For Claudette Lambert fulfilling a dream is comforting, for herself and her customers.
She has owned and operated Aline’s Tea Shop for five years at the corner of Pine Street and Second Avenue in Timmins. Lambert specializes in comfort food for lunches and home-baked goodies.
Despite not having previous experience in the industry, opening a restaurant is something she always wanted to do.
“It’s a 30-year-old dream that I had,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave this Earth without at least trying to live my dream. So, I opened it in my mid-50s and it’s still going.”
She had a taste of cooking for a crowd during an annual retreat.
“I did cook for 35 ladies once a year for the past 15 years,” Lambert said. “That inspired me even more to open the restaurant. Other than that, I never had any experience in the food industry.
“It was a woman’s retreat, a private event. I would cook for them for the whole weekend. It was fun.”
She was encouraged to pursue her dream by her son.
“My son said, ‘mom, you cook for 35 ladies every year. Just pretend you cook for 35 ladies every day.’”
When Aline’s Tea Shop opened, it served lunch and dinner. Now, it serves up lunches, baked goods and a variety of teas and coffees.
“After COVID, it definitely made me realize my niche is soup and sandwich,” she said. “I make all my desserts. It (lunch niche) has made my life a little easier.”
Soups are always homemade and a favourite of regulars.
“Soup for me is soul food,” Lambert said. “It just brings everybody peace. It calms everybody down if they’re not having a good day or if they’re just sad. Soup is just magic.
“Chicken and dumplings are one of my best-selling ones. But that one takes a lot of work, so I don’t make it as often as I used too.
“My No. 1 selling soup is chicken Basmati rice. I have that one on the menu every day. It’s an East Indian rice and it has more nutritious value to it. There’s also a lot of gluten-free people out there and they can handle eating that soup.”
The sandwiches are also quite hardy and satisfying.
“When I decided we were a soup and sandwich place, I expanded our menu for sandwiches,” she said. “I expanded with more deli sandwiches — the corned beef, the roast beef, the smoked turkey. I put four ounces of deli meat on the deli sandwiches. They become the daily special.
“I make all my own sauces. I have the Reuben and make our own Russian red sauce. I do a sweet mustard. I do a roast beef sandwich with a sauce, yes there’s horse radish in the sauce. I try to cover everything as homemade as I can.”
Even the breads are freshly made locally.
“Our breads come from Golden Crust,” Lambert explained. “We have their sourdough, which is our No. 1 selling bread, their white enriched bread, and rye bread. We also have a naan bread, but that one is not from there.”
Homemade baked goods make for the ideal dessert or a great snack with a beverage.
“My No. 1 seller is my date cookie,” Lambert said. “That’s my signature.
“I took me five years to love to make butter tarts, so they’ve become a very popular item. My bigger selling items are my blueberry lemon loaf, our cranberry orange loaf.
“I do carrot cakes, chocolate cakes. Whatever I feel like in the morning when I get up.”
The pandemic changed the way she does business, but it worked out well for her thanks to great support.
“I had good support before COVID,” she said. “But before COVID, I never really was big on the takeout. It really increased my sales for takeout. What’s nice now is that people who are takeout people are still coming in.
“My customers, old and new, have been very supportive throughout,” she said. “We have some businesses who pay it forward with coffee and such in the offices. It was very nice to see the community so supportive.
“I know for a lot of people it didn’t work out as well for them. And I really feel for them. There was money available throughout it all, which allowed me to bring in better equipment and set myself up for the lunches.”
Aline’s Tea Shop also provides catering for businesses, meetings and other private functions.
“For the lunch crowd, we do soup, sandwich and dessert, but it’s whatever want. They just need to talk to me and I’m open to it,” Lambert said. “For private functions, there’s been baby showers, a wedding, birthdays, that kind of stuff.”
She thoroughly enjoys her work and interacting with customers. And she has no plans to slow down any time soon.
“I would like to thank everyone for the support I get locally,” she said. “My heart is blessed from it and I’m very touched.
“I love what I do. It’s my dream come true.”
Aline’s Tea Shop is located at 105 Pine St. S. Business hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Phone 705-360-5566 or visit their Facebook page..