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Monday, October 3, 2022

New Paris Coffee Shop Brings World Class Products and Great Atmosphere at an Affordable Price

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It is not hard to get depressed when you turn the television on every morning. Part of my morning ritual is to watch the cable business news in the morning while I have breakfast before I start each day. If you get too involved with the programming, it doesn’t take long to be depressed about our nation’s economy and the struggles of business; in particular, small business.

But then you have the opportunity to meet some great local people who had a vision and who jumped right in to the local market in Paris and decided to make a go of things. And from what I have seen so far, Paris’s new “True Grit Grinds Coffee & Tea” and their owners are off to a great start and will make a splash in the Paris and surrounding communities.

The ownership team at True Grit is as diversified as their menu. From an Masters in Business Administration degree to a master barista who is very passionate about their coffee, the owners at True Grit Grinds Coffee and Tea have turned their corner of the Paris Square into a showplace that all citizens of Paris can be proud of. In fact, the owners of the store, as part of their remodeling to turn the office space into what was once the local Verizon store, have exposed and refinished the original 100-years old wooden flooring that has been part of the building. In fact, if you have not been in their building recently, you almost will not recognize what it looks like now. The new business in Paris is located at 12 East Walnut Street in Paris, adjacent to the Logan County Courthouse.

The menu offers a variety of coffees, teas, sodas, and other drinks for all of their customers. In fact, they will custom make just about anything that you want. They also have a sandwich menu that is great for lunch. Their courthouse square location makes them convenient for employees in the businesses surrounding the square and throughout the city of Paris.

According to the owners, over 40,000 cars per day pass the store along state highway 22. Just part of the marketing research, along with visiting other coffee shops in similar sized cities and towns, and examining their menus and prices that was conducted prior to their opening.

True Grit Grounds Coffee and Tea on the Logan County Courthouse Square in Paris (RNN Photo / Jim Best)

The ownership team at True Grit Grounds Coffee and Tea includes Dawn Bambrick, Ashley Denney, Rick Bambrick, and Jonathan Denney. The four comprise a great ownership team that own True Grit Grounds as a “family proprietorship” between the four owners. It is an equal partnership with all partners having an equal say in the business.

The idea to put a coffee shop in Paris was one that resulted from significant thought and research by the owners. In a recent interview, they told RNN, “We love bouncing ideas back and forth all of the time, dreaming about “What if we did this?”, or, “What if we did that?”, and, since we moved here we all thought we we (Paris) just needed a little coffee shop. We need a place to hang out, and it seems like within a week, we went from just talking about how fun it would be, and all of the sudden, like within a week, we had a lease a building and God said, “Go!””.

In the conceptual process of business start, the four reached out to the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce and solicited the input and advice of Chamber executive director, Tonya Fletcher. “We approached Tonya and said that we just need to set down and bounce some ideas off of you. What do you think? And, one of the things we told her was that we were interested in possibly doing a coffee shop for the community, and we asked her what she thought. She said, “That’s a great idea!”, and I (Rick Bambrick) had just happened to have written a comprehensive business plan and she looked at it. She seemed overwhelmed by the ideas we had about the shop. We wanted to create a place; like it wasn’t as fast as they (Ashley Denney) had said, but, it was. But, we checked with a lot of people and asked if anyone else was going to do a coffee shop. Because, we don’t have to do it. But someone needed to and to provide this kind of an element to the community. Everyone we talked to said that they were not interested in putting one in. There were a couple of people who were thinking about it, and we checked with Tonya and she said others had lost interest and were not going to do it. So, it was a sign to us that we needed to move forward. We looked all over Paris for a building with a drive-through, street frontage, etc. We really wanted to be on the Square because it is the center of town. One of our core values is to be able to provide for the city, and if we were off on an isolated tract somewhere, we couldn’t really provide the service that we wanted.”

No doubt, the ownership group has done their homework and have conducted their research to see if the business would have a chance to be successful. They are a great example for others to follow who are considering starting a business in the area. This is exciting to me; our community needs successful business ventures to continue to improve the economic health of Paris, and this ownership team will make a big contribution to our local economy.

