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Lovers of high tea were shocked when Robinson’s Tea Room in Stony Brook Village Center announced last fall that they were planning to close.
Greater Long Island previously reported in September that the spot, located at 97 Main Street, was to permanently shut its doors, announcing seemingly out of nowhere on the restaurant’s Facebook account.
Like many of the commenters, Dan and Michaella Bussey, of Sound Beach, along with Michaella’s mom and dad, Donna and Michael Aliperti of Shoreham (who frequented the tea room often) were devasted. That’s when they decided to step up.
“We started asking if someone else was taking over or if it was going away,” Dan said. “So that’s when I started to get more information.”
According to Dan — who operates the shop alongside his in-laws — they met with the former owners who decided to come up with a new game plan. Instead of shutting their doors, they reopened in December with Dan as a manager. There, he began learning the ropes under their guidance.
“It was really nice to do that, I could understand what actually goes into this specific type of business because it’s a niche,” he said.
The Bussey/Aliperti family officially became the new owners as of March 1.
A little background
Dan was born in England and raised in Kenya by his missionary parents. He eventually ended up in Upstate New York to study music at Houghton University. While dating his now-wife, they often frequented a local tea room.
When Dan visited Michaella’s home back on Long Island, he was suprised to learn there was a legitmate tea room nearby.
He was a little skeptical at first, he admitted.
“I know my tea,” he joked. “But when I came here, I was pleasantly surprised.”
Robinson’s Tea Room first opened in 1999 by former owner Loretta Vertucci, she named the business after her parents, Edith and John Robinson. Vertucci handed over the business in 2016 to Danielle Munoz and her father Glenn Treacher, who are both English.
Bringing an assortment of teas, scones and finger sandwiches you’d find during high tea oversees, Robinson’s is always a busy favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Dan was impressed by the former owner’s menu and selection the moment he first sat down.
“It’s being transferred for an American audience, but that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “When I first started coming here, it was nice. It was a little slice of home for me.”
Now, he considers Treacher, who still sometimes helps the new business owners when they need advice, a friend.
“The timing was impeccable,” Donna Aliperti said. “We feel so blessed and we’re happy to be a part of this.”
The new Robinson’s Tea Room
Once the Bussey/Aliperti families got the keys, they began a quick renovation inside the restaurant. New bright wallpaper opens up the space, and framed artwork of the late Queen Elizabeth II hangs upon it. The life size cut-out of the Royal Highness still stands in the corner as she did before.
Dan said the menu is going to stay mostly the same.
“We’ve added to the high tea with the help of our talented chef, but essentially it should look pretty similar,” he said. “We’ll slowly look to add and adjust as we move forward.”
He added that so far, customers have been happy.
“The main thing we want is to make sure that people are still getting an experience,” he said. “Because that’s what we got as customers before and we want it to stay that way.”
One change that the team is excited about is more outside catering of the tea room’s specialties, and being available to host more parties like baby showers, bridal showers and birthdays.
“I love meeting new people and getting to know them,” he said. “I love being on a first-name basis with people who come in frequently.”
Robinson’s Tea Room is open 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Photos by Julianne Mosher