When Carol Lufburrow began dining at a little vegetarian restaurant 15 years ago, she loved almost everything about it.
But the coffee mugs weren’t her cup of tea. What they needed, she thought, was a little refinement in the form of delicate china cups.
Quietly, she began leaving a cup and saucer as a sort of tip after each meal, a habit that earned her the nickname “Teacup Bandit.”
Today, Royal Oak’s Inn Season restaurant has a china cabinet-size collection of mismatched cups, thanks to Lufburrow, who drives from Grosse Pointe Woods at least four times a week to dine at the intimate café.
Lufburrow, a U.S. Army Tank and Auto Command retiree, regards the gifts as a way to help her favorite dining spot.
To maintain her giving ways, she scouts estate and rummage sales for pieces that attract her, always scrutinizing the inventory for rarities, such as teacups used at the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
“Generally, when I go to an estate sale, if I know they’ll have a lot of teacups, I’ll just buy them all; that way, each time I go into the restaurant I can end with a teacup,” she says.
Affection for the Inn Season is her only motive for her purchases. “If the restaurant closed,” she says, “I’d be selling a whole lot of teacups.”