Marilyn Strothers well remembers when the English Rose Tearoom opened in 1997 in downtown Chattanooga.
"Finally, a good cup of hot tea," Strothers recalled Thursday, explaining that the English Rose was the first place that she and her husband, Dan Strothers, found tea they liked after the couple moved to Chattanooga 25 years ago from Canada.
"It was just culture shock that you couldn't get proper tea down here," she said.
The Strotherses were among those Thursday who flocked to the English Rose, which on Saturday will have its last day in business and serve its final cup of tea and its last Cornish pasty among other pub-style English lunch fare.
After 20 years at 1401 Market St. on the first floor of the former Grand Hotel across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the lease has expired, the landlord wasn't willing to renew the lease, and plans fell through for a new owner to reopen the English Rose in a new location, said the tearoom's owner, Sharon Gilley.
"I'm disappointing an awful lot of people. I'm heartsick about it," said Gilley. "I was a customer for 10 years before I bought it in 2011."
Gilley said she's tried for about year to keep the tearoom going, and she scouted out several new locations and potential new owners. But those plans fell through last week, she said.
Gilley offered to pay 10 percent more rent to keep her current space. But she never heard back from the owners, she said, despite sending them four letters.
"They never responded," Gilley said.
While the neighborhood is booming now, Gilley doesn't feel that the landlord has much appreciation for the English Rose — which was a pioneering Southside business when it was opened by Angela Becksvoort, an Englishwoman who took her Dutch husband's last name.
"When you don't hear anything, there's no gratitude, no," Gilley said.
The space is leased by Bluestar Properties, a locally owned business that has an office next to the English Rose Tearoom. A request for comment left there Thursday afternoon wasn't returned. Marcus Lyons, one of the owners of the Grand Hotel, said it wasn't true that Gilley never got a response, but declined further comment.
Gilley doesn't know what's slated next for the English Rose Tearoom's space.
"They won't tell us," she said.
Gilley called the English Rose Tearoom a place of friendship, celebration and a "refuge in a hectic world."
It will be missed by Jenna Hodge, who brought her daughters, Ella Rose, 5, and Emma, 2, from Bryant, Ala., to the English Rose Tearoom Thursday afternoon for peppermint tea, egg salad and scones before a trip to the Chattanooga Zoo.
"We're sad. We're devastated," said Hodge, who's held birthday parties and baby showers at the English Rose.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.