WHEATFIELD – Linda L. Kloch says she didn’t have much while growing up in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, but she sees herself as a woman with a vision, able to see what others have may have dismissed.
She did it once before when she bought and rehabilitated the Country Cottage restaurant in Pendleton nearly 30 years ago, but in the late 1990s she took on another ambitious project.
Each day she drove by a falling-down and dilapidated barn on Shawnee Road, a site others would have made plans to demolish. But Kloch, an avid antiques collector, saw more.
“My friends thought I was nuts,” Kloch said. “But I love to create things.”
Her reclamation of the property began in a building that had once been a corn crib, selling antiques and homemade candles. Her success with the candles, Forever Candles, led to the development of Shawnee Village, 6610 Shawnee Road, a cornucopia of shops on the property she owns. The complex now includes the independently operated Shawnee Country Barn and Antiques co-op; Patricia’s White Linen Mercantile Antiques; and Asti’s Antique Jewelry, as well as Kloch’s restaurant and residence – the White Linen Tea House.
Step inside to see collected antiques throughout the downstairs and sit down to homemade scones, lemon bars and brownies. There is a Sunday buffet; full afternoon tea service with racks of finger sandwiches, dessert and fruit; cold and hot sandwiches; and, of course, tea – more than 40 varieties, as well as coffee. Food is available for takeout. There also are flavored oils, homemade jewelry and antiques. Beer and wine also are available.
When people come, they even receive a little instruction on brewing a perfect cup of tea.
How did you get started?
The corn crib – the front little building – was my first. Now it’s Asti’s.
You must have a love of antiques.
Oh, I do. I knew I wanted to do antiques, and I thought this is just a perfect little place to do that. I wanted to share them with people. That’s why I wanted to open this.
Is this your first restaurant?
I picked up the Country Cottage in 1987. When I saw it, I was a hairdresser. I was going to pick up my mother on my day off. I picked her up once a week to do her hair, and took this road that I didn’t normally take. It happened to be the Country Cottage road. All of sudden I see this building, empty, for sale, and it said price reduced. I was a hairdresser, I owned my own shop in Cambria, and I absolutely loved doing hair, but I always had the vision that someday I wanted to have a little restaurant. When I saw that little place, I had the vision of it already in action.
Had you worked in the food industry?
Yes, my mother had a restaurant in North Tonawanda. She owned Lou’s Restaurant on Webster Street. It’s still there.
What was the Country Cottage like when you found it?
It was a mess. There was a motorcycle parked inside the building. I lived there and took the whole roof off and built it up two levels. I wanted to do a bed-and-breakfast there, but I didn’t ask the town. I ended up selling it before that happened.
But you moved on to this place on Shawnee Road. What made you say you wanted to do something different?
I purchased the barns knowing I wanted to do antiques, and I thought this is the perfect place to do it.
You showed me some pictures. It was pretty run-down.
Everything was run-down. The whole property was run-down.
What was your vision?
I can see things as if they are in action. I had a vision when I was working in the corn crib that I wanted to have a co-op over there in the larger barn. I knew that someday I wanted to do a tea house. I still want to do a bed-and-breakfast here. I saw a community and village in action. I saw people having things. It was too much for me alone.
An antique co-op is an unusual thing.
At one time I worked at Antique World, and I loved how they had all the people around there. I love people. We have 90 dealers in the big barn. There are three buildings, but they are owned privately. I am the landlord.
You also sold candles. How did that start?
It was absolutely out of the blue. I was bored. I had purchased thousands and thousands of antique bottles and started making lotions and candles. I started my candle business, Forever Candles, in the little corn crib. The candle-making business allowed me to fix all of my barns. That’s how much my candles made. I owe a lot to my candles.
I started to do shows, and then I went to the Outlet Mall and then had a permanent home at the Boulevard Mall. We just sold Forever Candles a week ago.
Your friends said you’re crazy, opening up a restaurant in an area where there are more cows and fields than shopping. What did you tell them?
They already thought I was crazy when I opened up the Country Cottage and saw there what I was doing and how much work was done. And they helped me, so they saw it all the way from its worst to the best. I am surrounded by wonderful people, dear friends. I call them my angels. But, honestly, they thought I was crazy. You couldn’t even get into the buildings.
When did you open the White Linen Tea House?
I opened it up with my two daughters 10 years ago. Where does the time go? They have both moved away now.
Why a tea house?
I had nothing as a kid. If we didn’t need it, we didn’t get it, but my cousins played a big part in my life. My aunts and my uncles used to have us over on Sundays, in our Sunday best after church, and there would be coffee and tea on fine china and pastries. I was just a little girl, but I wished I could have this. I never had it, but my mother always gave me little tea sets, and I had a lot of tea parties.
So this is like coming to your house, like family, right?
In the back of my mind, that’s what I was thinking. I have all my nice stuff. I tell all my servers whatever you do make sure that you treat them so special, like they just left their grandmother’s or aunt’s or uncle’s house.
The White Linen Tea House is open for lunches daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Closed Wednesdays.
Know a Niagara County resident who’d make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email email@example.com.