EAST PEORIA — Monica Tripp celebrated a business milestone this month as the owner of Emerald Tea Room. Her restaurant has been in operation for 20 years. 

Emerald Tea Room, located at 132 McKinley St. in East Peoria, offers soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. A daily special is also available. They are open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“We provide a comfortable atmosphere and we provide consistency,” she said. “Soups are my specialty.”

A menu posting for Jan. 19 listed spinach quiche, along with sweet potato soup, and caramel apple cake with ice cream.

“I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like a job,” said Tripp. “I like going to work. I get to meet people and form relationships with them.”

She attributes her success to several factors. The first is the uniqueness of Emerald Tea Room. The second is her great staff over the years. The third is her passion for her cooking.

Like all businesses, there are ups and downs. Tripp said changes in the economy affect her small business. However, she is always optimistic.

“Every business has a dry-spell, but I have faith it will be OK,” she said.

In more recent years the Levee District has grown which has had an impact on her small business. Tripp said when more and more restaurants were being built, she had competition. At the same time, all the additions to the Levee District has attracted more business to East Peoria which has helped bring people to her tea room. She said the development is good for businesses.

While the landscape in East Peoria has changed, one thing that has remained a constant is her relationship with her customers. Tripp said she values her regular, weekly patrons as well as people who visit once a year when they come home to East Peoria to visit family and friends.

“They’re my tea room family,” she said. “I remember shortly after we opened we had a baby shower here and not too long ago the baby from the baby shower had her baby shower here.”

One review placed on the Emerald Tea Room’s Facebook page from Wilma McMichael said, “My sisters and I have visited many times on our ‘sister days’ and enjoyed it very much.”

Another review from Bill Sulaski read: “Susan and I have enjoyed our lunches in this beautiful spot in East Peoria for years. Food is excellent, atmosphere terrific and provides a nice respite from our busy lives and servings perfect size. We make the drive often from Bloomington/Normal and will continue to do so. We feel lucky to have such a place available to us.”

The tea room features an eclectic mix of tables and chairs adorned with rabbits, flowers and other decor, a lighted tree at the entrance and a small gift shop.

Ginny Mitchell and Becky Russell, both of East Peoria, ate lunch at the tea room Jan. 26. Mitchell said she has been frequenting the tea room since 1998. The two friends said they look forward to meeting at the tea room once a month.

“The lava cake is great,” Russell said.

Tripp got into the restaurant business after looking for a career change. 

“My passion for cooking was strong,” Tripp said. “My mom and I talked about starting a catering business. That’s what I thought I’d do, but I ended up loving lunch. I still cater sometimes.”

Tripp said she feels that cooking helps her give comfort at times, too. One such time is after a funeral when people need to feel comfort.

“I’ve always wanted to share my love of food and cook for others,” she said. “I love everything about food. I love when people enjoy my food. I feel it’s my gift to share. It felt right.”

She said she felt like she had no idea what she was doing at first but was persistent. That is a lesson she has learned over the 20 years in business.

“Just have faith that no matter what happens, it will be OK,” said Tripp.