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A popular tea room in Hallam that has attracted visitors from across the country and the world is up for sale.

Bonnie and Jack Helm opened the Front Porch Tea Room 18 years ago at 25 W. Market St., inside a 3,410-square-foot Victorian home built in 1869 by then-York County Sheriff Samual Ruby.

Bonnie Helm can still recall the exact date — Oct. 21, 2000 — when she decided to convert half of her Victorian home into a tea room. At the time, she had been experiencing burnout after working for 35 years in sales and decided that she'd like to open a restaurant.

But Bonnie Helm noted that restaurants are the fastest failing businesses an entrepreneur can invest in, so she decided to consider opening a tea room instead.

She had been renting out half of her home to tenants, but after the last group moved out, she and her husband decided against accepting any more tenants. Meanwhile, the location she had been considering renting for her new tea room was sold to someone else.

Bonnie Helm took a look around her home and decided she already owned the perfect location for a tea room, and she estimated it could accommodate 40 guests, a figure that was later proven correct.

Serendipitously, Bonnie Helm almost immediately received donations of carpeting and furniture and even came across a cutout with wisteria borders that she thought would be difficult to find. All of the donated items were in the eggplant color that matched the room, she noted, even though she hadn't specifically requested that.

"That was the beginning of everything," she said. 

According to Bonnie Helm, there was only one other tea room in York County back then, and Helm's Front Porch Tea Room opened up to accolades.

In its almost two decades of existence, it has been ranked as the No. 1 tea room in the state for several years, she said, and is also ranked third in the country, according to TeaMap.com's Top 500 list.

Over the years, she has received guests from all 50 states and 53 different countries. Helm recalled a time when she received visitors from Alaska and said it would be neat to also receive visitors from Hawaii. Later that week, those Hawaiian visitors materialized, much to Helm's surprise and delight.

"We've made friends from all over the world. I just loved it," she said. 

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However, the Helms said they have decided to embark on a new chapter in their lives, one that will require them to leave the tea room behind.

"After an amazing 18 years, we have decided to retire and move closer to our children," Helm said in a news release.

"Bonnie has built a very successful business over the past 18 years, and this sale presents an extraordinary opportunity for a new operator to continue that growth," Heather Kreiger, of ROCK Commercial Real Estate, said.

The business — situated on 0.76 acres of landscaped grounds and gardens — can seat 40 guests in the tea room and accommodate 175 in the gardens, according to Helm.

The property's sale price is listed at $430,000, which includes the business, real estate, furniture, fixtures and equipment. 

Advertised as "not your typical tea room," the site also is home to antiques and handmade crafts, had served as an event location for weddings, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers and baby showers, and offered home-cooked meals once a month, according to its website.

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Bonnie Helm said she hopes a buyer will come along who is passionate about continuing the Front Porch Tea Room's success. 

Although she will be parting ways with the tea room she lovingly ran for 18 years, she won't be parting with tea altogether. She is already planning to educate churches in her new location about the fine art of hosting a tea.

"I'll stay in it some way or another," Bonnie Helm said.

 

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