Carrie Rengers

Economy claims two Wichita tea rooms

Like a number of restaurants, Wichita's tea rooms are suffering due to the economy. Two are closing. A third was saved thanks to a rent reduction.

Riverside Cup of Tea's last day in business is today, and Aunt Hattie's Tea Room at 1810 W. Douglas will close Dec. 30.

"Wichita's not really supporting their tea rooms," says Onalea Gerner Crile , who has owned Riverside Cup of Tea for four of its 12 years.

"We're the most tucked-away of all of the tea rooms," she says of her location at 1617 Briggs, just south of the Castle Inn Riverside .

Almost a year ago, Crile told Have You Heard? she was looking to move. But she decided it was too expensive.

Part of the problem, Crile and others say, is customers look at tea rooms as places only for special occasions.

"If you have enough people come once a year, it's OK," says Pat Crumpton , who owns Aunt Hattie's.

But she says that's not what happens.

"I don't think most people even think about it — supporting independents," Crumpton says. "It's sad, but it's time for me to move on and go see my grandkids."

She's moving to Salina to be with her three grandchildren.

"I gotta get up there before they get too old and don't want nothin' to do with me," she says, laughing.

Sherry Underwood considered closing her Cup-In-Saucer at 4935 W. Central, but her landlord reduced her rent.

"So I get to stay," she says.

Underwood says she's tried to price her 3-year-old business economically so customers feel like they can "afford to come every day if they wanted to."

As a diner herself, Underwood says she's noticed restaurants starting to do better. She eats out only on the weekends, and last year at this time she says there was rarely a wait on Friday or Saturday nights.

That's changed.

"You are having to start to wait in line for tables again."

And that gives Underwood's business some hope.

She says she's been told that it "takes five years to build a clientele base that you can survive on."

"I didn't want to give up too soon."

In the works?

The end of Don Hall's six-month, no-compete agreement with Clear Channel Radio is nearing, and it looks like he may have something in the works with a new station.

But which one?

After five years on KZSN , 102.1-FM , Clear Channel replaced Hall this summer with former Oklahoma City disc jockey Anthony "The Antman "Allen .

Hall was spotted recently taking a pizza in the offices of Connoisseur Media , which has KIBB , 97.1-FM , ("Bob-FM") and KVWF , 100.5-FM , ("The Wolf").

But he's also been spied over at Entercom in the past month.

Our bet is on Hall landing at an Entercom station in the new year.

He started his career at Entercom's KEYN , 103.7-FM , in 1974. It would make sense if that's where he winds up again — possibly to finish out his career — especially since Entercom is advertising for an on-air morning personality for the station.

That's also where Hall's longtime friend Jack Oliver is, and it wouldn't be surprising to find them on air together.

You don't say

"I said, 'What?' I said, 'I'm the owner. It's not, I'm here to tell you.' "

Watermark Books & Cafe managing partner Sarah Bagby's reaction when she heard a woman say the store is closing (which other people have asked her about lately, too)