In the hours before the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a tiny Texas shop is practically bursting with British pride.
The British Emporium opened 25 years ago after Sheela Bailey and her husband had trouble finding a cup of “proper tea” in the Grapevine area, she said.
“Of course with a proper cup of tea you need a proper biscuit to pair with it, and of course the whole thing just snowballed,” she said.
The store went from being a one-stop shop for British goods to a hub for royal souvenirs.
“It’s very hard for us when we have a royal celebration to be so far away from home. Our inclination as Brits [is] to get together and celebrate the royal event, and/or the history. We can’t do that, so that’s what we do here,” Bailey explained.
Within the walls of the British Emporium seems to be a cure for the royal fever. Customers posed for photos with a cardboard cutout of the royal couple, and buyers walked away with memorabilia commemorating the special day.
“We’ve got a commemorative teacup for the wedding for an aunt, and a tin of biscuits,” Cindy Shannon said.
Melodie Kenney bought tea cups and tea tins.
“It’s like going to England without going to England,” she mentioned. “It’s like traveling in your own neighborhood.”
Sharon Arnold came to the shop to plan for her own royal watch party for Saturday morning.
“I loved Princess Diana,” Arnold shared. “I was in Hawaii when she got married and got up at 2 a.m. to watch that wedding, and Kate [when she married Prince William], and we are just all into the royal stuff.”
Located a few miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the store has seen famous visitors in its history, including musicians, actors and other celebrities from the United Kingdom.
“We’ve had Princess Diana’s chef who has walked through the door, we have had two Beefeater guards from the Tower of London that have come through,” Bailey said. “You never know who you’re going to bump into when you come in here.”
Bailey said her business serves a greater purpose too. It allows a chance to educate people on British culture and traditions.
“We noticed that the day after the engagement was announced that everybody was coming in here,” Bailey added. “They wanted details, they wanted information about how British royal wedding’s work. In fact, we thought that this would not be as popular here as William and Kate‘s wedding, we are finding that it’s even more popular because of that American connection.”
“It’s a wonderful American love story, there is romance, there is celebrity, there is Princess Diana‘s son, Harry, who we have all watched grow up, we are so happy that he has found his ‘Miss Right,’ and it’s an American,” Bailey said.
The British Emporium planned a royal wedding watch party for Saturday morning. It starts at 5 a.m. and will include traditional tea and cookies, a costume contest and slices of wedding cake from the same recipe as the royal couple’s dessert.
“There is not going to be another royal wedding for a while, that’s another reason why this is so special,” Bailey said. “I don’t think that Prince George is dating yet, so it is probably going to be another 20 years plus before we do that.”