Boba tea cafe to open in Paddock Arcade this spring

Feb. 26—WATERTOWN — Sgt. Joshua Whiteside and his wife, Patcharin, were thinking about starting a food truck offering boba teas and crepes.

But developer Jake Johnson suggested he take a storefront that was still open in the Paddock Arcade, which Mr. Johnson purchased last summer.

Sgt. Whiteside rents space from Mr. Johnson in the Commerce Building for a video business.

So now the entrepreneurs are opening O-HO Boba Cafe in the former location of European Cakes, which moved into a more visible storefront in the historic downtown mall.

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The cafe, where downtown workers can get a quick breakfast on their way to work, will offer authentic boba teas and sweet and savory crepes when it opens in April.

In recent years, boba tea shops have become a popular addition to the restaurant industry. They've been popping up in communities throughout the country.

In Watertown, boba teas are sold in two locations, including Juju66 and the Pink Kettle Boba Tea Shop in the Salmon Run Mall. But the crepes are going to set O-HO apart from its competition, Sgt. Whiteside said.

"We will be the only boba tea shop that offers this combination of drink and food, which will allow us to stand out from other companies," the 10th Mountain Division soldier said.

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While the owners expect to serve people from ages 15 to 45 years, the popularity of the boba tea shop will mainly attract high school and college students. The boba tea cafe comes just a few months after a Vietnamese coffee shop opened in another storefront in the Paddock Arcade.

Members of the Watertown Local Development Corporation, also known as the Watertown Trust, think that O-HO will find its niche in the local competitive food landscape, partly because it will be in the Paddock Arcade, Public Square.

Watertown Trust board member Steve Hunt said he was recently in Kingston, Ontario, where a number of boba tea shops operated. They're popular on this side of the border, too, he said

"They're sweeping across the country," he said. "I think they'll do great."

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On Thursday, the Watertown Trust approved a $50,000, 5% loan to the business that will go toward equity and inventory. The owners are investing $54,000 in extensive renovations to the Paddock Arcade storefront.

It will not be the first venture in boba teas for Patcharin Whiteside, who got her start while living in Chang Mai, Thailand where she operated a shop for three years.

Receiving a marketing degree from Mea Jo College, she learned Tiwan boba tea recipes while taking online classes. The cafe will feature tiger sugar boba and sparkling fruit teas.

The couple has lived in the north country for two years after meeting in El Paso, where the sergeant was stationed and Patcharin was living.