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Just when you thought that there wasn’t a cooler place to chill than at a coffee shop, a Northwest Arkansas coffee shop just broke the mold.
In the fall of 2020, Airship Coffee of Bentonville opened a one-of-a-kind café concept within the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve. It’s a one-part coffee shop, one-part restaurant, one-part beer garden, and all-parts fascinating. You see, Airship at Coler is an open-air coffee shop.
Literally, there is no front door. Picture a concrete box with an open front. There is a wide-open porch with swings that grace the front, along with a smattering of chairs to chill and look at the trails and views.
You enter via the two side entrances with open concrete arches. As you walk in, you drink in the indoor/outdoor vibe, perhaps catch a refreshing breeze, and hopefully spy an empty and available swing as you order from the baristas. Ahhh, there it is. You start to feel your stresses ease and your joy increase.
Technically, all seating is outdoors because of the open-air concept. “Inside” seating consists of swings, a table or two, and several chairs. Take your pick and start to relax.
Or perhaps you want a higher view of the trails. Native stone steps will lead you up to the beautiful rooftop with seating and umbrellas.
From there you have a stunning birds-eye view of the trails, walking path, creek, trees, two restored barns (one has a jungle gym feel for the kiddos), an open field, hillsides, and families and people of all ages enjoying the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve.
Maybe today you’ll mix it up and sit in the outdoor beer garden as you watch your kids on the swing while sipping a local brew. The mountain bike trails wrap around you and for a moment, you’ll affix your attention on them, lost in the beauty of the outdoors and people living their best lives.
And so are you, happily living yours.
Airship Coffee Roasters started in 2008 and quickly became the go-to coffee provider for several coffee shops and restaurants throughout the region. They opened their first retail location at the front of their roastery on 5th Street in Bentonville in 2018.
Founder, owner and horticulturist by trade, Mark Bray’s intent for opening Airship Coffee was to create comfort within the community, locally, and otherwise. He empowers his employees and gives them opportunities to learn. As a startup culture, they know they don’t have all the answers, yet they try to learn how, together.
For instance, the Coler coffee shop location is a concept Airship started working on in the spring of 2019. People thought they were crazy to open a café in 2020, saying that retail was dead. Thankfully, it wasn’t and thankfully they didn’t listen as they continued to learn.
Airship has seen minimal pushback to a coffee shop with no front door and no public wifi. I can see why, because it is easy to find yourself thinking as you swing and sip, “I get this, it makes sense.”
The Coler Mountain Bike Preserve location for Airship has a somewhat different customer base than 5th Street. Instead of predominantly locals meeting up for coffee chats at the original location, Airship at Color has more mountain bike riders as well as families on the weekend. A lot of tourists come to see and experience Coler and will linger at the unique coffee spot in the woods.
Claire Bullard, who manages Airship sales, wholesale accounts and runs social media, didn’t anticipate just how well the open-air concept would be received.
“We needed an outlet for people to disengage. We weren’t prepared for the warm welcome in the woods. We became the destination for people to go to the park. That’s humbling and we can’t wait to make the most of it. That we get to work with the coolest preserve and help tell their message… that’s really special. I’m biased but I think we are the perfect people because “drink coffee, go outside” has been our motto for years and years and years. And now, in this most literal form out there.”
Let’s eat and drink, shall we?
Airship is obsessed with roasting their coffee beans to perfection. Yet it doesn’t end there. Their quest for food perfection is no different so they expanded their culinary offerings at this Coler. They started smoking all of their meats at their flagship location to make available trail nachos, BBQ nachos, and brisket nachos to name a few.
(Side note – their smoked meats are also available for preorder and pick up at their 5th street location.)
One of the most popular coffee drinks is the Lumberjack latte, made with vanilla, caramel, honey, and a touch of salt and it pairs wonderfully with a delicious side order of a chocolate cranberry scone (or scone of the day).
Food offerings are thoughtfully crafted, as evidenced by breakfast choices for meat lovers as well as meatless lovers. I absolutely love the vegan taco, a tofu scramble with sweet potato, black bean quinoa, cilantro, and lime. I’m pretty sure turmeric is also a key ingredient. It was so insanely delicious that the memory of it has me already planning my next trip back for more!
If you arrive in the afternoon, you absolutely must try the smoked chicken taco, brisket taco, vegan sweet potato taco or the BBQ smoked chicken nachos. Better yet, go with three of your closest friends and share.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any cooler, soak in this fun fact that we haven’t talked about: You have to walk or roll a mile to get there. That’s right, a fully paved path from both park entrances allows for strolling, biking and wheelchair access.
As we navigate 2021, Airship is just now starting to look at what events could look like. Perhaps we’ll get to experience outdoor yoga in the field, camping amenities, and outdoor concerts. Whether or not these happen, it is still magical to find a coffee shop in the woods. Because – let’s face it – walking or riding a mile to get there? You have to want it.
Next time your travels take you to Bentonville, plan to set aside time to get outside, stroll, and enjoy drinks, treats, and meats… and most importantly, the beautiful outdoors. Plan to visit Airship Coffee at Coler.
Airship at Coler
1300 Applegate Trail
Bentonville, AR 72712
WINTER HOURS: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Daily
SPRING/SUMMER HOURS (beginning March 15th) – 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Daily
Park at either Coler Mountain Bike Preserve South Gateway (NW 3rd Street, Bentonville) or Coler North Trailhead Parking Lot (Peach Orchard Rd, Bentonville). Both parking lots are just under a mile walk to the café in the center of the park. This location is wheelchair accessible.
Restrooms available and Wi-Fi is not.
Airship at 5th Street
1000 SE 5th Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
HOURS: 7 a.m. –7 p.m. Daily
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