have one 'Christmas wish', however, it would be for "someone to buy [the tearoom] and lease it back to me".

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Pictured: Fans of Maria's cakes will still be able to order them online.

While the situation has been "upsetting", there are some positives – one being the opportunity to "enjoy life" with her young grandson after "not having a weekend in 11 years!"

She also takes away with her many "good memories", with the highlight being the "amazing people and friends" she met during this time.

 

For other aspiring business owners, Maria offers some words of wisdom.

"Just keep it simple and do what you know and enjoy," she advised.

"In 11 years, I feel like I haven't had to do a single day of work because I've loved my job so much. Appreciative customers and compliments from people are more rewarding that money – although I know it doesn't pay the bills!"

Rozel Bay Tearoom's final day of trading will be next Sunday 27 November.

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Posted by John Henwood on
Really sad. Small businesses like the Rozel Tea Room are at the very heart of Jersey's tourism offering and they provide a great local service. Rent and ingredient increases can be the straw that breaks the camel's back after staff shortages and the added administrative burden imposed by government through GST, ITIS and other red tape. These small enterprises are vital, and it would be good to see the government lifting some of that burden.
Posted by Denise Shrives on
A friend was telling me only the other day that a tub of butter she usually buys in U.U. for £3.00 had gone but to £4.50 but she got to Jersey the very same make and size was £7.00. Surely something is wrong somewhere - it couldn't be that Jersey folk are being "ripped off" ! ???
Posted by Keith Marsh on
Such a dreadful shame, the quality of their sandwiches, scones and cakes were first class, and reasonable prices.
Thank you for your good services, very sorry you could not get a business model that would work.
Posted by Private Individual on
Just another nail in the coffin of Jersey Ltd.

Perhaps no parking and getting to Rozel has had an impact on her business, this is the direct result of over taxation and government overreach.
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