“In the South, a tearoom could be anything, like a meat-and-three,” owner and chef Rashelle Stafford comments. “So we wanted to do a traditional British tea with an American flair.”
Despite no previous experience in the food industry, Rashelle’s lifelong infatuation with tea parties influenced her transition from homeschooling her children full-time to opening her own business in Chattanooga, where she could host tea parties almost every day. In September 2016, after finding the perfect location to house her restaurant, she opened Polly Claire’s in the Historic Dent House. Built circa 1854, the grand home has served many purposes in its more than 150-year history and is most notably remembered as the Bonny Oaks Children’s Home, a sanctuary for countless children from 1895 to 1985.
“I’m from Michigan, so I didn’t know the history of the house, but the more I learned about it, the more I felt connected to it,” Rashelle says. “I always say this is Chattanooga’s house. It’s been closed to the public for so long, so it’s really special to be able to let people back in it.”