The owners of a new HTeaO opening soon in Longview believe East Texans love iced tea.
The store, at 2000 Toler Road, at Gilmer Road, is expected to open between June 15 and the end of June. Franchise owners Jama Baskin, Laura Foree, Laurie Alexander and Cody Barnett also are a Sonic franchisee, with 50 stores in the Houston, San Antontio, Waco, Temple and Killeen areas.
HTeaO features 24 flavors of iced tea, made with "very high quality tea" from Asia and India, the three women said. Sweet and unsweet varieties as well as decaffeinated options are available. Tea drinkers also can visit a fruit bar to add more flavors to their drinks. The store sells premium ice and water made by a double reverse osmosis process, snacks, Yeti coolers, hydro flasks and HTeaO merchandise.
"We chose Longview just because it was a market that we saw the need," Foree said. She noted one other similar tea shop in Longview. Chugg's Tea & Water Co. is on McCann Road.
"We wanted to diversify our portfolio out of Sonic some and do some different things," Foree said, and were "blown away" by HTeaO's concept and impressed with the franchisor.
The brand is community driven, she said, and works with police and fire departments and chambers of commerce.
"We're very much immersed in the community," Foree said.
The three women spent a few days in Longview.
"Everyone was so kind, so hospitable, so nice," Foree said, with Baskin laughing as she said they got new rain jackets while they were in town.
Rain has pushed the opening about two months later than originally planned.
HTeaO's location at Gilmer and Toler roads, where a former Church's Chicken building was torn down, is along a busy corridor through Longview. McWhorter Park and its baseball complex are located nearby, along with several apartment complexes and schools in the area.
"We like that there is a lot of growth to the north of that area and the sports complex is nearby," Foree said. The brokers who worked with them have family here who advised them they'd found a good location.
"We trusted them. The fact that Starbucks is going in across the street tells us we're in the right place," she said. Plans haven't been finalized, but a Starbucks franchisee has targeted the opposite corner of Toler and Gilmer roads.
"We do not see them as a competitor. We like being near Starbucks," Foree said. "It's a busy thoroughfare because there's all that new growth going to the north.... We're really hoping to capture a lot of that sports complex business as well."
The store will employ about 18-22 full- and part-time employees, with the franchisees working with LeTourneau University's business program on an internship program.
Raven Espitia is operational partner who will oversee the store, and Caleb Molina is assistant manager.
The franchisees also will be looking for a second location in Longview in the future.
"This is our flagship store in Longview," Foree said. "We're super pumped about it."