Choices for the coffee-loving crowd are proliferating in downtown Little Rock what with the opening or scheduled opening of at least four new coffee shops within the last few months.
• A full-service Starbucks, which opened in September in the Little Rock Marriott at 3 Statehouse Plaza.
• Blue Sail Coffee, at 417 Main St. in the Little Rock Technology Park. Blue Sail, owned by Kyle Tabor, originated in Conway, where it has two locations, one of which is also a coffee roastery while the other is also a bakery. “Downtown Little Rock has needed coffee for a long time,” said Tabor, an Arkansas Business 20 in Their 20s honoree in 2015. “We heard that from so many people.” Blue Sail opened in March and Tabor said business has been good.
• Zetêo Coffee, which was scheduled to open to the public Saturday, at 610 President Clinton Ave., the Rock Dental Brands building that used to house the Clinton Museum Store. Zeteo, owned by Jon and Trina Mitchell, is another example of a Conway coffee shop branching out to Little Rock. Zetêo will offer coffee from Onyx Coffee Lab of Springdale. Unlike the Conway shop, the Little Rock location will also serve beer and wine.
• Nexus Coffee & Creative at 301B President Clinton Ave., next to the former location of Ten Thousand Villages. The owner is Amy Moorehead, who earned a degree in hospitality management from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and who previously was the director of membership and special events at the Arkansas Hospitality Association. Her timeline to open is sometime this summer, and Nexus will partner with Leiva’s Coffee, the family-owned coffee company based in Sherwood, to roast its coffee.
We visited a little with Moorehead, who described Nexus’ “crop to cup campaign,” which focuses on providing a better quality of life coffee farmers. “The community, when they purchase our bags of coffee or our cups of coffee, they’re supporting that as well and they’re giving back to the farmer,” she said.
Nexus will also offer specialty tea and “a simplified menu with top-quality food items,” serving breakfast, lunch and “shareable appetizer options for our happy hour.” It will serve Arkansas cheese and bread, local craft beer — including Diamond Bear and Lost Forty — along with local wine from Raimondo Winery and Post Familie Vineyards & Winery, as well as others.
It’s a family-operated enterprise, Moorehead said, and the venture is funded through a combination of her money and a loan from Arvest Bank.
“We’re very serious and we’re very committed,” she said. “We want to see this expand in the community and beyond Little Rock but stay within the state of Arkansas.”
Despite the surge in coffee-oriented restaurants downtown, Moorehead thinks there’s room for everybody.
“There’s room to share. Our goal is to work with other coffee shops in the area to promote this coffee and tea industry that has yet to be very established in Little Rock and beyond,” she said.
She sees the coffee and tea scene as a way to bring people together to share ideas and stories. “A lot of what we’re doing is promoting that creativity and that networking that already is here in Little Rock but it’s taking it to a new level with coffee and tea.”
Speaking of Onyx
Three Onyx Coffee Lab representatives won recognition in the 2017 U.S. Coffee Championships in Seattle late last month. Dylan Siemens won first place in the brewers cup competition; Mark Michaelson, first place in the roaster division; and Andrea Allen, second place in the barista competition. This is an impressive showing. Winners will go on to compete in the World Coffee Championships later this year.