It began with a woman from Texas, a man from Southwest Arkansas and a severe lack of drive-thru coffee options in the midwest.
Within time, John Keith and his wife Jo began T.H.I.N.K. Coffee, now a drive-thru staple of the Conway community.
Their initial location on Harkrider St. started the pursuit of it all. Now, T.H.I.N.K. Coffee focuses their efforts into a new spot within UCA’s College of Business.
Opening a location at UCA was not something Keith had on his horizon, but by no means was it a disappointment to be offered the opportunity.
“We were approached by Jim [Nabors] and his team, Aramark, to come over and potentially take over the space here in the COB.” Keith said. “I think we literally made the decision to move forward on that probably in a matter of days. I mean, it’s kind of stunning how fast it all happened, actually.”
One of the main features of T.H.I.N.K. Coffee is its focus on drive-thru service in an attempt to eliminate the normal wait people go through for coffee. While this new setting in the College of Business is a bit of a departure from that, Keith maintains that the process of setting up the location has been relatively simple.
“The great thing about the space is it’s been almost kind of turnkey,” Keith said. “We’ll have to put a few things for our specific purposes inside there, but this space was pretty much ready to go.”
T.H.I.N.K. announced its UCA debut on their Instagram page on Aug. 9, alerting students that the location would also be hiring part-time and full-time employees. “We announced that we were coming on our social and man, the post just absolutely exploded. We broke the internet for 30 minutes or so when we dropped that,” Keith said. “We’ve had some fans that I think were proponents for us here.”
Keith says that as of this month, T.H.I.N.K. will be in their third year of operation. “[It] feels crazy that it’s only been three years. This is just one in a long line of crazy opportunities that have been thrown our way, of people who were just fans and have taken chances with us and given us very special and unique kinds of opportunities,” Keith said. “I attribute it to the Providence of God because otherwise, I mean, there’s just no reason for us to be doing what we’re doing.”
Keith and his wife lived in Benton for some time after they were married, then lived out west for about five years. When they came back to Arkansas, the two noticed how much more widespread drive-thru coffee was in the Pacific Northwest.
“We’d come back here and it’s just nonexistent. I mean there's hardly any drive-thru,” Keith said. “The spot over on Harkrider that we have became available and my wife came home one day and was like, ‘that whole thing on Harkrider, it’s for sale. We gotta go in there, we gotta get it, we gotta do it, we gotta do it.’ I was just like, I don’t know, maybe. Then she just pushed me, pushed me, pushed me. We took over that little spot and the rest is kind of history.”
Keith said that the two always wanted to be entrepreneurs and to have their own business. After working in corporate settings, managing companies and working in sales, Keith decided he wanted something different for him and his wife.
“[We] also wanted something that was bigger than us from an ethos and a give back standard. We do give back quite a bit,” Keith said. “I mean, that was really the drive behind the company is yeah, coffee’s great, and we’re certainly passionate about our product, but we’re more passionate about the impact that we can have inside the community and inside organizations that we give back to.”
While T.H.I.N.K. Coffee does not have a promised opening date for the College of Business yet, Keith is eager to get the operation going. “It’s a cool thing,” Keith said. “It’s a really neat opportunity and I can’t wait to start serving.”