Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge Made it Through COVID Lockdown. Then the Monsoon Came.

By Jessica Swarner

August 9, 2021

Cha Cha’s just celebrated moving into a new space but has had to shut down indefinitely after losing power. 

Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge in downtown Phoenix survived the business hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and even completed a move to a bigger space this spring. 

But a recent monsoon storm that not only took out their power but part of the building’s wall has caused a whole new setback. 

Ashley Hoekstra, who owns the shop, said while the pandemic was “emotionally draining,” she was able to avoid layoffs thanks to a Paycheck Protection Program loan and continuing to sell takeout and wholesale tea. 

Now, this current closure has been hard in its own ways, she said. 

front exterior of ChaCha's Tea Lounge
(Photo by Jessica Swarner)

“We have an entire staff of 10 people, and we had to have the conversations with them, like, ‘Maybe you guys should be looking for other jobs,’” Hoekstra told The Copper Courier. 

She said their power company Arizona Public Service (APS) won’t reconnect the power until the wall is repaired, which the shop has to wait on the landlord to make happen. 

“We haven’t had income for the three weeks that we’ve been closed, and we’re anticipating that it’ll probably be another 2-3 weeks that we’ll be closed,” Hoekstra said. 

A Growing Business, Interrupted

Hoekstra opened Cha Cha’s on Grand Avenue in 2018. 

The shop had to close to customers in March 2020 as did almost all other businesses.

“Just being a normal person living through a pandemic was wild, but then being a business owner was even more wild just because we had to do everything completely different,” Hoekstra said. 

The shop was still able to sell drinks through a takeout window, and Cha Cha’s also sold bulk looseleaf tea for people to brew at home. 

“As a tea shop, we got a lot of customers coming looking for healthy things to keep their immune systems up and strong and just to be choosing a little healthier choices during the pandemic,” Hoekstra said. “So we stayed, not like our normal busy, definitely not our normal busy, but we stayed busy enough to keep the doors open.”

Once the mask mandate in Phoenix was lifted earlier this year, the shop began its transition to a new space half a block away. 

the interior of the tea lounge with owner Ashley in the front bent over some materials as sun streams in from front windows
(Photo by Jessica Swarner)

Hoekstra said the new location has more space—both for customers to dine in and for employees to prepare food and wholesale orders. 

“It was kind of exciting for us to end the pandemic with a new space being available and seeing that opportunity,” she said. 

But with no power—meaning no air conditioning in the middle of Arizona’s summer—the new location is now sitting dormant after being open for only two months. 

In the meantime, Hoekstra has been setting up pop-up shops with other local businesses to try to continue sales. 

“We don’t know when they’re going to be able to repair all the wall stuff,” she said, “so we’re kind of just sitting here in limbo until that end of it gets fixed.”

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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