As I had the pleasure of listening to the owners of True Grit Grounds, I could not help but to notice and be impressed by the faith-based approach to their business. In fact, in my mind, their shop is a small version of the corporate blueprint of Chic-fil-A who openly manages and operates their stores in a Christian-based philosophy and core set of values. Make no mistake, this is a for-profit business, but, the owners of True Grit Grounds impressed me as an ownership group who founded the business in their Christian faith and will operate the business as a service to the citizens of the Paris and surrounding communities.

The group has renovated the “old Verizon building” on Walnut Street into a beautiful showplace for Paris. Gone are the previous layers of flooring in the building, and the 100 year old floors are now exposed and refinished, creating a beautiful impression to customers when they enter the building. The plywood and blue Verizon carpet have all been removed. The drop ceiling has also been removed, and the original ceiling is now exposed in the shop.

The group rented the building in early June of this year, and opened for business on July 26. Considering all of the renovations and the move-in to start the business, that is a very fast start for a new business. It was all rooted in an invested into planning and research before they started the business, and now, they are off and running, and Paris has a new, very unique business that it can be very proud of. “The town has been so good to us; everyone has been super-amazing to us!”

But as the city of Paris appears to be on a bit of a upswing when it comes to the attraction of new business, the True Grit Grounds ownership group pointed out some facts to us that I did not realize at the time.

Traffic along state highway 22 that moves through Paris accounts for approximately 41,000 vehicles moving past their store per day. “Our business plan research told us that there are four different markets in Paris that we could appeal to. First, there are the local people who live here. Within that, it is divided into the older and younger population groups. One of the other major markets is the passage of over 41,000 people up and down this road (Hwy 22) on a daily basis. It’s amazing. So, it’s like, those passers-by may need something between, say, Fort Smith and Dardanelle. So, that is the second demographic. The next group is those going up to Mount Magazine. There is a huge number of people (250,000) per year going in that direction; it may people just going to Cove Lake to fish, or, people going all the way up to the Lodge to hang out there, or whatever. They need a place to stop, and we are right along the trail. Hikers, cyclists, etc., would all be our targets.”

It appears to me that the local Paris economy has been on a bit of an upswing for the last five years or so. Like any other town, the local economies of those towns go through both good and bad times, and after a slowing in the economy ten or more years ago, it seems, in part with the hard work of the Chamber of Commerce, that the local economy in Paris is growing steadily, and that is evident by new established businesses in the area. The Chamber has been busy with ribbon-cutting ceremonies for several weeks, celebrating the openings of new businesses in Paris. And True Grit Grounds has the potential, in my opinion, to be a crown jewel in the local economy.

The new coffee shop offers a varieties of not only coffee, but teas. They have a sandwich menu that makes the shop a great choice for lunch, as well. And if you are thinking that, like me, you do not want to pay $8 for a cup of coffee, you do not have to worry. True Grit Grounds is very reasonably priced, and does not price their products as high as some other local or corporate coffee shop chains.

“We did a lot of market research, including going to eight different local coffee shops in similar markets. We weren’t thinking about Starbucks, so we went to small towns. We got menus from small town shops and created a spreadsheet to see what they provided and at what prices. Starbucks can charge an arm and a leg because of their market size. We do not.”

So, in my opinion they have killed the criticism that no one wants to pay an exorbitant price for a cup of coffee. “Our lunch special is a sandwich, soup, and chips for $7.50”. Wow.

Jonathan is the barista of the business, and his focus is bringing the best coffee and ingredients to the True Grit Grounds menu for their customers. “We have worked with three or four roasters in the area to get the best product for the best price for our customers. We went with Onyx (Onyx Coffee Lab; onyxcoffeelab.com) and they have been fantastic for us. Onyx is a world-famous coffee roaster and barista champion. We are getting world-class coffee at a really good price. They are here in Arkansas which is part of our business core values to do business locally. They (Onyx) are in the Bentonville and Fayetteville areas with the main headquarters in Fayetteville. They coached us through the business side and in the operations side of what it looks like running an espresso bar on a daily basis.”

So Paris residents, Magazine tourists, and any other coffee drinkers out there, you will not want to miss the opportunity to stop by this great coffee shop and sample their diverse menu. And if you are not a coffee drinker, they have a wide variety of excellent teas, as well as soft drinks and other offerings for your taste!

If True Grit Grounds is as accommodating to their customers as they were to me in my request for their interview, they will be a huge hit in Paris. It is so good to see them and the many other business entrepreneurs in town making a go of their businesses in Paris, and we wish them all of the best in their new business ventures!

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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