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16 - PRAIRIE POST - Friday, September 9, 2011

Southwest Saskatchewan Success in the cards for tea house owners

Continued from Page 15 After a month, it was encouraging to see the tea house begin to take shape., but they had only just begun. “You can have all the vision you want, but you also need to have a really strong work ethic,” says Carolynn. Watching Gene install the decorative oak paneling on the ceiling of the tea house reminded Carolynn of Michelangelo working on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. “It is for someone who has a

tremendous tolerance for the monotonous,” Gene says. Down in the Valley The building continued over the next

two years, and by the summer of 2010 Carolynn and Gene were both discouraged and exhausted. Gene’s hobby had turned into another demanding job. Although Carolynn had worked an extra year to help fund the tea house, she was now retired and the pressure was now on to finish it. In addition, their daughter, Elke, was

getting married. This was much a positive event, but Nathaniel and Elke’s wedding reception was scheduled to take place at Rabbit Hill, and Carolynn and Gene wondered how they would ever be ready in time. While many people were encouraging, discouraging comments came their way as well. One man briefly poked his head inside their tea house and declared, “This place is never going to pay for itself, is it?” Of course they had a back up plan in place if it didn’t, but his conclusion did seem a little premature. It wasn’t helpful either. Then they had to deal with the

government. “You have so many hoops to jump

through and so many people breathing down your neck,” Carolynn says. It didn’t seem like the government was really trying to encourage people to develop a small business. Instead, the whole process of setting up a business seemed unnecessarily difficult at times. “We have both had times when we

have just been thinking ... ‘this is crazy’,” Carolynn says. They pressed on. They encouraged

each other. They kept building. Thankfully they were not alone, although it felt that way at times. Sitting in their living room in 2011,

Carolynn corrects their perception during the “valley” experience of the project.

“I do not think it is crazy. I think it is

viable and I think it is a good thing ... good for the community,” she says. Vision for Rabbit Hill A utilitarian philosophy definitely does not drive this business venture. Carolynn and Gene see it, rather, as a way of offering what they have and who they are in order to benefit other people and build community. Carolynn’s father, Sydney Olson, taught her the importance of doing something with her life that would help others. Rabbit Hill Tea House ties into that. For example, they have an attractive

character home, large trees, and a beautiful yard and garden in the country. “A day in the country is worth a month in town,” Carolynn says, quoting Christina Georgina Rossetti. Living on a prairie oasis, they want to share their peaceful surroundings with others. “Carolynn’s eye for decorating, the

yard area, the garden, the flowers ... a lot of people comment on that,” Gene notes. Not everybody has a beautiful and peaceful place to call home. Taking a break from a busy urban lifestyle, and leisurely walking down a cobblestone path that meanders through a peaceful garden can sometimes put a lot of problems in perspective. Just sitting and watching the ducks waddling across the lawn doesn’t hurt either. Cows are close by. “It is so much our own in terms of personality, who we are, and what we are about,” Carolynn explains. Carolynn and Gene are relational, and they want to offer a dining experience conducive to meaningful conversation.

Ambiance and aesthetics, mood and

comfort, excellent food and lingering conversation — all of these things are important to them. After dinner, conversations can continue on a couch or a comfortable chair around the fireplace. They hope to duplicate what they feel they have accomplished with their kids in the garden gazebo. “We have had so many good

relationship-building conversations in the gazebo,” Carolyn says. The tea house is built to accommodate 50 people for a meal, but they think that 35 is more realistic in order for people to experience “an intimate, beautiful, prairie, experience.” A rural renaissance in southern Saskatchewan is something else they hope to encourage at Rabbit Hill.

Photo by Nathan Olson Gene Mau serves his wife Carolynn some tea at their tea house.

Over the years, some of the cultural and community activities have shifted from the rural areas to the larger centers. “But,why can’t we have relationships and good things here?” Carolyn says. Selling golden doodles to people

across Canada has already allowed some people to discover rural southwest Saskatchewan for the first time; the tea house could have the same effect. “People don’t know about southern Saskatchewan; they really don’t. And they come here ... and they are amazed.” Carolynn says. Looking Ahead “We are embracing the world with the bed and breakfast and the tea house,” Carolynn says. While this is exciting, there are some boundary issues to consider. Making their family a priority means they are going to be closed when the children come to visit. Commitment to family remains unchanged. Once all of the preparations are complete, Carolynn will devote more time in the kitchen as the gourmet chef. Gene may find himself in the kitchen as well, although his role remains to be seen. Carolynn suggests taking charge of the espresso coffee machine.

“I am kind of waiting until we get the ice cream machine,” Gene responds, with a smile. “I might specialize there.” The larger community is also going to benefit when they start making a return on their investment. Compassion Canada is the charity they

Photo by Nathan Olson Gene Mau was busy doing some touch-ups as he was sanding the fireplace.

have chosen to receive a percentage of the profit.They will not be sponsoring a specific child, but rather clothing a feeding a variety of children by contributing to Compassion’s general fund.

Compassion Canada is a well

Photo by Tyler Olson

There are a lot of beautiful pieces in the house for patrons to look at and admire.

respected charity that takes care of children in Africa and other less fortunate countries around the world. Locally-grown produce will be

featured at Rabbit Hill as much as possible. Salads, soups, saskatoon pie, and artisan breads will be included on the menu all utilizing prairie-grown produce.

As Gene notes, finding coffee beans on the prairies might be a bit of problem.

“I am finally getting to do what I

have always wanted to do,” Carolynn exclaims. “What a blessing! What a joy!” As for Gene, he finds it satisfying to

have had a part in fulfilling a dream for his wife. It has taken three decades, but

Carolynn’s country tea house dream is a reality. The grand opening for Rabbit Hill

Tea House was in May. It will be exciting to see many other

dreams become a reality, in southern Saskatchewan and all across the province, in the years ahead.

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