September is always a special time for coffee lovers in Mountain Home.
The weather is a mix of warm afternoons and cool mornings and evenings, giving caffeine lovers one last chance at enjoying summer beverages like ice coffees and frappuccinos before diving into a piping hot pumpkin spice latte in the cooler weather of the autumn months.
And coffee has become a big thing in Mountain Home.
From Cove Coffee and Brewed Awakening to newcomers 7 Brew and The Rabbit Hole Coffeehouse and Brew, there’s a perfect spot for everyone in and around downtown Mountain Home. But what about the northern edge of Mountain Home along Highway 201?
The area is filled with medical offices and other industries like Baxter Labs. It’s also home to several large neighborhoods. But when it comes to amenities, it’s somewhat bare. Sure, there are one or two sit-down restaurants, but there’s nothing fast or easy for workers and residents going about their day.
Enter Denbro Coffee & Custard, Highway 201’s rapidly growing success story when it comes to all things caffeinated.
“We’ve honestly run out of room in this building, but it’s the building we have and it’s in a location we love,” said Jackie Denwalt, co-owner of Denbro Coffee & Custard. “When we built this, one of the first things we talked about was do we put a prefab building in here on a lot or do we try to build something. Ultimately, building was a little more expensive, but we felt it made a stronger statement to our community. That we’re all in.”
With their first-year anniversary under their belts, brothers Jackie and Joey Denwalt are pushing their small coffee business to the next level by introducing new features and services to their drive-through model, while also ensuring that their employees are taken care of during a period of rising inflation.
Hailing from Viola, both Jackie and Joey hail from a family of entrepreneurs. Throughout their lives, the brothers have helped at their family’s boat dealership in Henderson, selling pontoons and jet skis with their father. They also assisted with the family’s gas station.
Jackie also ran a dealership in Jonesboro before moving to Mountain Home, where he has served as a patrol officer for the Mountain Home Police Department since 2020, in addition to his duties as the chief executive officer for Denbro.
His brother Joey, who works Denbro’s financials, sells boats in Hot Springs.
“Our family had a boat dealership out in Henderson for about 15 years,” Denwalt said. “We had a power sports dealership out there. We sold ski boats, pontoons, sea-doos, side by sides, all of that stuff. We had a gas station also, storage units. I had my own dealership in Jonesboro that I sold to move back and assist my father in a merger of taking over the old Yamaha dealership in Henderson. Then we sold that and started looking for something else to do.”
That something else to do would eventually become Denbro.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackie would take his brother to local coffee spots in town during family visits. After visiting one of those spots, both Jackie and Joey began to bounce around the idea of starting their own coffee business.
Despite having zero background in brewing coffee, the idea took hold, with both brothers focusing on where they should establish their new business in Mountain Home.
“As we were sitting there talking about coffee, what we were going to order, it kind of hit us,” Denwalt said. “What about coffee? We kind of like it, and we don’t know a lot about it. It’s not something we have a 10-year background in. So, we started trying to identify what and where.”
While Denwalt said he knew the market in Mountain Home was becoming saturated with coffee, he knew there were still underserved areas within the city, which ultimately led him to begin looking at Highway 201 North.
A two-lane highway, Hwy 201 N. is home to several industrial businesses and medical offices, in addition to several large neighborhoods. Yet unlike Highway 62, it features few restaurants, with only Cooyons and Holy Smokes BBQ finding homes along its roadside.
The road was perfect.
“My father always told us, whenever you’re going into business for yourself, you don’t need to clone somebody else,” Denwalt said. “You need to do the same job at a better price or a better job at the same price or offer something that’s not being offered. We knew there were underserved areas in Mountain Home. And 201 North came to mind instantly. There’s no coffee shop. There’s no fast food place. There’s a lot of industry up here. There’s a lot of residential. Nelson Wilks Elementary School is only two blocks away. There’s was a lot of opportunity, people don’t get a long time for lunch, so driving across town is kind of an issue for them.”
The Denwalts would begin building their stand-alone drive-through coffee building at the end of 2020. As the brothers worked through construction, they also began building a team to lock in their coffee and drinks.
To do that, they brought on Denbro Manager Claire Brown, a popular coffee brewer in Mountain Home.
“Claire is our magic recipe when it comes to coffee,” Denwalt said. “She has a strong background and she’s been doing it for years. She’s absolutely what keeps this place going.”
Together with Claire, and input from Denwalt’s wife Miranda, Denbro locked in on using a medium Indonesian Sumatra blend in their drinks. Coupled with over 40 flavors from major brands like Torani and Monin, Brown and her crew of baristas can produce a nearly endless mix of unique coffee drinks for residents looking to get their buzz on.
Denbro also serves smoothies, in addition to its espressos, macchiatos, lattes and frappes.
“We ordered samples from multiple roasters and blends,” Denwalt said. “We went through a very indecisive couple of days where our hearts about beat out of our chests because we were trying espresso after espresso. Even though we were taking sips, stuff adds up throughout the day.”
On the food side of the house, Denbro has recently begun offering freshly made wraps. The wraps, which are made in-house by Brown and her fellow baristas, come in a variety of offerings including loaded chicken, Caesar salad, buffalo chicken, pizza and breakfast.
Denbro also sells a variety of cookies and muffins, as well as its sausage rolls. For dessert or a tasty treat in general, the drive-thru coffee house offers a variety of frozen custard desserts. Denbro’s frozen custard is made in-house and can be served in cups or cones. For those looking for fun in their custard, Denbro offers a Reese’s Cup Tornado, M&M Tornado, Cookie Dough Tornado and Cheesecake Bite Tornado.
Hot chocolate and sodas are also available. Denbro is one of the few locations in the Ozarks to offer frozen custard to residents.
“We use a pressurized machine,” Denwalt said. “It allows us to control and fine-tune the consistency [of our custard] to where we want it – it’s the single most expensive piece of equipment in the shop.”
While Denwalt puts a heavy emphasis on Denbro’s service and products, he also attempts to go above and beyond for those working at Denbro by providing them with a work environment they look forward to coming to each day. To date, Denwalt said only one employee has moved on from Denbro since they opened their doors, and that was only because of that employee’s college career in Alaska.
Each employee starts out at $15 an hour with room to grow, a decision that came about from Denwalt’s personal feelings about having employees plan their lives around tips that may or may not come during a working week.
“The longer an employee serves, the better your customer service is. The better experience the customer has,” Denwalt said.
Denwalt said his goal is to one day be able to offer each employee a health insurance plan.
“It’s our goal to create a career here, not a job,” Denwalt said. “I can’t wait for the day that I can come in here and say you guys need to pick out a health care package because we’re offering it.”
With Denbro celebrating its first year anniversary in August, Denwalt is already looking towards the future, with plans to expand Denbro to other locations around Arkansas.
In Mountain Home, Denwalt said he’d like to build a new location that would feature not only a drive-thru but a place to sit down and enjoy a meal or beverage.
“We would love to open one up on 62 and have a sit-down and a drive-through,” Denwalt said. “We could really have a unique experience. We never want tile floors or metal chairs ever. We’re playing back and forth with what it’s going to look like in our heads.”
Denbro is located at 1028 Hwy. 201 in Mountain Home. The drive-thru coffeehouse is open Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., with Sundays off for religious observance.