Students can try out a popular international boba and tea business once it opens in Westwood later this year.
Sharetea is a boba franchise based in Taiwan with over 500 locations ranging from South Korea to UC Irvine. It will open its doors on Broxton Ave. sometime before the end of this year, said owner Allen Cho. The new opening comes after a lengthy permit and relocation process that delayed a previously planned opening for earlier this year.
Sharetea will feature a plethora of items popular among tea and boba lovers, such as classic milk tea, jasmine tea and honey milk tea. In total, Sharetea will offer over 50 different drinks on its menu, Cho said.
The franchise was originally set to open earlier this year in Westwood Village next to BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, but Cho said the opening never occurred and the location was later moved further down Broxton Avenue to the current location at 1055 Broxton Avenue.
Cho said the decision was made by Sharetea’s headquarters. While he was not explicitly informed as to why the move occurred, Cho said his understanding was that the location change had to do with Sharetea’s desire to be more centralized in Westwood.
He added he thinks the new location will be able to attract both UCLA students and other Westwood customers.
“My opinion is that they wanted to attract business people coming into Westwood Village as well as student customers,” Cho said. “Over the winter break and the summer months there’s considerably less students, so the idea was that they wanted a broader combination of customers so that they wouldn’t lose customers during those periods.”
Cho said he expects Sharetea to be very popular in Westwood, as it has already proven successful at several other locations in Southern California including a franchise at UC Irvine that Cho said brings in over 1,100 customers per day.
“Boba is so popular and really a big trend right now,” Cho said. “There’s boba stores on every block in Taiwan and South Korea, and it’s especially popular for the younger generation. It’s already been 20 years since it was introduced and it’s already growing more and more.”
While confident that Sharetea will prove a hit in Westwood Village, Cho said Westwood’s business regulation had been a challenge in opening the location.
“It takes between six months and a year to get a permit to open a place like this. That’s much worse than in Irvine,” Cho said.
In addition to the headquarter’s decision to move locations, Cho also said Westwood’s much-maligned Village Specific Plan has impreded opening this Sharetea location. Since the Broxton Avenue location is a historical building, Cho said it has been difficult or even impossible in some cases to make changes to the building that would better accommodate customers.
“I wanted more tables outside, and more seats inside, but I can’t really change the layout of the building,” Cho said. “I also wanted multistoried seating but this wasn’t allowed either.”
Cho’s concerns about Westwood’s constraining business environment were shared by Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association.
“The Westwood Village Specific Plan goes too far into the weeds in controlling businesses,” Thomas said. “It has a suffocating effect and unintended consequences.”
For example, Thomas said restrictions on how businesses can display signs on the front of their buildings can hurt the efforts of such businesses to increase their visibility.
“The Village plan has very specific language (for) signs, forcing businesses to run their signs through the Westwood design review board for approval,” Thomas said. “It just adds another layer to the process.”
Cho said the specific plan’s sign regulation had been a problem for Sharetea, adding he had to wait two months for a meeting with Westwood officials to get the sign he wanted outside the building approved.
He added Westwood’s notoriously high rent costs, along with excessive regulation, were both driving businesses similar to his own away from Westwood.
“Rent prices here are extremely high, like three times that of Long Beach,” Cho said. “The rent here is too high and the demand from out of town business customers coming into Westwood just isn’t enough. They have more options as opposed to back in earlier days. Restaurant owners can’t succeed with only student customers here.”
Thomas said while he was hopeful that Sharetea would succeed despite such impediments, he also added he had hoped for broader reform on the part of the Los Angeles City Council to make the Village a place where businesses such as Cho’s feel welcomed.
“Westwood has its own challenges for businesses that are unique, and being in LA more generally just adds to that unpredictability and expense,” Thomas said.
Neemias Hung, a third-year bioengineering student, said he felt Sharetea would be popular among UCLA students because of its reputation and name recognition.
A tea and boba drinker himself, Hung added he thinks Sharetea compared favorably with current Westwood businesses such as It’s Boba Time and Sip Matcha.
“They’re better than average I’d say,” Hung said. “Their flavors are just a little more unique and their classic and fruit teas taste a little better than (their competitors’) in my opinion.”
Diego Zavala, a third-year mathematics of computation student, said he thinks Sharetea will be appealing due to the authenticity of Sharetea’s boba products.
“As long as they have quality boba products, they’ll be able to bring in students,” Zavala said. “There’s boba at Rendezvous on campus, but it isn’t the best. It doesn’t really taste the same. There’s also other boba shops that have already closed in Westwood so I don’t think that they’ll have as much competition.”
Sharetea will open another location in Santa Monica in the summer of 2020, Cho said.