Executives of International Coffee & Tea, operator of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain, have some big plans brewing for the next five years.

John Dawson became the L.A. company’s chief executive last month, taking over from former Chief Executive Mel Elias, who moved to the board. The chain also brought in Bill Robards as vice president of store development and promoted Cori Connell to vice president of legal services and general counsel last week.

Dawson said he plans to help the privately held company roll out a plan for an ambitious but disciplined expansion over the next five years.

“We’re putting together an aggressive growth strategy to double our business in the next five years,” Dawson said. “Our goal is to have over 2,000 global stores, we’re over 1,000 now.”

An injection of capital from three equity firms will help fund the Coffee Bean expansion. Boston’s Advent International, Hong Kong’s CDIB Capital and Seoul’s Mirae Asset Private Equity acquired an undisclosed but significant stake in the company in a September deal.

Part of that money will help Coffee Bean focus growing in Southern California as well as internationally, Dawson said. It’s a plan Elias helped push when he was chief executive.

“We’re talking about many millions of dollars coming in to fund our store development pipeline,” Elias said in an interview last year. “The focus will be expansion in Southern California first and foremost. In Southern California, the short-term ability to open 200 more locations is clear and obvious.”

Coffee Bean, which has a presence in more than 30 countries, operates 178 company stores and has 132 franchised stores domestically.

In addition to expanding stores, Dawson said he plans to focus on menu innovations. He declined to go into specifics, but did say the company will focus on growing its tea brand. The emphasis will help differentiate Coffee Bean from competitors and capitalize on the company’s experience and infrastructure with tea.

The effort could be seen as a shot across the bow of Starbucks Coffee Co., which last year acquired tea retailer Teavana and opened Teavana-branded tea bars in New York and Seattle.

“Tea is being more broadly received across the markets we operate in internationally and domestically,” Dawson said. “We’re positioned to capitalize on that because we have strong tea credibility. We have been a tea purveyor for the last 50 years. It gives us the credibility others may not have.”

The new chief executive is experienced in pushing growth plans. Dawson most recently served as a global development officer for Dunkin Brands in Canton, Mass.

“This is not a turnaround, this is a growth opportunity,” Dawson said. “We have a great brand that resonates well with consumers. I can bring the systems and processes to grow it in the most efficient way possible.”

Premium Parking

The Shops at Mercury, at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, was sold to an unnamed Dallas investor last week for $15.8 million after about six months on the market.

The shopping center, across the street from the Wiltern Theatre, is 89 percent occupied. The buyer plans to use vacant space as its local office.

The 23,328-square-foot, two-story retail property sits beneath 238 luxury condos.

Retail tenants include Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Jamba Juice and T-Mobile.

Carlos Lopez, president of Hanley Investment Group, which represented the seller, said one feature that attracted the buyer was the option to start charging for the center’s 125 covered parking spots. Parking comes at a premium in the area.

“They could start charging because there’s high demand for parking in the area because of the Wiltern Theatre,” Lopez said.

The Wiltern hosts about six or seven concerts a month. The property is also close to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Red and Purple line subway station at Wilshire and Western.

Revolving Doors

Dallas entertainment and restaurant company Dave & Buster’s will be opening its first restaurants in the city of Los Angeles this year. The company plans to open a 40,000-square-foot location in Westchester’s Howard Hughes Center this month and has a deal to open a 39,000-square-foot location inside the Hollywood and Highland Center around July. … Denver’s Live Basil Pizza and Smashburger opened last month in downtown’s L.A. Live complex. … Santa Monica handcrafted ice-cream shop Sweet Rose Creamery has opened its third location, at 7565 Beverly Blvd. … Philadelphia’s Urban Outfitters Inc.’s Anthropologie brand opened a store last month in Old Pasadena’s One Colorado. … Justice Tavern, which will serve burgers and craft beers, will open in March on the corner of First and South Los Angeles streets near Little Tokyo. … Downtown L.A.’s Fig at 7th has two new tenants: Culver City’s City Tavern was set to open a second location there this week, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant and bar that will have 28 local beers on tap, and New York cosmetic supply retailer Mac, which was scheduled to open a 1,500-square-foot store on the second floor. … James Bygrave, an original partner of Santa Monica gastropub Father’s Office, launched Greyhound Bar and Grill on 5570 N. Figueroa St. in Highland Park last month. … Restaurateur Adam Fleischman and chef Robbie Richter’s barbecue restaurant Roadhouse LA will open this week inside the Hollywood Improv at 8162 Melrose Ave. The restaurant’s menu will also be featured in the comedy club’s showroom. ... Nashville, Tenn.’s DeSano Pizza Bakery, which serves Neapolitan pizzas, is coming to East Hollywood this month. The 7,000-square-foot pizzeria will open at 4959 Santa Monica Blvd.

Staff reporter Justin Yang can be reached at jyang@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 228.

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