A popular bubble tea café has opened a new, larger store in Sunderland city centre, three years after launching the business.

Lucky Cat Boba opened the doors of its new café at 241 High Street West earlier this month [8 Dec], occupying the former Barista site.

Set up by engineer turned entrepreneur Sam Johnston during the Covid-19 pandemic, the café serves up an array of vegetarian-friendly bubble teas, ice creams and light bites and has built a loyal following for its products over the past three years.

Sam said: “It was my daughter [Millie] who got me into bubble tea as she used to travel to Newcastle for it when she was young.

“She kept saying that we really needed one in town, so we began to look into it. We did a bit of research and thought, we could do this.

“I had worked at Nissan for 32 years and loved my job, but having travelled to Japan for work on numerous occasions, I had seen how popular it was, so we thought, why not?”

Despite setting up during the pandemic and dealing with the challenges of multiple lockdowns, Lucky Cat Boba’s ability to fill a gap in the market helped carve out a real niche for the business.

So much so, that a second venue in Middlesbrough town centre shortly followed, as well as the launch of new products and Lucky Cat Boba-branded merchandise.

“It was supposed to be a side business at first, but once it started to take off, it became a real family affair and we all got into it,” she added.

“Fast-forward three years and we now employ over 15 people across our two sites and the new, larger café in Sunderland will see us create even more roles.”

Lucky Cat Boba was attracted to High Street West by the ongoing transformation of Riverside Sunderland and Mackie’s Corner.

The move – which has been supported by the Business Investment Team at Sunderland City Council – will see it relocate its entire team to the site, as well as the creation of six new jobs.

“It is on the site of the former Barista cafe which has always been a popular place for people to meet for a coffee,” Sam added.

“Our coffee is delicious – we source the most amazing coffee beans from Sam at ‘Cracked Bean Roastery’. It’s really important to us to support other local businesses. They are also a social enterprise supporting other local people back into work.

“The new site is also a much larger space which allows us to prepare more food such as fresh sandwiches, homemade cakes, smoothies, acai bowls, pancakes etc.  We can even host events and parties so it will really help us grow the business.

“Park Lane gave us a great introduction to the city, but it was always our goal to find somewhere larger, more suitable for the business and this site was just perfect.

“It seems really up and coming over this side of the city centre. We are right in the middle of Mackie’s Corner and Riverside Sunderland, both of which are bringing lots of new businesses to the city. It’s a great place to be.”

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It is fantastic to see Lucky Cat Boba continuing to invest in the city and create opportunities for local people.

“At a time when our high streets are at their lowest ebb, it is vital that we create the conditions required to attract innovative, forward-thinking businesses such as Lucky Cat Boba and this is a perfect example of how we’re doing just that.

“Through the ongoing redevelopment of Riverside Sunderland, Mackie’s Corner and Sunderland Station, we’re seeing new businesses invest here, more people visit and more people working here, and we’re delighted that Lucky Cat Boba will continue to play a part of our ever-transforming city story.”

For more information on Sunderland as a place to do business, visit: https://www.mysunderland.co.uk/business-and-investment