Monday, May 23, 2022

Here’s the ‘tea’ on a new business coming to Merchants Square

A new business called Secret Garden plans to come to Merchants Square this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A new business called Secret Garden plans to come to Merchants Square this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

A trending Taiwanese beverage has penetrated the Williamsburg market. 

Here’s the tea.

An independently-owned small cafe called Secret Garden plans to open in Merchants Square this fall, bringing bubble tea, fruit juice, dessert waffles, breakfast and other fresh items to Colonial Williamsburg.

The restaurant is the second to announce it will sell bubble tea in the area this month: Last week, Kung Fu Tea also announced they would open this fall in New Town, boasting a three-tier customized bubble tea beverages and fried chicken.

Sujin Park, the daughter of Secret Garden owners Dongjin Park and Hyunmi Baek, said the business hopes to open in late September or early October.

“Bubble tea is not something that’s really around the area,” Park said. “But bubble tea is really trending around the world right now. We wanted to bring that to Colonial Williamsburg.”

Park said her parents are opening their new business at 110 S. Henry St. because of a resounding love for Colonial Williamsburg.

“Our cafe is supposed to be a place where people can sit down and relax and take a break from walking,” Park said.

Secret Garden will anchor its menu with bubble tea, a Taiwanese tea beverage featuring tapioca balls, fruit, ice or a combination.

The family hasn’t yet nailed down the entire Secret Garden menu, but they plan to have a mix of both healthy foods and sweets for the customer in need of a sugar boost. Some items include fresh juice and dessert waffles, as well as traditional breakfast items such as omelets.

Park said Secret Garden aims to attract both locals and tourists.

Starting out

Park’s parents always wanted to open a restaurant together, but realized they could fill a niche in Colonial Williamsburg with a particular type of menu.

“Something we always noticed while visiting was there were always different stores and restaurants, but not a place to sit down and relax and eat light food,” Park said. “There is Aromas, but it’s coffee-specific.”

Starting a business in Colonial Williamsburg is special for Dongjin Park and Hyunmi Baek: When Dongjin Park first visited Williamsburg — and the United States — while on a business trip from the family’s native South Korea, he decided he loved it enough to move his whole family to Yorktown.

The family has lived in Yorktown since 2007, and they visit Colonial Williamsburg often. 

Dongjin Park and Hyunmi Baek have not worked in the restaurant business before, but their daughter said they are optimistic their business will successfully fit into Merchants Square.

“We chose this specific location because it is both antique and lively, filled with people of all ages coming from all different locations,” Park wrote in an email.

The business plans to open in the fall because the space requires quite a bit of construction and renovation, as it was not outfitted with a kitchen for its last tenant.

The Secret Garden owners have secured their lease with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, the company that manages Merchants Square real estate, and are working on getting its construction permits and a business license through the city.

So, why the name “Secret Garden”? 

“My dad came up with it… It’s because we are providing fresh items like a garden, and it’s also kind of a secret garden type of place where people can relax,” Park said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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