Oklahoma is now home to three locations of a Seoul, Korea, based franchise, the U.S. headquarters for which will be in Oklahoma City.
All About Cha — the Korean word for tea — started in Seoul and rapidly expanded to 24 locations in Korea. Two more locations followed in China, and then Chang Yi and Yoon Yi opened the first U.S. location opened in Edmond (3272 S. Broadway Ave.) in 2011.
Daniel Chae, who owns the Nichols Hills location, said he soon will direct U.S. marketing and expansion.
Chae grew up in Moore, but went to college at the University of Michigan, and he took a job with a county government office in Michigan where he worked on housing and homelessness policy. His family owns a dry cleaning business that services military bases in the state.
“I was out of the state for 13 years,” Chae said. “I used to come back to see my family, and I would think that nothing was happening here, but all that changed the past few years.”
When Chae’s mother told him about a business opportunity in Oklahoma City she had heard about from a friend, Chae was interested enough to inquire about the franchise. Yoon Yi and Chae’s mother were in a Korean women’s church choir together, and Yoon had mentioned they were looking for partners in All About Cha.
After meeting with them, Chae agreed to open the Nichols Hills location.
The downtown Tulsa location was the third in the state, and Chae said a fourth location in the “area around NW 150th” is already under construction. The company is planning on expanding into neighboring states as soon as it is feasible to do so.
The original franchises were almost exclusively tea and coffee with very limited food choices. Chae has changed the model for his Nichols Hills store. The location serves breakfast all day, and lunch includes sandwiches, wraps, and sushi. He retained the eclectic and wide selection of teas and coffees.
“We’ll be adding savory snacks soon,” Chae said. “We are trying to appeal to our late night customers, too, many of whom are students. We like being a place in the neighborhood where people can meet and ideate, and people do that at different times depending on their preferences and schedules.”
The Nichols Hills store is open until midnight Monday through Saturday, and unlike many competitors, they are open until 10 p.m. on Sunday nights. It is an intentional strategy to cater to many demographics, including the late night students, but it is also Chae’s attempt to be part of the larger community.
“We want to serve our customer base and we want to be good neighbors,” Chae said. “We buy local products—Braum’s, Ingrid’s, Chaney’s popcorn—as much as we can.”
Chae’s decision to return to Oklahoma City reflects his confidence in the opportunities that exist here now. “I used to be disappointed in my hometown,” Chae said, “but not anymore. The growth is exciting, and this is a great place to do business right now.”