Tech Park gets new coffee shop denizen
October 11-17, 2021
By Chloe McGehee
Inside the Little Rock Technology Park, with windows overlooking bustling Main Street in downtown Little Rock, is the newest addition to the coffee shop scene. The Paranoid Android is the third shop opened by the owners of 2Twenty1, and is specifically catered to a techy feel.
Previously inhabited by Blue Sail of Conway, when the space inside the downtown tech village became vacant, the Paranoid Android team jumped at the opportunity.
“As soon as we found out that the space was potentially coming available, we knew we wanted it,” said Zach Williams, manager of instore operations. “There was no bit of like ‘is this a good idea?’ It was like we went there and of course we wanted it. But it’s not like everything was easy. It was during lockdown and COVID conditions, so everything was very much not easy, but it wasn’t like anybody had to give or get extra bad news.”
“[The Tech Park] was able to use us as people to reopen the building to the public, which is good for the building, and the public and it’s good for us,” continued Williams. “There’s coffee back inside this building for the people that work here and everybody else.”
Something customers at the Paranoid Android might enjoy is the atmosphere catered to a technology-centered workplace. If you look at the menu, you might see drinks named “Sensory Overload,” and a large collection of Nitro Cold Brews. Since the tech park is a compilation of creative and analytical minds, the team tried to cater to this. The walls are covered in colorful, tech-themed artwork, and even the coffee machines themselves were picked to match the vibes of the tech park itself, Operations Manager Ben Osburn said.
Another aspect to the Paranoid Android is that customers can expect to see the same team members there frequently. The owners and managers all value a healthy workplace culture and hope to facilitate prospering customer relationships.
“[We have] a small team, but they are all reliable,” Osburn said. “We’ve got a couple veterans of the food and service industry and bartending. And then you know we have new people coming on board and we’ve tried to keep our team really well trained and preserve that culture, so it’s definitely a tight knit group, but it allows us to focus on investing in people. Especially in a situation where [they are] able to use their specific gifts; I believe the most valuable resource in workplaces is people, there’s no tool or thing that can outrank the human being who can have personality and do all these [skills].”
While there were challenges to overcome due to opening a shop amid the pandemic, Williams and Osburn were both overwhelmed with the support from the community, their customer base and their team.
“[Since opening] it’s been really great, out the gate, we were getting really good numbers, especially compared to other stores that opened at the same time. We’ve seen a lot of growth because we were open through COVID at our other stores and so we kind of gained a lot of loyalty and we’re also loyal to our customers,” Osburn said. “I think our reputation precedes us a little bit and so we also have plans to continue to market and campaign. We have a really good momentum and we’ve maintained that moment. We’re going to continue momentum, and it’s been going great as far as I’m concerned.”
As the in-store manager, Williams interacts with the customer base frequently, which is a favorite part of his job, he said.
“You just kind of have to hope that people come out and, and also that we’ve done an okay job keeping enough people healthy so that they can, and feel safe about it,” Williams said. “I haven’t had any platform through which to say this, but our customer base, they have all gone so far beyond what I expected. They’ve just all been so great; I have not had one day where I had to have a tense conversation with anybody. I’ve not had to request somebody do easy stuff like wear a mask, they’ve been like the best customer base you could imagine.”
Brent Birch, executive director of the Little Rock Technology Park, could not be happier to see a coffee shop back in the space.
“The new and improved coffee shop, The Paranoid Android, is up and running much to our betterment,” Birch said. “The vibe of the coffee shop in our lobby provides a whole other energy that was sorely missed during the downturn due to the pandemic. We have been very pleased with their offerings and professionalism of their staff. As more and more people return to work downtown, we expect to see more traffic in and out of the Tech Park like the good ole days.”