Hello Kitty Cafe pops up at Fashion Valley — for awhile

Fans of the Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty can find a shrine of sorts to the fictional personality at Fashion Valley Mall, where a new pop-up store sells colorful coffees, cakes and merchandise.

The Hello Kitty Cafe Pop-Up Container, as it’s called, opened to the public on May 11 and will remain at the upscale Mission Valley plaza for an extended period.

The hot pink, Instagram-able retail spot is housed inside a metal shipping container situated in the mall’s Macy’s Court, near the Pink by Victoria’s Secret store. It operates Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cafe’s menu features appropriately themed food and beverage items, including a popular $15 macaroon set donning Hello Kitty’s iconic visage or bow. The venue also stocks singular branded products ranging from a $6.50 key chain to a $30 “chubby bunny bow.”

“I have always loved Hello Kitty,” said Urania Chien, the 36-year-old co-operator of the container and other Hello Kitty Cafes. “I grew up with the product. I started out with stationary, pencils and erasers, but I always wanted more. I was that fan who waited for two to three hours at Hello Kitty (events) … so it’s fun to come full circle.”

Birthed in 1974, Hello Kitty is parent company Sanrio’s flagship character. In her make-believe world, Hello Kitty is a third-grade girl (not a cat) who lives in the suburbs of London with her parents and a twin sister named Mimmy. The now 44-year-old figure’s cuteness appeals to fans around the world.

“Hello Kitty is an icon,” Chien said. “The fan base is so deep. There is so much love for her; it’s something that is timeless.”

The shop-in-a-container is the only one of its kind in the U.S., and is operated by Chien, her husband Charlie and their business partner Allan Tea. The group relocated the pop-up to San Diego from its previous home at the Irvine Spectrum Center, where it resided from July 2016 to January 2018 and served more than 300,000 visitors.

The trio, which licenses the Hello Kitty Cafe operation from Sanrio, also run two traveling Hello Kitty Cafe Trucks, based on opposite coasts, and a mini cafe at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga that’s meant to resemble a small house.

“San Diego loves Hello Kitty,” Chien explained of the group’s decision to move the container farther south. “Every time we bring the trucks out, the crowds are amazing.”

The plan is keep the San Diego cafe in place for at least year and possibly turn it into something more permanent. In Irvine, an expanded Hello Kitty Cafe with a bar will occupy a permanent 1,700 square foot space at Spectrum Center and open later this year.

Business (619) 293-1840 Twitter: @jbruin