By Heather Lusk
The napkins are always linen. The flowers are always fresh. The food is often local.
“When you come in, you know this is a different place,” said Karin Glass, owner of Serenity Café and Tea Room on Zionsville’s Main Street.
A visit to the cafe is not simply about taking the time to drink tea and converse, which Glass believes is an important aspect. The environment promotes civility, which Glass feels is missing in society. It’s what prompted her to create Make America Smile, a grassroots group to promote kindness.
“It takes more to (expend negative energy) than it does to smile,” she said.
Nov. 4 marks 10 years since Glass first opened Serenity. Today, she maintains a consistent menu of family recipes. She said customers would be upset if she changed items. Instead, she offers daily specials for those who want variety. As a member of Indiana Grown, her kitchen utilizes mostly local resources.
“Tea is not a fast-food sport. It’s sharing a conversation with others,” she said.
During the past 10 years, she added locations in Carmel and Indianapolis but liquidated them to focus on Zionsville.
Soon after opening, Glass began hosting mystery dinners and etiquette classes. Eventually, wine dinners were added. For the cafe’s 10th anniversary celebration, Glass has special events planned from Oct. 27 through Nov. 10. Past events, like decorating sugar skulls and painting, will return for the anniversary.
Serenity is one of the few places in the Greater Indianapolis area that offers etiquette classes. Glass is like a drill sergeant during the class, quickly identifying when students’ elbows are on top of the table or if silverware is held incorrectly. She also suggests conversation starters, asking students what they would do with $100,000 or what one thing about themselves they would change.
University High School’s Personal Finance class attended an etiquette session to help students prepare for interviews and create a positive first impression.
“I wanted personal finance to not be just personal finance,” University teacher Mike Hagen said.
Student Eric Major attended the course and recalled that much of etiquette is not centered around food but around communication, which he said is an art form.
“The eating was almost secondary to the conversation we were supposed to have and how we interact with each other,” Major said.
Connection and interaction are at the center of Glass’ goal, for youth in particular.
“They need to be able to have something tangible to hold onto, not just a fleeting Instagram picture,” she said. “We just don’t communicate person-to-person anymore.”
Glass is a fast talker, constantly in motion answering phone calls and questions from her staff. She has had a variety of careers, including fashion designer, radio show host and owner of a sports marketing company.
“All of the things in the tea room are a portion of what I have done with my life,” she said. “We tell the stories here.”
Serenity is inside an historic 1868 home, restored by Glass. The garden is filled with heirloom plants to match the home’s history.
“I connected all the parts,” Glass said.
Outside, near the base of a hickory tree in front of Serenity, the word “God” appears to be entwined in the roots. Glass has seen children hug the tree when they’re hurting.
“The ‘God’ tree is so incredible to me,” Glass said. “I think it could give comfort to a lot of kids if they knew it existed.”
Tips to impress
Karin Glass said it takes three seconds to make an impression, and a bad one can take a long time to undo. Her tips to make a good impression include:
- During conversation, look the other person straight in the eye. “You’re greeting a cobra and you do not want to look away,” she said.
- No elbows on the table.
- Sit up straight with feet in front.
- No slurping or straws.
- Do not start a sentence with “like,” “OK” or “um.”
- Do not speak with food in one’s mouth. Three fingers covering the mouth indicate it’s full.
Serenity 10th Anniversary Celebration Schedule
- Oct. 27 – Sugar Skull Tea, 2-4 pm. Cost is $30
- Oct. 27 – Murder in the Corn Maize Mystery Dinner, 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 28 – Dinner and a Magic Show, 2 p.m.
- Oct. 28 – Manners Matter, 5-7 p.m.
- Oct. 29-31 – Spooky Tea, 2-5pm., $10 for 13 and under and $15 for adults
- Nov. 1 – Tea Leaf Reading Tea, $20, adults only, 2-5:30 p.m.
- Nov. 2 and 3 – Limited Edition Mystery Dinner, 6:30 p.m., $30 a person
- Nov. 4 – Quilling Tea, $30 a person
- Nov. 5 – Dinner and painting, $20.08 a person (cafe opened in 2008)
- Nov. 6 – 10-year anniversary tea, 2-5 p.m., with meats, cheeses, $20.08
- Nov. 7 – Dinner and Jewelry Making, $20.08
- Nov. 8 – Lunch Murder mystery, 1:30 p.m., $20.08
- Nov. 9 – Wines Around The World, 7 p.m., eight courses and wines, $35 a person
- Nov. 10 – Mystery Dinner, 6:30 p.m. 10 years of deaths at Serenity