Movers & Shakers: Jon Allen, Onyx Coffee

Movers and Shakers

He’s considered a coffee heavyweight in Northwest Arkansas.
But before his accomplishments in building Onyx Coffee, Jon Allen’s interest was in music. It didn’t take long for that romance to go off key. Instead, his new passion, was love at first sip.

Owner Jon Allen is on the front lines, overseeing his successful business. A far cry from where he was a decade ago. Allen says, “I wasn’t super into coffee… it wasn’t a job for me at the time.”  But he got a wake up call, like a hot cup of coffee, falling into his lap. “Falling into it was like the perfect analogy, says Allen.

Allen’s caffeine crush started as a barista at Arsaga’s in Fayetteville over 10 years ago. And the aroma soon overwhelmed him. Allen says, “I’m sort of an “all or nothing” person, so I decided to get into it and it was sort of full on from there. You just drop everything and go.” Allen also played in a band, while his love for coffee was still brewing.  It was two different experiences, with several similarities. “Being in a band and running a coffee business is very similar. It’s like, 30% luck, 60% hustle and 10% artistry….I think it kind of helped me be self motivated.. you have to be pushing yourself and the brand all of the time and also, feel free to take chances.”

After Allen purchased two Arsaga stores in 2009, the journey began. He learned from top roasters on the sweet science of java. He then traveled abroad, meeting farmers in search of the best coffee. But it was his first major purchase, that nearly ended his business, before it started. “The first big hang-up is was a large amount of coffee that I bought from Panama with a producer that I thought we were close friends with. When we got the coffee in it was just trash and we essentially spent all of our capital on this coffee. It was a real moment.” says Allen. 

That setback has since taught Allen a lesson in trust, all while enhancing his business savy and gaining a little bit of wisdom. He says, “I’m probably still a little immature, but a lot more self-discipline that I needed before this thing worked. And just how to deal with stress. It’s an invaluable tool. 

Allen now has the tools needed to put Northwest Arkansas on the map, as one of the best places to have a cup of joe. “I wanna talk about Arkansas because I have a pride for it. It’s like this David and Goliath mentally and I think it’s good. It pushes us and give us motivation to represent the area well.” says Allen.

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