Shop Spotlight: Anime Cafe in Rogers, Arkansas
Recently we exchanged emails with Misa Fontana, founder of Anime Cafe, and had her answer a few of our questions. Her cafe is based out of Historic Downtown Rogers, Arkansas and offers a wide selection of tasty and affordable drinks.
Could you describe the reason/inspiration behind starting this business?
The inspiration came from the first time I tried bubble tea at 13. We were on a trip to California to visit family. My mom suggested we stop by a small boba shop because she wanted to introduce it to me. I immediately fell in love with it! Around that time, I also started getting into anime. Both of these things weren't very relevant at the time in Northwest Arkansas—there weren't any bubble tea shops around, and anime wasn't a huge thing like it is now. This is what gave me the idea of opening a cafe. I wanted to combine two things that I enjoyed into a physical place for others to enjoy! 2 years later, Anime Cafe was born!
What were some things that motivated you to enter this industry?
There was one thing that motivated me the most and it was the opportunity to provide a hangout spot for people to enjoy and learn more about Japanese pop culture. In school, I was one of the only people who had even heard of anime, let alone watched it! The idea of Anime Cafe was really exciting to me because it could be used to cultivate a new community in our town.
How long have you been in the food industry/bubble tea business?
We've been in the bubble tea business as long as Anime Cafe has been around: 6 years!
What are some of your unique menu items that you are particularly proud of? What sets your store apart from others in the area? What about the decor? How have you set up your shop and what experience are you trying to create for customers?
One thing we like to say about Anime Cafe is that "we're not just a bubble tea shop, we're an experience". We believe that our philosophy sets us apart as well as our theme of Anime and Japanese pop culture. We are dedicated to welcoming each and every customer that walks into the cafe and we always strive for them to leave happier than they came in. As for menu items, personally I'm most proud of our seasonal drinks. We have a lot of fun creating and making seasonal drinks and it seems to go over well with our customers, too. We often have people asking when our next seasonal drink will come out! For example, one drink we're currently serving are our boba blenders. They're lemonade slushies made with fruit puree--so refreshing, especially during these hot months. There's also taiyaki, a fish shaped waffle with sweet or savory filling. These are available every Tuesday at the cafe and the flavors rotate each week. A lot of customers make sure to come in just to try the new flavors and I think that's really neat! Our cafe is pretty small, but that's what makes it so pleasant. One thing that sets us apart is our huge TV in the center of the cafe. It plays anime all throughout the day and is probably one of the first things you'll notice as you walk in! In addition to this, we have sticky notes, pens, and a dry erase table for customers to doodle on. We have seen some extraordinary artwork in the past 6 years. It prompted us to create a display area to showcase all the amazing art we've received.
What have been some of the major milestones along your journey?
One major milestone was the growth of our brand. During the first years of being in business, most of our advertising was through social media and word of mouth. While we didn't spend much on advertising, it was astonishing to us how quickly Anime Cafe gained traction. Before we knew it, we had people visiting from all over the country just to see us!
How do you actively connect with your local community and foster relationships with your customers?
One unique thing we do with our customers is offer a 15% discount if they come dressed up in cosplay. We take a picture of them to post on our social media page (we love to encourage bragging rights!!). In the past, we've hosted contests and raffles and announced winners on our
Instagram and Facebook as well. This year, we participated in a "Career Day" event at one of the middle schools in our town. We ran a contest where they'd design a bubble tea and have a chance for us to create their idea as an actual drink. It was a lot of fun looking through all the drinks they created. We even considered using a couple for seasonal drinks in the future!
That’s all we have in store for now. Thank you to Misa Fontana for taking time out of her busy day to answer some of our questions. If you are ever in Rogers, Arkansas be sure to stop by for a delicious beverage and don't forget to grab a bag of Pac Pac Snacks Konjac Chews to go!