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New Boba Shop Takes Over Long Vacant Space in Downtown LA

A new boba cafe called Toastea is planning to open soon inside a long vacant retail space along 7th Street next to Rite Aid

The good news just keeps on coming for 7th Street! Last week, we broke the news that the ever-so-popular Halal Guys, which has become a nationally recognized name starting from its humble beginnings as a street cart in NYC, signed a lease to replace the former Brigade LA clothing store near 7th/Olive. And now this week another exciting eatery development is taking place less than two blocks away also on 7th Street.

A new independent boba tea shop called Toastea is coming soon to 7th Street opening adjacent to the Rite Aid store. What makes this particularly exciting for me is the commercial space Toastea will be taking over, which has sat vacant (unactivated) for possibly decades. You might recall we once reported many years ago that it was supposed to become a frozen yogurt shop, but obviously that never happened. Instead, the space just sat empty (again, unactivated) on one of the busiest pedestrian corridors in Los Angeles — for years — until now!

Founded by three USC grads, Toastea signed the lease in May 2016 and started demo and construction on the space just this past Friday. They will be turning the 1,100 square foot space into a modern and inviting hang out spot (see renderings below) that will add to the growing love downtowners have for Taiwanese boba.

“We used to go out to the SGV (San Gabriel Valley) all the time, to places like Half & Half, to get good boba,” said Alice Zhao, one of the co-founders of Toastea I spoke to. “We really want to bring quality whole leaf tea to Downtown LA.”

Toastea will be serving their milk tea with organic Straus milk and will include non-dairy options as well. In addition to tea drinks, Taiwanese-style thick toast, often prepared with sweet custard and toasted, will also be served. However, instead of the 4.5 inch thick “coffin toast” that might usually be served at a Taiwanese boba cafe, Toastea will offer a shorter “downtown friendly” version at only 1.5 inches thick. The bread will be sourced locally from Yamazaki Bakery in Little Tokyo. And now you also know how Toastea got its name.

The three co-founders, Alice Zhao, Amir Ganaba, and Scott Maier, all come from different backgrounds with one common love for tea.

“All three of us come from very different cultures, Chinese, Persian, and Japanese British, and we all love tea,” Zhao said. “We believe tea is such a universally cherished drink that it’s important to get it right.”

Zhao is hoping that they’ll be up and running before the end of the year.

Toastea will be opening a new boba cafe on 7th Street that will also serve delicious Taiwanese-style toast

Toastea will be opening a new boba cafe on 7th Street that will also serve delicious Taiwanese-style toast

Toastea takes over a long, long vacant retail space and will activate it with new life

Toastea takes over a long, long vacant retail space and will activate it with new life

Renderings courtesy of architect firm Hootan & Associates

A view of the front of the store along 7th Street

A view of the front of the store along 7th Street

What you'll see upon entering the new Toastea shop

What you’ll see upon entering the new Toastea shop

Toastea will be a great new addition to 7th Street's "Restaurant Row"

Toastea will be a great new addition to 7th Street’s “Restaurant Row”

Inspired by DTLA's own Whole Foods, these steps will allow customers to sit and enjoy their boba tea

Inspired by DTLA’s own Whole Foods design, these steps will allow customers to sit and enjoy their boba tea

4 Comments

  1. Brigham, I really appreciated the detailed photographs of the design for the new Boba Shop! It is inspiring! I think they are gonna do well at this location! Especially, with the new residential neighborhood sprouting here! This location is PRIME for pedestrian traffic and restaurant / retail! Anywhere along 7th St. to Broadway!

  2. Rick Murphy says

    Hi Brigham. The store was the flagship of JW Robinson’s that closed about 1991. The upper floors have been used as a technology hotel for cloud services. It is great to see more of the ground floor space being used as retail.

    • Thanks for the clarification Rick! Looks like the space has been empty for 25 years (almost three decades!). Here’s hoping the grand dept stores return to DTLA in the future. I’m looking at you Bloomingdales and Nordstrom!

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