Frances W. Barrett, 96, hostess in tea room in Baltimore store

October 20, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Frances W. Barrett, who saw diners to their tables at a well-known department store restaurant, died Thursday of congestive heart failure at the Wesley Home in Mount Washington, the community where she lived most of her life. She was 96.

A hostess at the Hutzler's department store's Colonial Tea Room in downtown Baltimore, she also ran the employees' restaurant and inaugurated a popularly priced lunch shop known as the Quixie.

Born Frances Anne Winand in Baltimore, she spent her childhood on Ken Oak Road in Mount Washington. Except for brief periods when she lived on Mount Vernon Place, Eutaw Place and on Charles Street, she spent her life in the Northwest Baltimore neighborhood. She received her education at Mount St. Agnes, the Roman Catholic school and college in Mount Washington, which she attended from the ages of 6 to 19. She graduated from the high school and attended the college for a year.

In 1928, she married William Randall Barrett, who headed the state sales tax division of the comptroller's office. He died in 1990.

During the Depression, when her husband lost his job at an auto dealership, she heard about a vacancy at Hutzler's, the Howard Street store where her sister, Clare W. Storke, was the company nurse. Mrs. Barrett applied for a job and became a hostess at the Colonial Tea Room, one of the city's busiest department store restaurants.

"This was an odd choice. Mother hated food, but she knew how to fix it and make it look lovely," said her daughter, Anne Barrett Wagner, who lives in Mount Washington. "She was a sociable person who carried herself well."

After several years working in the tea room, Mrs. Barrett was made supervisor of the employees' cafeteria. Family members said she broke down social barriers among staff and made the place more collegial.

In 1941, Hutzler's expanded, with additional sales and executive office floors. The then-new sixth floor became home to a new Colonial restaurant, a beauty salon and another restaurant, a fixed-price place called the Quixie decorated in an art moderne style.

Mrs. Barrett was its first director and supervised a staff that served the six daily entrees -- which cost 50 cents each -- and pushed a pink dessert cart to diners' tables.

"She had her mother knit caps for the waitresses," her daughter recalled. "They sat flat on their heads and were just cute."

Mrs. Barrett remained at the department store through World War II. She then opened a consignment shop, which she named the Grapevine. She had two Hampden locations, one in the 3600 block of Roland Ave. and the second in the 3700 block of Keswick Road.

She retired about 30 years ago and became a volunteer who distributed donated clothing at the Baltimore City Hospitals, now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She also gave one day a week to her church, Shrine of the Sacred Heart, where she scrubbed the white marble altar.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Shrine, Smith and Greely avenues.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Barrett is survived by four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

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