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The Refinement Studio teaches manners, respect 

 by Arlene Hisiger

Cynthia Ely owns The Refinement Studio, which offers interactive tea parties to teach proper manners, increase self-esteem and build character. 

    The Refinement Studio

    Owner: Cynthia Ely
    What: Interactive Garden Tea Party etiquette workshops for girls and boys 5-12 years old and ladies and gentlemen 13-adult
    Where: 55 Canterbury Road, Rochester, or offsite lecture presentations at appropriate venues such as schools and educational settings, with in-studio tea party follow-up.
    Phone: 244-2228
    Website: www.therefinementstudio.com

    Nationwide, people reacted with a mixture of horror, disgust and outrage to last year’s YouTube.com video of Karen Klein, the beleaguered Greece bus monitor, who endured verbal and physical abuse at the hands of a group of middle-school students aboard a school bus.

    Cynthia Ely (pronounced E Lee) was more than outraged; she was prompted to take action.

    “It was hard for me to believe that children would say those things to an adult,” said Ely. “That’s the moment I decided that the community has to be more consistent in teaching basic manners to children.” And so, a new business, The Refinement Studio, was born.

    Truth to tell, Ely had always wanted to be engaged in something that would pay tribute to her “good inheritance.” Ms. Klein’s shocking mistreatment gave this desire form and function.

    Respect for others, receptiveness to multiculturalism, appreciation of the arts, and emphasis on experiential as well as book learning was the inheritance her parents bequeathed her.

    But her parents impressed upon her that these gifts were meant to be shared.

    Ely’s overarching aim is to impart the ability to gracefully navigate all social situations. “The legacy you leave your children is how you present yourself to others, she said.” “I know I had opportunities presented to me simply because of my manners and the way I spoke.”

    Ely literally brings to the table her many years of professional experience in teaching, training, and “helping others develop their inner selves.” Employing interactive tea parties as the medium through which she aims to accomplish her multiple objectives: to teach proper manners, increase self-esteem and build character, Ely endeavors to teach participants “what they need to know in order to be successful in life.”

    So, what happens when you enter The Refinement Studio? You step into serenity.

    The ambiance can best be described as high-end but within reach – a consequence of the tasteful, welcoming décor that is further enhanced by classical music softly playing in the background. Though, what undoubtedly will capture your heart are the two tea party rooms.

    Written by
    Arlene Hisiger

    (Page 2 of 2)

    Children’s tea parties are gender specific. The walls of the girls’ tea party room are painted soft green. Echoing the wall color, table linens, covering a cozy table for eight, are decked out in green satin with matching sashes tied around the backs of white wooden chairs. Floral bone china plates flanked by gold-plated flatware are offset by heart-shaped cups and saucers and pastel-colored purse-shaped name-card holders positioned right above each place setting.

    Prior to the actual tea party, participants enhance their party clothes with provided strands of faux pearls, gloves and charming sun hats. Post party, a picture is taken of each participant, dressed in their tea party finery, in front of a large decorative wall hanging depicting a garden. Each participant is given a lovely cellophane-wrapped demitasse cup and spoon as party favor.

    The boys’ tea party room has a nautical theme, in tribute to Ely’s dad who raced sailboats. Crisp white and masculine blue is the color scheme. The white walls are adorned with large navy blue crossed oars, that later serve as backdrop for individual post-party pictures. The table linens covering the table, set for eight, are navy blue draped over white linen cloth. Model sailboats are strategically placed on both the main and side tables. The tea party table is set with classic white and silver bone china plates, silver flatware, while miniature sailboat name-card holders beckon each participant to their seat. A framed, glass-encased centerpiece does double-duty as display of genuine nautical knots and tray for milk and sugar containers. Captain and sailor hats placed on each chair back stand ready to be donned, to further enhance the nautical mood. Each boy is given a sailboat lapel pin as party favor.

    Ely has come full circle, having grown up in the very same neighborhood in which she now operates The Refinement Studio. She purposely chose this location in order to be near art galleries, museums and the Eastman School of Music. She plans to incorporate these cultural institutions into her program offerings.