After 12 years in business, Serenity owner Karin Glass closed the restaurant’s Zionsville location on Dec. 31. Serenity will, however, continue as a delivery business, Serenity To-Go, and as a tea room, The Secret Serenity Tea Room, in Irvington beginning Feb. 5.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the financial strain it put on business was the primary reason for closing Serenity, Glass said. Many of her customers couldn’t dine at Serenity because of health concerns, so Glass had to refund thousands of dollars in deposits for weddings, Christmas parties and other canceled events.
Prior to the pandemic, Glass said 2020 was on track to be the restaurant’s best year because every weekend was booked for an event.
“When you don’t have fourth-quarter business, the first quarter looks pretty bleak,” Glass said. “My landlord and I agreed it would probably not be in our best interest to carry on.”
Glass, a longtime entrepreneur, found early success with a business she sold to a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1999.
In 2005, Glass started delivering pre-packaged, healthy meals in coolers, calling the business Occasions Devine. The success inspired her to open Serenity three years later that focused on healthy meals, along with other businesses that operate under the Occasions Devine umbrella: Fun Pop-Up Parties, Dinner Devine, Manners Up, Occasions Devine Catering and, now, Serenity To-Go, a successor to Serenity.
Because of the pandemic, Glass focused on her other businesses when social distancing and other mitigation procedures dissuaded diners from visiting Serenity. She found success with her Dinner Devine business, which has a take-and-bake business model. Customers buy premade meals that only need to be heated before eating.
“Dinner Devine needs a kitchen because it’s assembling things, it’s not baking things,” Glass said. “We deliver all over central Indiana, and (Serenity’s Zionsville) kitchen is really for a tea room. It’s not for that.”
Glass plans to continue providing Serenity’s offerings by moving its commercial kitchen to Irvington United Methodist Church. The church’s large fellowship hall will allow Glass to continue teaching dining etiquette. The Secret Serenity Tea Room will be in the church’s choir loft. It will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday and staffed by church members raising money for its missions.
Serenity To-Go, which specializes in chicken salad, soups and paninis, will sell food at Roasted in the Village, a coffee shop at 27 E. Pine St.
“That should help (their) business, and it will help my business still, so people will still be able to get it,” Glass said.
Glass said she will continue to host events, such as her Murder Mysteries, where diners compete to solve a mystery during multi-course meals.
“There’s a lot of businesses on Main Street that are feeling the pain, and all small businesses are struggling,” Glass said. “But if people won’t walk in your door because they are worried about getting the virus, then what are you going to do? So I just swiveled and made it different. I just won’t have a physical building here.
“It really is not a profitable model in a pandemic until people feel comfortable, if ever, going out and breaking out of nursing homes and all of those things that need to happen.”
For more, visit occasionsdivine.com/catering.
Filling the space
Hand surgeon Dr. Greg Merrell, who has a practice at the Indiana Hand To Shoulder Center and owns the building Serenity occupied, said he is unsure what will take Serenity’s place at 135 S. Main St.
“Karin was a great tenant for a long time, and I’m sorry to see her go,” Merrell said. “It’s definitely another COVID causality kind of thing, which is tough for the town.”
Merrell said he hopes to find a use for the roughly 15,000-square-foot space that benefits the town and complements Main Street.