By Margaret Alkerton
One of this summer’s latest additions to Port Dalhousie, Kiko’s Smoothies and Bubble Tea, is celebrating their one-month anniversary after officially opening their doors in mid-July.
Co-owner and namesake Chunyan Kiko Liu says she has even more to celebrate than her first month in business. As she tells it, Kiko’s is the project that brought her “home.”
“I love St. Catharines,” she says. “The people here are more friendly and helpful.”
Kiko originally moved from Beijing to St. Catharines in 2009 to attend Brock University, and, like so many graduates, she quickly moved from St. Catharines to Toronto after earning her Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Within six months in Toronto, Kiko began brainstorming ways to return to Niagara.
“Being honest,” she tells me, “there are too many people and too much traffic in Toronto… which feels terrible.”
Kiko’s co-owner, Rozie Stodulski, understood her friend’s feelings and wanted to help. Rozie (of Rozie’s Breakfast Cafe fame) talks easily about how after spending 20 years in Toronto, she fell in love with Port Dalhousie “immediately.”
The pair’s interest in bubble tea began with Kiko’s experiences in her first home. In Beijing, Kiko explains, “drinking tea is as drinking coffee here, daily life,” and, she adds, “the young generations prefer bubble tea, which is more tasty and convenient.”
The two moved forward with Kiko’s Smoothies and Bubble Tea, filling an available space at 17 Lock Street.
“We envision Kiko’s as a refreshment stop for all ages,” says Stodulski, and one that can be enjoyed “as a snack or dessert or even a meal replacement.”
Kiko’s menu includes milk-based teas and iced teas, as well as slushies, smoothies, milkshakes, and fresh-squeezed lemonades- all of which can be enjoyed with traditional tapioca bubbles or fruit-flavoured jelly bubbles.
Celeste Collins, Kiko’s next-door-neighbour at Candie’s Ice Creamery, is excited to see new businesses popping up around town. Collins found her way back to Niagara from North Bay, also drawn to set up a home here and help her father with the business he set up in 2004.
“It was the place to be at the time,” Collins says, speaking of when her parents first opened Candie’s. She is hopeful that with more small businesses and more traffic, “maybe we can get Port back to the way it was before.”
Kiko is thankful for the support she’s felt from Collins and her community, confirming her decision to put down roots.
For Kiko, bubble tea has been central to her best memories. Each cup is a reminder of long hours spent with great friends. Now, she hopes to bring that same spirit to the place she loves like family.