Mike Tuiasoa and Watchtower Café: The powers of caffeine and comics unite

Heilala Potesio

SALT LAKE CITY—The smell of fresh brewed teas, coffee, and the cafe is adorned with nostalgic memorabilia of comic book superheroes like Batman and Spiderman brings the inner child of any customer that walks through its doors. Watchtower Café is not a typical cafe but it’s inspiration from the childhood and personality of the owner Mike Tuiasoa, aka Tui the human.

Watchtower Café was established in October of 2015. It is a brand new cafe that replaced Coffee Connection on 1500 South and State Street. The coffee shop has attracted customers of diverse backgrounds mainly individuals who have a love for comics.

One customer on Facebook shared, “The atmosphere is wonderful and they have a wide selection of games to play. They have ample seating, so it never feels crowded and stuffy. And everyone is so nice here.”

Customers can enjoy weekly events such as board game nights, open mic displaying local talents within comedy and poetry, drink specials on Wednesdays, latte art night as latte masters dress up your cup of latte, live music, art galleries and geek hangouts to meet new geeky friends.

Initially Mike Tuiasoa was not interested in the food services industry. He wanted to do something different that was based on his childhood pleasure of comic books, action figures and Saturday morning cartoons.

Tuiasoa always knew that he was different from his own family but his conversation with his cousin who had similar interests inspired both of them to start a business involving their childhood interests.

“We both hated our jobs, we wanted something fun to do but it would be really cool to run a comic book shop,” said Tuiasoa.

He also realized the challenges of owning a comic book shop and then decided that they should run a cafe in which people can grab their favorite comic book and also enjoy a cup of coffee.

Since the age of 13, Tuiasoa has always kept his interests in comic books hidden from his peers and later on, even his wife. He always thought he was too old to enjoy them or too geeky that he would lose friendships and relationships. But he realized that reading comics has always been a hobby that brought him happiness.

Even in the darkest moments in his life he would find his happy place. Tuiasoa shared, “I grabbed onto the one time that I was happy in my life and that was reading comics, playing with action figures, watching superheroes and cartoons to bring me out of the darkness.”

Many have wondered how a Polynesian man would own a coffee shop based on comics. Reading comic books or owning a comic book shop is not common among the Polynesian community. Tuiasoa shared, “I grew up in Hawaii, I couldn’t find anyone else that was into comics or playing action figures.”

How has Tuiasoa been able to navigate his personal ethnic identity and also balance with his own personality? “I refer myself as a day walker like Blade in which I can be in both the geeky world and also be with my Tongan culture,” he said.

Tuiasoa’s love for comics and portraying his geeky personality has influenced the cafe. The place has transformed into his personality as if customers can understand his story. The cafe has been running successfully and has a strong social media presence that has raving fans. One fan shared on Facebook that, “It has quickly become my favorite place for coffee, and to meet up with friends over geeky interests, like card trading. The baristas make a fabulous cup of liquid heaven!”