November 21, 2016

The End of an Era

November 21, 2016 (326/366)

In In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu), the first volume of his opus Swann's Way, the French writer Marcel Proust described a universe invoked by a simple cup of tea. How many little universes have been savored since Milwaukee's iconic George Watts Tea Shop opened in 1870, the year before Proust's birth? I imagine Victorian ladies in fancy hats and buttoned gloves sipping from china cups; 1950s secretaries in sweaters and pearls nibbling on sandwiches of chicken salad or olive spread during their lunch breaks; young girls enjoying a slice of Sunshine cake with their mothers and grandmothers after shopping trips downtown; hopeful brides indulging in glasses of Champagne after browsing for flatware and crystal in the beautiful shop below the tea room. My mom was one of those secretaries. I was one of those little girls and one of those brides. So it is with sadness that I read that, after 146 as a Milwaukee institution, George Watts and Sons is closing just after Christmas. I will have to savor every cup of the Watts special tea blend that I bought last summer, and, like Proust, revel in the memories that each sip invokes.