Whether you stroll or cycle down Greenway Bike Trail, you're going to notice a curious companionship: a cozy cafe nestled inside Phat Tire bike shop. And it works. Katie Schneider, the dreamer behind Trailside Coffee, has curated a coffee shop that draws on her years of barista-ing across the country.
How did Trailside Coffee Co. evolve?
"I actually grew up in Springdale. Once I graduated high school, I became a barista and worked in several, different coffee shops, even in places like Colorado and California for a while. Eventually, I decided to move back to Springdale because I wanted to be closer to my family and my friends.
When I came back, I got my job back at Jammin' Java in Fayetteville, where I had worked for many years, on and off. Absolutely love Brandon and Gary. I really wanted to pursue my own thing, though and had all these ideas for my own shop.
One day, I was having lunch in downtown Springdale and started hearing about the revitalization and how they were going to basically redo everything and make it into a really cool downtown area. I wanted to be a part of that.
So I got with Phat Tire and we decided I would put a coffee shop inside their bike shop to start out. We've been open almost two years now, and it's been going really well."
How did the relationship with Phat Tire form?
"My dad is really into biking (well, we all are now), so the Phat Tire crew has always been friends of the family. We knew they were putting in a shop right on the Greenway Bike Trail, so I decided to meet with them.
When I shared the idea of putting a coffee shop inside of their shop, they loved it and we decided to make it work. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door and get started up."
What was your vision for the coffee shop?
"I really like the atmosphere of coffee shops in general. To me, it's a lot more than just a cup of coffee. It's friends hanging out, business meetings, people meeting up that haven't seen each other in forever. It's a really cool social environment that I've always really liked.
With the bike shop, it's actually worked out super well because we also get bike riders and walkers and people that come hang out on the patio and have laughter and conversation over some awesome drinks.
As for the menu, I’m always coming up with new ideas and I really like having a variety. I try to have new options every week.
I’ve actually pulled stuff from each coffee shop that I worked at. For example, I really wanted to include Thai tea because I made so much of it at the coffee shop in California; I fell in love with it.
I do homemade ice cream because we grew up with my grandpa always making homemade ice cream. So I wanted to have that. And smoothies are a good option for people that are being healthy on the trail.
I try to keep everything local. For my coffee, I've partnered with Mountain Bird. It's really good stuff and they’re really good people. My chocolate comes from KYYA which is also a local chocolate factory."
So in a way, your menu is almost a personal history of you.
"Ya, I guess so. It’s sharing things that I’ve learned and loved with other people. And most everybody likes it. I’ve worked at several coffee shops over the last 10 years, and I end up taking my favorites from each. Really, I've been taking notes since I was 16."
How would you describe the personality of Trailside?
"I've always wanted everybody to feel welcome. Even though this area is up and coming and there's a lot of new stuff being added, I love the idea of having that down-home vibe where everyone feels welcome and comfortable.
And I want people to leave with a smile on their face. I want to make them something that's going to make their day. Have an actual conversation, be personable. Show that I actually care about these people, really get to know them instead of just, 'Here's your coffee, now get out.' So I would say we’ve got a really homey vibe."
And I hear you also have a special greeter at the shop to help welcome people.
"Charlie! I got him a couple months before I opened my shop. My parents thought I was crazy to get a puppy in the middle of all that, but my goal was to have him be with me and open the shop with me.
A lot of people come just to see Charlie. And of course, he loves it. He's got a lot of friends. I always have people asking me to post more pictures of him on our Instagram."
Are there any other pieces of your story you want to include?
"I do really want to give a shout out and a thank you to my parents because they've been my rock and I couldn't have done it without them. Even now, my mom works in the shop for me just because she's an awesome mom.
It's definitely become a family thing. I've had my sister run errands and my niece has helped out on busy days. It's nice to have that, for sure. I have hopes that it will stay in the family for a long time."
What has it meant to you, as a business owner, to be a part of the revitalization that is happening in Springdale and NWA overall?
"It's really exciting because like I said I grew up here and when I was younger, there wasn't really much going on at all. So it's really cool to see people that I've known my whole life get involved in the community.
And they're saving the historic part of Springdale, too; which I love. So it still has that familiar, down-home feeling but it's also got a lot of new businesses coming in. It's awesome to be a part of it that. I never thought that I would be opening a business in my hometown, but I'm so glad that I did."
Local coffee, homemade treats, and a furry, four-legged welcoming committee. What are you waiting for? Grab your bike or your walking shoes and come on down to Trailside. And don't forget to download Towny for your guide to all things local.