UPDATE: SoBro Cafe owner to concentrate on tea business after closing eatery

The SoBro Cafe has closed after an eight-year run south of Broad Ripple, but its owner says he’ll continue to brew the chai tea that became a customer favorite.

The cafe, 653 E. 52nd St., opened just off North College Avenue in November 2011. Its last day of business was Saturday.

Owner Helger Oomkes also owns Bhota Chai, a business that makes a spiced tea and tea concentrates sold at local retail outlets and online. Oomkes said part of the reason he shut down SoBro Cafe was to focus on growing Bhota Chai. For the time being, Oomkes said he plans to continue brewing the chai at the former cafe site.

“I’m excited to push this chai business forward and see where it goes,” Oomkes told IBJ on Tuesday.

Bhota Chai is available at a handful of local outlets, including Prufrock Coffee at 5168 N. College Ave., Hubbard & Cravens’ new Butler University location, and Garden Table and the Homespun store on Mass Ave.

Oomkes brews between 100 and 200 gallons of chai per month, but said he sees a lot of growth potential. Most coffee shops also sell chai, he said, but most of that chai is not locally produced. He sees an opportunity to offer retailers a local option.

“In this area, there’s not many people that are offering (manufacturing of) that product, and it’s one of the top products for coffee shops these days,” he said.

Over time, Oomkes said, he’d like to expand his distribution network to include Chicago and Cincinnati—areas within a day’s drive of Indianapolis.

SoBro Cafe served breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a focus on internationally-inspired dishes, including vegetarian and vegan options, prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The eatery was known for featuring works from local artists on its walls that were available for purchase.

A secondary reason for the cafe closure, Oomkes said, was the negative business impact he saw from Blue Indy and the Red Line.

A Blue Indy electric car charging station was installed right in front of the restaurant in 2015, taking away several prime public parking spaces. More recently, Oomkes said, ongoing Red Line construction took a toll on business.

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