A small English tea room in Amherst is continue to receive accolades.
A year after being recognized by Chatelaine magazine as one of the top 10 spots in Canada for afternoon ‘high’ tea, Birkinshaw’s Tea Room, Coffee House & Restaurant was honoured by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia as its New Tourism Business of the Year Award.
The award was presented during the Association’s Crystal Tourism Awards of Excellence ceremony in Halifax on Dec. 3.
“It’s a great acknowledgement,” Adrian Bradbury told the Amherst News. “Amherst itself was never going to be able to support this type of business and it was always Eleanor’s plan that tourism would be an important part of it.
“There’s a lot going on in Amherst and for TIANS to recognize and acknowledge us is very humbling.”
The award, presented by the Halifax International Airport Authority, is presented annually to a new tourism business that has demonstrated notable achievements in such areas as business growth, economic impact, excellence in customer service, innovation and quality focus in operation.
For the Bradburys it all started when they came to Nova Scotia as tourists 15 years ago and decided to settle here with their family and start a new life. That grew into the opening of the tea room in December 2017 that, along with recognition from Chatelaine magazine, has seen it also receive an Amherst Small Business of the Year Award in 2018.
“As newcomers to Canada, it has been wonderful to see how the little piece of England that we have brought to Amherst has been well received,” Adrian said. “Nova Scotia is justly proud of its specialties, such as its wonderful lobster, maple syrup and scallops, but tourism is about more than that. Immigrants bring part of their own culture, their passions and their uniqueness to the area and, as a country that recognizes multiculturalism, it embraces it and these new ventures then become a draw to visitors as well as the more traditionally known things.”
Eleanor said they have found that some people plan their trips to the area based on the availability of the workshops at Birkinshaw’s and being able to book one of its afternoon teas.
They then build their visit around that and visit other area businesses such as Dayle’s Grand Market, 30 Church Women’s Clothing and Mansour’s Men’s Wear and taking in the town’s rich Victorian architecture.
Amherst, she said, is well situated for tourism – the issue getting visitors off the highway and into town.
“It is incredibly pleasing and exciting for us as it shows that, in sharing something that we love of our culture, we are making a difference to our new home,” she said. “Tourism is a vital part of the Nova Scotia economy and being recognized as a contributor to that wealth generation for the province is a wonderful and humbling experience.”
Eleanor Bradbury said when people think of tourism, they don’t often think of tea rooms. They think of site-seeing, whale watching and other experiences, but everyone also likes to eat and when people can make eating part of that experience.
Much of their success comes from those who have come to Birkinshaw’s and shared their experiences while the tea room also has a large following on social media, including Facebook and Instagram.
Adrian is a trained baker while Eleanor is Cordon Bleu trained. Neither had worked in the restaurant business until they opened Birkinshaw’s.
The restaurant gets its name from Adrian’s grandfather, Cyril Birkinshaw, who was a butler to several aristocratic families in England. It’s where he developed his love of food.
They could’ve opened the business anywhere, but wanted to make a contribution to Amherst.
“We didn’t want to be elsewhere. We moved to Amherst and when we decided to do this we could’ve gone to Sackville, where there are a lot of students, or Moncton, which is one of the fastest growing cities, but we chose Amherst because we wanted to do it where we live,” Adrian said. “We would still love to have more local business. We still haven’t got as much as we’d like.”
While many know Birkinshaw’s for its teas, Eleanor said, it also has an extensive menu of lunches and coffees that people in the Amherst area are more familiar with.
“We hope people will come to realize there is somewhere else in town and somewhere else they can go for lunch if they’re looking for a quiet spot,” she said.
As for the future, Adrian said the company is at a bit of a crossroads. Birkinshaw’s products will soon be available at the Moncton Market and their catering business is continue to grow. However, he said, they are limited by space in their present surroundings. It could mean moving to another property within Amherst, although they want to remain in the downtown.