Café on the corner
By Steve Lackmeyer
The newest and biggest location yet for All About Cha is set to open Thursday in Bricktown, adding a coffee, tea and all-day breakfast cafe that will be open 6 a.m. to midnight six days a week.
All About Cha is a chain that started in Chang and Yoonsook Yi's home country of South Korea in 2006 and then launched in Edmond in 2010. With partner Chulmin Park overseeing Asian operations, the chain has grown to 23 locations in South Korea and three in China.
Similar growth has followed the opening of the Edmond store, with locations added in Nichols Hills, Moore, Tulsa, northwest Oklahoma City and South Lake, Texas.
The Bricktown store is the seventh location, with more to follow in Norman, Yukon, and additional spots in Edmond and Tulsa.
“Our concept is unique in that it is different from Starbucks and different from Panera Bread,” Chang Yi said. “It's somewhat a mixture of the two. Customers like our fresh food, and we specialize in coffees and teas.”
Yi said the first store in Edmond started with a focus on coffee and teas. But in the years since, the cafes have added a mix of breakfast items ranging from omelets and quiches to waffles, wraps and muffins that are sold all day.
The lunch and dinner menu items include a mix of salads, wraps and sandwiches.
“Most of our menu items have been in response to our customers,” Yi said. “When we first opened in Edmond, we didn't have food items. But customers told us it would be nice if we offered salads, so we started adding salads and wraps. When we opened in Nichols Hills, the owner there was a professional who had worked with sushi rolls for 10 years. So we added sushi rolls to our menus. So we're all just growing together.”
The Bricktown location, at 4,000 square feet, will be the largest location yet and will double as the company's headquarters and training facility.
As with the earlier locations, the shop was designed by Yoonsook Yi, who studied interior design in South Korea. The $550,000 Bricktown cafe features an array of seating styles, custom made cabinetry created by Steve Morse, and a decor unique to the district.
The early morning and late-night schedule, meanwhile, is designed to attract early rising downtown workers and students from nearby OU Health Sciences Center and the OCU Law School.
Unlike the other shops, the Bricktown cafe also features communal dining tables for larger groups.
Across the street, Brian Werkman, general manager of the Bricktown Holiday Inn Express, is among those hoping to make All About Cha a regular visit for his employees and customers.
Just a few years ago, the intersection of Oklahoma Avenue and Main Street was desolate, with an abandoned dairy plant sitting where the hotel is located, and the windows of All About Cha darkened by its then occupant, City Walk, a nightclub that was open only Thursday through Saturday nights.
The Sherman Building, west of All About Cha, also was empty for decades before it was renovated into the home of Standley Systems.
“We realize the value All About Cha will bring to our guests,” Werkman said. "We have 124 guest rooms and they are full quite often. To have something right across the street, with affordable healthy options, the coffees, teas and foods they have, breakfast all day, and open 6 a.m. to midnight, that is great.”
All About Cha also completes the redevelopment of the Mideke Building at 100 E Main St. started three years by Andy Burnett, Zach Morris and Jeff Johnson.
The renovations included adding elevators and stairways into the top three floors that had been empty for decades.
In addition to being home of All About Cha, the building also is home to Tapstone Energy and affiliated companies owned by Tom Ward.
“We believe that All about Cha is a brand that will continue to grow nationally and we're excited that they've chosen to make the Mideke their corporate headquarters,” Burnett said. “Bricktown is a great place to host and train their franchisees. All about Cha will be a great addition to the neighborhood.”