By Jessica King
Pictures by Victoria Deal
HTeaO, an individually owned sweet tea franchise, is opening its doors this spring on Fifth Street across from the Tyler Junior College campus where Weinerland served customers for many years. The business began in founders Gary and Kim Hutchens’ burger restaurant called Buns Over Texas. Here they sold their flavored iced tea, according to hteao.com.
Tonya Clark, the current owner of HTeaO, and her husband began their journey with HTeaO in 2018 when Clark’s supervisor introduced them to the franchise, Clark said. According to Clark, HTeaO opened its first franchise, corporate store in Midland, Texas, so her and her husband visited the store. After visiting, Clark said they decided it was a great concept and committed to the franchise in 2019.
“It is mine and my husband’s dream to own our own business. Everybody in our family has owned their own business and this is kind of like our plan to give something fun to the community and be able to work together,” Clark said. “We are bringing it to Tyler because we think Tyler is an amazing community and we think it’ll do well by the college — bring something new and fresh.
According to Clark, after committing to the franchise in 2019, they searched Tyler for a location that fit the “hometown around the corner,” vibe that HTeaO provides. The Clark’s picked Fifth Street not only because it right across the street from TJC’s campus, but “the community is great, the people are welcoming,” Clark said.
“We were sad that that was kind of an iconic spot in the community and we’re hoping that HTeaO will fill the void of something new and fresh there by TJC,” Clark said.
HTeaO is projected to open later in the spring 2021 semester, with the construction wrapping up within the next month, Clark said. Dr. Juan E. Mejia, president and CEO of TJC, commented on this business relocating near campus.
“TJC provides amazing and positive economic impact to the entire greater East Texas region, and it is our sincere desire that business and industry continue to choose us when making a determination of where to launch, establish or relocate,” Mejia said.
According to hteao.com, customers can expect a multitude of sweet and unsweet tea flavors to quench their thirst including regular, mint, turbo citrus (energy tea), blueberry green, almond green, peach ginger, watermelon, coconut, mango fresco, Georgia peach, wild raspberry and Ryan Palmer. Customers have their choice of sizes ranging from 24 ounces to one-gallon jugs. HTeaO also offers a fruit bar where customers can come in and, due to COVID-19, pick up a pre-made two-ounce cup of “fruit or mint leaves or whatever you want to add,” Clark said. The tea flavors can also be mixed and matched. Drive thru is also available where, along with the tea, an individual pre-packaged cup of fruit will be handed out as well, Clark said.
As the City of Tyler and TJC welcome HTeaO to the community, we “wish the very best to every entrepreneur, investor and innovator, as we work together to provide gainful employment opportunities for our communities, and we pledge our commitment and support for the overall win,” Mejia said.