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Life at McCormick February 26, 2021

Meet Joann Booker: Former Tea Hostess at the Ye Olde McCormick Tea House

Joann Booker; McCormick & Company; Ye Olde McCormick Tea House; McCormick Light Street Baltimore; Friendship Court


"It's been a love affair," says Joann Booker of her 40-year career at McCormick. What started out as a six-week temporary role has turned into four decades worth of jobs, including nine years as a coveted tour guide and tea hostess at the Ye Olde McCormick Tea House.

In 1981, a staffing agency placed Joann at McCormick in the product development department. The six-week job was extended to a year. Every time her part-time role would end, another part-time opportunity would become available. "Every time I was supposed to leave, something else would open up!" Joann says. "I was meant to be here." And that's when the HR manager asked if she would like to work full time as tour guide and tea hostess.

McCormick's "Ye Olde Tea House," also known as Friendship Court, was a Baltimore landmark from 1934 to 1991. As legend has it, former President C.P. McCormick wanted all visitors to the McCormick headquarters to feel at home. So, in 1934, he commissioned a Baltimore architect named Edwin Tunis to turn the seventh floor of McCormick's headquarters into an old English Tea House.

Joann would greet visitors from all over the world. She would begin her tours by escorting visitors to Friendship Court and providing the guests hot McCormick tea and Berger cookies (a beloved Baltimore treat). Joann would enlighten guests with tales of the company history as she gave them a tour of the famous Baltimore Light Street building. The guests would watch a short film about how McCormick sources our spices and herbs, and then spend time in the company gift shop. Overall, the tours would take about 45 minutes.

While the tea house tours were open to all visitors, Joann loved watching the boats come into Baltimore's Inner Harbor (the headquarters at the time were on Light Street in downtown Baltimore) and giving tours to the captains and their crews. And she was even able to entertain some famous visitors, most notably, actress Joanna Kerns of "Growing Pains," actor Hugh O'Brian, and chef Paul Prudhomme.

"I remember seeing Joanna Kerns and struggling to hold my composure," said Joann. "But my mother taught me to always look people in the eye and to act like I know what I'm talking about. You never let them see you sweat!"

And that motto has kept Joann going, even after the McCormick headquarters was moved to Sparks, Maryland, and Friendship Court was no longer open to the public. Her passion for the company and the business landed her various administrative roles, and more recently, into the role of Business Support Coordinator at the Technical Innovation Center, where she coordinates building issues and day-to-day office work.

"I love what I do, and I'm always happy to come to work" says Joann. And if you needed further proof that she loves her job, until she needed foot surgery, Joann went nearly 14 years without missing any days of work!

Joann greatly enjoys talking about the history of McCormick, and she can't wait to share her stories with anyone she meets. "I've lived through the company's history and have seen first-hand McCormick's 'two-for-one' motto – if you think once for the company, they'll think twice for you. McCormick looks out for their employees, and they have always done that for me."

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