We had the good fortune of connecting with Christopher Kwok and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christopher, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I came up with concept of Hey Hey through being an avid cafe, teahouse, and coffee shop goer. I loved the unique experience that each style offered, from specialty coffee shops to asian teahouses famous for boba and dessert drinks. I grew up going to teahouses and later socialized at coffee shops as an adult. I remember often choosing between one or the other and was frustrated that key elements of these cafes were not incorporated into one. During this time, the majority of coffee shops and teahouses took the form of remote offices and public libraries. I felt the industry needed to be disrupted by a teahouse that functioned differently – a play space for adults the served delicious gourmet beverages with a mixology flair. I saw a community and relationship deficit in this digitally connected yet isolated era and wanted to create a place for people to just play and connect. Hey Hey was then conceived as teahouse that offered gourmet beverages, made with a cocktail flair, and a living room full of installations that served as icebreakers for guests to connect as well as free events and popups to add some joy on a routine day.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Over our two years of existence, Hey Hey has become a neighborhood living room where people can just come relax or experience something unexpectedly joyful. One of Hey Hey’s key differentiators is our bar and crafters where we make our aesthetic luxe beverages and over the counter guest interaction. Our seating area is also positioned and designed to encourage socializing over studying and working. Our weeks are filled with various popups and free shows for anyone to walk by and experience. Well, at least pre-pandemic times. Now we’re trying to at least serve our gourmet beverages to your doorstep in the packaging it deserves, while offering some DIY kits for your new found in-home activities. Having gone to boarding school and living in a dorm in College, I always treasured the novel and casual magic that happened in common rooms. There was always a playfulness that occurred there, whether it was intellectually stimulating conversation/debates or just listening to someone jam out on a guitar. As I got older and worked as a management consultant working with Fortune 500 companies, I realized those moments were few and far between, almost non-existent. This desire for open community became the catalyst for coming up with the Hey Hey concept. Initially I went to school for Architecture and my desire for spaces and how people interact within them has always been very important to me. I saw that many drink shops were designed with similar elements which helped me shift the paradigm and do more installations that would serve as ice breakers for people to meet more naturally. I also greatly benefited from the corporate training I received from designing efficient processes, to working with vendors in a professional manner, and most importantly the ability to adapt and pivot to more advantageous situations. Ultimately, I would love for people to feel seen at Hey Hey and for other spaces with our community focus to be created so there is an equal alternative to the library style cafes that dominate the market. It won’t hurt that popular niche market drinks are being showcased and made popular in the American palate.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would plan out their trip in segments, focused on exploring each of LA’s cities at a time, minimizing commute time. Being from Los Angeles, I would maximize the time to be a tourist myself, knowing that most angelenos don’t do a lot of the touristy things. I would balance the week out with popular “LA” activities/eats as well as “locals only” gems. Here are the places I would take them to eat in LA. Tacos: Ave 26 taco stand, el chato taco truck, sonoratown. Popular spots: Konbi for japanese sandwiches, Howlin’ Rays for chicken sandwiches, Night Market Song for some thai food, and Grand Central Market. The San Gabriel Valley for legendary chinese food. Korea Town for legendary korean food. Of course Hey Hey for the delicious beverages as well as any event that is happening. Brunch at Nick’s Diner or Poppy & Rose. Here are the places I would take them to eat in the OC: Brodard’s, and a short list of places highlighted by one of my favorite food bloggers @foodwithsoy. Here are the places I would take them to walk around. Melrose Ave., 3rd Street Promenade & Santa Monica Pier, The Grove, Echo Park Lake for swan boats, Griffith Observatory at night, Hollywood Blvd., Malibu and Getty Villa. There’s obviously so many additional things but here would be a starting list.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents, Daisy and John Kwok, deserve all the credit and recognition. They gave me all the resources and tools from education to dinner and side conversations that gave me any of the success I’ve attained. Additionally, my cousin Teddy has been my sounding board and advisor from the early days of Hey Hey into its current days of operation. Further, my team who keep the place running and Thomas, Ani, and Jackie for their brand development and strategy. Finally, I want to shoutout to all the friends who have rallied behind me with encouragement and references to good reads and podcasts. Thank you!
Jacklyn Dewenter, Kevin Vu Kim, Justin Joe, Cassey Tollett