All About Cha teams up with the first MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center

All About Cha offers an array of breakfast items including muffins, toast, bagels and yogurt parfaits. (Garett Fisbeck)

All About Cha offers an array of breakfast items including muffins, toast, bagels and yogurt parfaits. (Garett Fisbeck)

From the natural light and wider corridors all the way down to the design of the chairs, the new MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center was built to support a community of active older adults.

More than just 40,000 square feet of weights and plates and pools, the safe haven for adults age 50 and older wanted a food partner to match its core concepts of catering to physical, social and educational wellness.

It almost made too much sense for Chang Yi, a franchisor of All About Cha, a popular local coffee and tea shop, to serve a demographic he has learned to love.

“That’s why I didn’t hesitate to come in here, because a lot of times, you can build stronger bonds and relationships with elderly people,” said Yi, who opened the small shop last month. “Being from South Korea, you’re brought up in an environment where you’re trained or educated to respect your elders. When I think about myself — and I’m getting older — if I can do something for the elderly people, maybe the younger generation will respect them the same way.”

Enhanced experience

A phone call is all it took.

Back in February, about a month before the wellness center opened its doors to the public, Yi received a call from Bill Fleming, the chairman of the board of directors of Healthy Living & Fitness, Inc., a nonprofit partner and operator.

Fleming heard about All About Cha from Councilman Mark Stonecipher. Fleming was sold after checking out the Bricktown location. Being local helped, as did the menu and concept.

It originated in South Korea, and Yi, who came to the United States in 1985 and later graduated from Phillips University in Enid, opened the first American location seven years ago in Edmond. He owns two locations (the wellness center at 11501 N. Rockwell Ave. and Bricktown) and helped add franchises in Moore, Norman, Tulsa and Southlake, Texas, among others. The 12th U.S. location, near Covell Road and Kelly Avenue in Edmond, opened Sept. 1.

“If anything, people think we are like a mixture of Starbucks and Panera Bread,” Yi said. “That kind of fits a good description of us.”

Whether it’s the green tea from Japan or the coffee, sandwiches and salads that members scoop up, Yi said he regularly sees happy faces.

Jefferson Killgore, executive director of Healthy Living OKC, initially was impressed with Yi’s vision. Now, he has noticed All About Cha’s connection to the members.

“It’s not just get in, get out and go on with your day,” Killgore said. “This really becomes a place of belonging or a sense of identity for our members to have an extension of that community.”

Different crowd

Located near the front entrance in a 250 square-foot space, this miniature version of All About Cha pales in comparison to the 4,000 square-foot Bricktown location.

So far, it has been a learning experience for Yi as he attempts to master the trends of the wellness center’s members, who range in age from 50 to 100.

The menu Yi constructed isn’t quite as expansive as other locations due to the size of the space and the lack of a heating element to produce hot food. Still, it features teas Yi felt would be beneficial for an older crowd, along with several food options.

What originally started with a 7 a.m.-7 p.m. schedule has shifted to an 8 a.m.-8 p.m. schedule to accommodate the evening crowd looking for a portable dinner.

All About Cha offers two sandwiches, four salads and a rotating sandwich special of the week. In the mornings, it serves typical breakfast fare like yogurt parfaits, bagels, toast and muffins.

“It’s not just cheap coffee and tea. It’s a quality product, and it’s something people will want to come back for,” Killgore said. “And it’s locally owned and operated. Those things make a difference to us.”

Part of All About Cha’s model is education, so Yi makes it a point to inform customers which tea or drinks are best suited for a specific ailment or issue.

Yi said Evergreen tea, a combination of green and wild mulberry tea, is popular for those who might have diabetes. Siesta Dream, a mix of safflower and chrysanthemum, provides a boost with vitamin A and vitamin E.

“Those are the things I try to stress more to the audience and customers here more so than downtown, where the college students are looking for caffeine,” he said. “Here, we’re trying to get them something good for their body.”

Jefferson Killgore and Chang Yi at All About Cha at the MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center (Garett Fisbeck)

Jefferson Killgore and Chang Yi at All About Cha at the MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center (Garett Fisbeck)

Growing together

With All About Cha as the final piece of the puzzle, Healthy Living OKC is eager to grow together.

“I feel our members have found a renewed sense of purpose and identity by means of this facility,” Killgore said. “I’ve got a good friend who says people often look for belonging, affirmation and meaning in relationships. This facility creates all of those things, but it’s also an improved quality of life.”

With just four full-time employees and four to six part-time workers — not including group instructors and personal trainers, who are contractors — the wellness center relies on volunteers to serve and lead the community. Killgore estimated 85 percent of the volunteers are members.

With the rapid growth, Killgore often finds his team asking what it can do to better serve its members. A few weeks ago, a member who had lost a loved one asked if there was a place for healing. Within a few weeks, a grieving group was in place.

In a sense, Healthy Living OKC and All About Cha are guinea pigs.

Yi is testing this model as research to potentially expand into office buildings and universities. The smaller size and lower startup fees (about $70,000 for the wellness center location, compared to more than $300,000 for other locations) could attract a different group of franchisees.

The wellness center is the first of four locations as part of the MAPS 3 project. A second location will completed by the end of the year, with projected dates of 2019 and 2021 for the final two projects.

“I hope we’ve set the bar high,” Killgore said. “I say that respectfully to the other operators, who we will share insights and wisdom with. The better we are, the better we can encourage them to be.”

Print headline: Enriched servings: All About Cha teams up with the first MAPS 3 Senior Health and Wellness Center to improve quality of life in the senior community.

Sean Isabella

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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