Steve Chang dropped a shipping container near the entrance of the Walmart Supercenter in Mansfield, but it’s not full of merchandise, layaways or online orders.
This crate has been repurposed as the first LiftOff Coffee & Tea in the country. The coffee shop within the Walmart on Walnut Creek Drive officially opened Aug. 2.
Chang, the owner and founder, said he wanted to create a new concept with a streamlined ordering and preparation process to get customers through the line quickly.
“Walmart was very interested in bringing in coffee to provide to their customers and employees,” Chang said. “How do we provide coffee that’s going to be delicious that can be prepared quickly and at a reasonable price?”
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Chang came up with a three-step ordering process that’s like a rocket countdown, 3-2-1, hence the name LiftOff.
First, customers order the temperature and size of their drink — hot, cold or frozen. Then they choose a base, coffee or tea. Finally, they choose an add-on or flavor to spice up the drink. Then, it’s time for LiftOff.
“We provide a moment of lift off of coffee and tea,” he said.
The coffee shop takes a lot of inspiration from bars with its taps and sprayers that quickly clean the cups.
“We didn’t want to make folks stand in line twice. What takes the longest is the coffee preparation,” Chang said.
LiftOff uses coffee extract so there’s no grinding and no loud noises but it provides the same concentration coffee fans love.
Doing construction inside a Walmart can be challenging, too, because the store never closes. That’s where Chang came up with the idea to use a shipping container that could be prefabricated off-site and slide right into the store.
The shipping container at the Mansfield store came from Wisconsin and the finish-out was 90 percent complete when it arrived. The water and electricity were piped in from above so the floor didn’t have to be torn up.
Besides the convenience of construction, LiftOff gives new life to a shipping container.
“They’re an environmental disaster. We consume more as a country than we ship out so we have a lot of unused shipping containers just sitting around,” Chang said.
LiftOff is based in Pasadena, California, but Chang was drawn to Texas for his first locations because of the diversity that’s here. A second location opened in Garland on Aug. 3.
“There’s an opportunity for us to get a good feel of how well it will be accepted across the country by testing it out here,” he said.
Eight more locations are planned, including one at a Walmart in Fort Worth. Chang didn’t have any other locations ready to announce.