Mitchell Family Makes Coffee Shop Dreams a Reality While Giving Back
When you buy a cup of coffee at Zetêo, you’re also buying water for a stranger.
Shop owners Jon and Trina Mitchell call the relationship between the Conway-based café and nonprofit Living Water International a “perfect marriage.” They donate 5 percent of Zetêo’s profits to Living Water — an organization that drills wells, repairs water pumps and teaches hygiene in impoverished countries. This includes one place especially close to the Mitchells’ hearts: Rwanda, a country they have traveled to many times for mission work with their church.
“We knew we wanted to do something in coffee, but we also wanted it to be impactful,” Trina said. “We went to Rwanda and God immediately started giving us a heart for that country. We could see how much time and energy was spent getting clean water; how kids aren’t even able to go to school because they have to spend their days carrying water for their family.”
According to Jon, giving back to a charity was not part of the original coffee shop plan. But a lot can change when you spend nearly 10 years dreaming, planning and creating a business.
In fact, before Zetêo came to be, the Mitchells wouldn’t have even called themselves “coffee people.” For the majority of his life, Jon has worked in the corporate world, with stints in IT and sales. But although those jobs paid the bills, they weren’t fulfilling.
“I started to wonder what it was going to come to at the end of my career, and I got bored and restless and started wanting to do something different that was a little more inspiring and exciting,” he said.
But Jon had no idea what that inspiring and exciting career would be.
“That’s actually more frustrating — to know that you’re discontent and not satisfied but to not know what the heck else you want to do. That’s really kind of a trapping feeling,” Jon said. “So I just prayed about it for awhile and over time, God just started to direct and put a coffee shop on my heart, which was really random at the time. It had to be God because it wasn’t me.”
Ten years ago, when the idea first came to him, the only coffee shop in Conway was a Starbucks. It wasn’t until November 2015 that Zetêo opened its doors. And now, about a year and a half later, the Mitchells are already powering ahead for round two in downtown Little Rock’s River Market.
Although nearly 10 years of planning and dreaming may seem like a long while, Trina said it was a valuable time in their lives to have the chance to slow down. During that period, Jon attended the American Barista & Coffee School in Portland, Oregon.
“I do think that season was really important in the development of the dream because it gave him free space to come home at night and think about it,” Trina said. “When you own your own business you don’t have as much time to just think about all the things because you’re busy doing all the things.”
During those years of planning and growing ideas, the Mitchell family itself was also growing. Jon and Trina have two sons, 11-year-old Grant and 5-year-old Callan, and the baby of the family, their 2-year-old daughter, Wynn.
“Their role is to ask for things constantly when they come in,” said Jon, laughing. “Grant has gotten to where he can just make his own smoothies. So he feels like since he can do it himself he should just be able to do it. And having to explain cost of goods to an 11 year old kind of just kills the magic.”
While they strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance, it’s inevitable that the kids will frequently spend time at Zetêo. Trina said she loves when the kids ask to come in, and she tries to make their time at the shop an experience that will impact them in a bigger way than free cinnamon rolls and cookies.
“I think about the fact that my kids know that if you dream about something big enough and believe in it and you’re not afraid to step out and do it, God will be there in that process,” Trina said.
And as parents, the Mitchells work hard to make Zetêo a welcoming space for all kids — not just their own.
At the Conway shop, they enjoy the luxury of being next door to Share the Love Kidsclub, a playspace for kids where moms can enjoy time to socialize, get work done or just relax.
It is owned and operated by the Conner family and Zetêo serves food and coffee through a service window that opens to the space. Trina said that there is not another spot in the city that offers what the Kidsclub and Zetêo do.
“I know as a mom, I want to be able to go get good coffee, have a coffee date with my friend, and bring my kid if I need to because I can’t hire a babysitter every time I go get coffee,” Trina said. “We are always family friendly. I’m a mom. I get it. That was one of the reasons I love this place — because this is something I would’ve dreamt of but there wasn’t anything like it.”
“Trina’s had those experiences of taking a little one into a coffee place and people just scouring at you; I mean we have high chairs for crying out loud,” Jon added.
In the River Market, the Kidsclub won’t be there, but Zetêo will be next door to the Museum of Discovery, a popular destination for kids and families year round. The Mitchells hope this will bring families in for a snack and a drink on their way in and out of the museum.
As they dive into this second location, Jon and Trina are in agreement that it was extremely unexpected to open a new shop this soon after their first. It came about through an agreement with Rock Dental Brands, an office building with an open first floor.
Initially, Jon said he was hesitant, not having been open in Conway for even a year when the conversations about Little Rock began. But now the duo is excited.
“It was not really on the radar, but just through partnership with them the doors just opened,” Trina said. “We felt a little crazy saying yes, but it was crazier to say no. It just seems like it’s going to be a really good complementary pairing for us.”
The way it seemingly fell into their laps is oddly symbolic of the shop’s name. Zetêo is Greek for “to seek without labor or toil.”
Trina summed it up: “Once we stopped focusing on the how and focused on the what — we want to do coffee and be a part of that culture — when we stopped worrying about the how we didn’t have to labor for it, it just came.”
- Zetêo uses coffee beans exclusively from the northwest Arkansas-based Onyx Coffee Lab. “They’re so uptight about quality and I’m so thankful to be attached to them,” says Trina.
- The Mitchells love to travel. Jon and Trina have traveled to Rwanda for mission trips several times and have also been to Russia.
- As a family, they enjoy getting outside and enjoying nature. “I want to teach my children that everything doesn’t have to cost for it to be fun,” says Trina.
- Before Jon had the idea to open a coffee shop, he thought about opening a music venue. But when he realized it would need another revenue stream, most likely a restaurant, he changed his mind.
- One of Trina’s favorite drinks is a honey latte while Jon enjoys a bulletproof coffee. But they say that Zetêo is perfect no matter where you fall on the coffee spectrum — from black coffee to a white chocolate mocha, they’ve got it all and they’ll serve you where you are.
- The Little Rock store opened April 29 at 610 President Clinton Ave. in the first floor of the Rock Dental Brands building. Follow Zêteo Coffee on Facebook for updates, hours and more. You can also visit the Conway location at 911 W. Oak St.