By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Businesses affected by theft are common. But “malicious and destructive beyond just stealing” occurred at the recently-opened Jardin Tea inside Uwaijiaya’s food hall, said owner Anh Pham.
In addition to water flooding the venue, thieves stole over six pieces of commercial equipment and syrups needed to operate the business, with damages totaling over $15,000. Two people cut the venue’s water lines and blew out its electrical outlets on July 14, at around 5 a.m.
The suspects’ faces were caught on camera. Pham has shared his misfortune on Instagram, and has offered a $2,000 reward to anyone with information that would lead to solving the case. Pham said one suspect’s face looked familiar as he had visited the shop to buy a drink some time prior.
The suspects, who posed as delivery persons carrying boxes, were inside the shop for half an hour before Uwajimaya’s security guards came by.
“They knew what they were doing.” Pham suspected that the thieves had been watching his business for a while. There was no break-in. Entering through the business’ door facing 5th Avenue South, the suspects knew the door code.
Pham, 35, said he was initially upset with the mess the suspects had created, but quickly reminded himself to be upbeat.
“When something like this happens to you, you can’t help but feel that you’ve been violated and it never feels good. I can’t say that I wasn’t also angry, but my anger was short-lived as I knew that my employees depended on the shop to make a living.”
Pham has hired 10 employees to staff his tea shop. He said his tea is made with quality ingredients and traditional methods. Both the younger and older generations can find their favorite drinks at his shop. Pham said he learned the art through a “Tea Master,“ and he traveled all over the world in search of great tea experiences.
Now, Pham is focusing his “energy on getting the business back up and running. This helped me not to get trapped in the emotional cycle and feel sorry for myself.”
The total damage would be about $30,000, said Pham, including $15,000 in equipment and repairing the water and power lines.
“It was frustrating and sad to see that with everything going on already, there are still people out there making it worse for others with these actions,” Pham said. However, he was comforted by customers coming from afar to buy drinks to support him.
The incident did not disrupt Jardin Tea business hours as Uwajimaya staff quickly fixed the broken lines. The theft has created a big financial and operational hurdle for Jardin Tea.
“But we won’t be taken down this easily and will stay open to service our customers,” said Pham. The police dusted for and collected fingerprints that the suspects left inside the business.
This is Pham’s second business. He owns another tea shop in Lake Union. Jardin Tea aims to bridge the gap between the traditional tea house with the younger, popular boba tea shop concept.
Jardin Tea is not the only boba tea shop targeted by thieves. Oasis has been broken into five times, and the suspect’s photo has been posted outside the tea shop. Young Tea and Fuji Bakery were also affected.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.