A Playful (and Dog-Themed) Experience at ShiBoba Tea and Coffee
With an intriguing furry face in the window, we couldn’t help but pop inside ShiBoba Tea and Coffee. And once inside, we immediately fell in love with Yuan Yuan, a three-year old Shiba Inu and the mascot behind ShiBoba. We chatted with owner Sheila Locke to learn more about this unique dog-themed business and what brought her to Bellevue.
When it came time for Locke to open her fourth bubble tea location in the Puget Sound area, she wanted it to be unique and located in the heart of Downtown Bellevue. She combined her passion for serving the best boba/bubble tea and supporting the Shiba Inu breed. Inspired by the famed Shiba Cafe concept from Japan, Locke inserted her own personal twist by creating a Shiba Inu themed boba shop, and Shiboba Tea and Coffee was born.
Known for their classic bubble teas alongside an expansive menu of specialties, ShiBoba offers in person service, on-line ordering and delivery. Popular items include Spam Musubi and Spam Fries, which originate from Hawaii and are made in-house. Sheila and her creative team love coming up with delicious menu items. A recent favorite is their iced Assam Black Tea with house made fresh mango pulp and sea salt foam. Of course, weaving in the theme, try their Honeydew “Shibaccino” for something sweet. If you live close by and need a midday pick-me-up, this is the spot for custom coffee drinks.
What Locke, a Seattle native, didn’t know as she was signing the lease for ShiBoba Tea and Coffee was that the world would soon be facing the largest health crisis in modern history: COVID-19. The business was originally slated to open on April 1st of this year, but it quickly become clear it would be impossible to open at that time, as they weren’t even able to move in.
“Bringing a totally new concept brand new to a community seemed like a great idea,” Locke explained. “The pandemic forces you to be even more vigilant in everything. You plan for many things in business, however, planning during a pandemic has been surreal (I really dislike that word, but it fits).”
Determined and not defeated, Shiboba Tea and Coffee opened to the community on June 6, 2020. Locke says it’s been worth it, and that the unique business has been well received in the Downtown Bellevue community.
“It’s exciting to meet the dog families, especially the Shiba Inus and their hoomans,” Locke said. “We are pleasantly surprised there are more Shiba Inus in Bellevue than Seattle.”
The café is decorated with happy graphics of Yuan Yuan and his pals. The clever design is present on reminders about social distancing and has been extended into a merchandise line which includes glass to-go jars with reusable boba straws, face masks and tshirts, which are all available in-store and on-line. A fun selfie backdrop created by artist @t0ribabyy covers a wall and even Yuan Yuan can sometimes be coaxed in for a photo opp. That is, if he’s in the mood.
“Being a part of a new community is exciting and challenging,” Locke said. I want to not only fit in, but also stand out at the same time. Downtown Bellevue has much to offer and is easier to access than I ever imagined.”
And while her favorite dog breed is the Shiba Inu, she makes it clear that all dogs and their “hoomans” are welcome to strop by for a visit.