Lynne Sherlock: A Businesswoman of Distinction
Little girls laughing and happy chatter of all ages are the hallmarks of Lynne Sherlock’s successful tea parties. At Tara’s Gifts and Parties of Distinction, Lynne welcomes little girls for birthday tea parties, groups of ladies from the Red Hat Society, assisted living groups, and both baby and bridal showers for true English teas and has as much fun, she says, as her guests. The parties are held at lace-covered tables in a room behind her gift shop where the walls are trellised and decorated with hats and beads for both ladies and little girls, and corner cupboards hold china teacups and plates for birthday cake, English cucumber sandwiches, or scones and clotted cream. A closet in one corner is filled with dress-up clothes for little girls who delight in coming to tea in gowns, gloves, hats, beads and high-heeled shoes. There are even some ladies’ sizes for grown-ups who never get too old for a little dress-up.
Lynne, bright, energetic, un-ruffled and always laughing, comfortably runs her shop and her tea parties surrounded by gifts and treasures of all types and distinctions. Cream-colored, shaggy-haired giant teddy bears share space with incredibly soft bunnies, fairies float on air; kitchen roosters and baby dolls, red hats and wedding wine glasses and decorated garden spades make the gift shop a kaleidoscope of bright colors, patterns and textures. Adding to the mix, ten little girls for a tea party is all in a day’s work for Lynne.
Tea parties began in early girlhood for Lynne, when she and her two sisters played dress-up and entertained their dolls at tea. All too soon, tea parties were outgrown, and life took other directions, moving Lynne from Huntington, West Virginia, to Annapolis at age twelve, to high school at Annapolis High, to marriage with Eddie Sherlock thirty-nine years ago, and to work at her father’s Warehouse Carpet and Tile which she eventually took over and ran for ten years. Along the way, Lynne and Eddie had two boys and a girl, becoming involved in the boys’ sports teams and daughter Tara’s dancing—and sharing plenty of tea parties when Tara was little.
Edward Sherlock was a volunteer fireman when 15-year old Lynne, with her mother and sisters, met him at a carnival. Well-chaperoned evenings at the family home led to “going-out” dates and finally to marriage, children and now three grandchildren. After graduating from Annapolis High, Eddie worked his way up in the fire department, eventually becoming its chief for seventeen years. For the last couple of years, Eddie has been the Emergency Management Director for the city of Annapolis.
Being the wife of a fireman, Lynne admits, has had its share of challenges. Having him work shifts was “not my favorite thing,” Lynne says, and she gives families of fire fighters and police officers lots of credit. But his off-times and the times he spent in Inspection, working regular hours, allowed lots of family time, with hours spent as coach and cheering squad for the kids’ games and events.
During the years Eddie was in the fire department, Lynne enjoyed being a business woman at Warehouse Carpet and Tile, and after seven years of being the only woman on the sales floor, she took over management of the business. Lynne says she was one of only a few women in the floor covering business and sometimes the only one at seminars, which she found a bit disconcerting. But she also developed a genuine rapport with her customers and had great fun helping them match colors and choose tile. In each of her businesses, Lynne’s enjoyed her customers most of all, saying, “I like this type of retail because you can meet people” and chat with them.
Helping customers choose dolls became Lynne’s next occupation when she started working with her sister, Becky, at Becky’s shop, Enchanted Doll Treasures on West Street. During the course of the two years she worked there, Lynne and Becky often reminisced about their childhood and the doll parties and how much fun they’d had. Both sisters agreed that little girls still love dressing up and playing pretend with dolls and tea parties, and with Becky’s encouragement, Lynne realized that she could offer a place at the shop for real tea parties to which girls could invite friends. Finding that girls and their parents do, indeed, enjoy birthday tea parties complete with dressing up, snacks and crafts, Lynne decided to take the plan to its own space and add gifts for a little spice. Tara’s Gifts and Parties of Distinction opened at 4 Annapolis Street in West Annapolis in July, 2000, and schedules parties at least two weeks in advance. The parties are geared to girls, though boys are included at the invitation of the birthday girl; Lynne still laughs as she tells of one 7-year-old whose best friend was a boy she wanted to include in her party. Coming a little late, he walked into a room filled with little girls trying on clothes and shoes and beads, stopped short and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” With a game spirit, he did sit down and “take tea” and enjoyed crafts and a party favor geared to boys that Lynne keeps on hand.
Whether surrounded by ten excited little girls, a shower of gifts for the mother- or bride-to-be, or happily chatting women from Assisted Living, Lynne Sherlock is in her element—laughing and unflappable, serving tea and sandwiches and fun in equal proportions. A long-time Annapolitan, Lynne and her shop, Tara’s Parties and Gifts of Distinction, add a full measure of charm to our community, one tea party at a time.