Monday, Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea opened its fourth Ann Arbor location in one section of the former Borders building on E. Liberty and Maynard streets.
The cafe, which specializes in featuring tea and coffee from different cultures around the world, is the fourth company to open in the building. Knight’s Steakhouse, Huntington National Bank and Slurping Turtle, a Japanese sushi and noodle restaurant, all moved in earlier this year. Several other spaces in the building have not yet been leased.
Brendan Cavender and Jim Chaconas, brokers at Colliers International who have been responsible for leasing the two-story, 44,000 square-foot facility, said their goal has been to maintain a high level of diversity among businesses.
“As soon as we started leasing, we had almost every fast-food restaurant imaginable call us right away wanting to get into the building, but we didn’t think that was the proper fit and wanted to do the leasing correctly,” he said. “We tried to select a good variety of retailers and restaurants.”
“Sweetwaters is a wonderful tenant and a great addition to the building,” he said. “They are local, they have a great brand and a great image.”
Sheila Li and her husband Roy Xu, owners of the new Sweetwaters cafe, said they were happy to be able to share more of the Sweetwaters experience with Ann Arbor customers.
“It has been very exciting to have the grand opening and to see customers come in and enjoy the atmosphere and the design of the store,” Li said. “We already have a steady customer base, since Sweetwaters have been in Ann Arbor for over 21 years.”
Li also highlighted several unique sustainable designs of the store, including LED lighting, an energy-saving instant water heater, motion sensors for lighting control and a self-sufficient green wall that features live plants, as features she was particularly proud of.
The cafe will be the first coffeehouse to be certified LEED by the U.S. Green Building Council, she said. LEED certification indicates that a business has met certain construction and building prerequisites that reduce the impact they have on the environment.
Sweetwaters founder Lisa Bee said they are thrilled to be in the East Liberty space. The energy level and the business at the new cafe have been great and it’s getting busier every day, she added.
“We have a lot of students who are customers,” she said. “I really think students are going to make the cafe their own and we’ll adopt to their taste.”
Slurping Turtle Sous Chef Juan-Paulo Garcia said his restaurant, which neighbors Sweetwaters, has been successful since its April 21 opening and the location has exceeded their initial expectations.
“Sweetwaters will be a great addition and will definitely bring a lot of foot traffic to the area,” he said.
Medical School student Erin Conrad said she is very excited to have another coffeehouse to use as a study spot near campus.
“Since this store is close to my apartment and Central Campus, I’ll most likely visit Sweetwaters more often than before,” she said. “I also like their music and the seating arrangement is great.”
As for the rest of the building, Cavender said a lease has already been signed for one of the two empty spaces left, an 8,000 square-foot space facing Maynard Street, and negotiations are currently underway for the other.