Q&A with Andy Pickle, CAC alumnus and co-owner of Blue Sail Coffee Roasters
Q&A with Andy Pickle, 2008 CAC graduate, and co-owner of Blue Sail Coffee Roasters.
1. Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
I moved from Portland to Little Rock and started at CAC my 10th grade year. I met my wife in AP English – that’s one gift CAC gave me that I will always be thankful for. We’ve been married for five years, and now we have a daughter who is 13 months old. She’s just taking her first steps…it’s amazing. I get to see life happen for the first time all of the time because of her.
2. What was the journey like as you worked to open Blue Sail Coffee Roasters in Little Rock?
I moved from Nashville back to Little Rock to work as a youth minister at a church here. I felt like my calling to youth ministry was for a season and not a lifetime, which was kind of hard to grapple with. I saw myself as a youth minister, and that was a lot of my personhood. I had to kind of unwrap that and realize I was a human being outside of my job, and it was around that time I started to fall in love coffee.
I drank coffee my whole life, but I really just drank whatever was around with milk and creamer from the grocery store. One day I was on a particularly strong health kick, and I started to notice all of the chemicals they put in creamers. I weaned myself off of creamer and sugar and I realized that my coffee still tasted bad. I was pretty sure it was supposed to taste good, so I bought a French press and went down this rabbit hole and fell in love with what is called “specialty coffee.”
I had a dream to open my own shop, and at my wife’s encouragement, I started looking around for a job to gain experience. I applied at a bunch of different coffee places around town and got hired at Blue Sail in Conway.
My desire was to open my own shop, so I worked as hard as I could to set myself a part and make sure that I could learn as much as possible. Over time, I found out that the founder of Blue Sail and myself have similar goals and values. Our vision for what coffee can do for Central Arkansas aligned really well, so instead of starting my own company I decided to become a partner in this company, and opened the shop that we are sitting in now.
3. What is your “vision for what coffee can do for Central Arkansas?”
For me, coffee didn’t begin with the flavor, it began with the idea of getting coffee with people. It sounds kind of silly, but the connection you have when you can hold on to that warm beverage as you talk with someone is just really special to me.
I believe that people are starving for a connection in our world mainly because we’re so busy looking at our phones. Sitting around the table and connecting with someone over a cup of coffee is one of the neatest ways we have to actually meet someone and get to know them.
We want to be a place where people of all different backgrounds – different religions, gender identities, political backgrounds, people who look different – can have a place to come and connect.
I hope our coffee can help create those connections in Central Arkansas. There are a lot of negative things going on in our world, and I think many of them can be remedied by conversation.
4. How has the community of Little Rock helped support you and Blue Sail?
I’ve seen people who I haven’t seen in years come into the shop to talk and buy a cup of coffee. I am so grateful and thankful to those people for supporting us. It’s such a great feeling to see someone you know walk in.
I also get to meet some of the coolest people – and that’s my favorite part of this job. We’re right next to The Rep, the symphony and the ballet, which means creative people are walking in here all of the time. I get to hear all of these amazing stories from people I would have never met before.
That’s the coolest thing. Everyone is coming from a different place, they all have different stories, but they all come for the same reason – coffee. And I just think that’s really neat.
5. How did CAC help prepare you for what you do now?
When I was in high school I felt a little bit like an outsider. I was 15 years old and had just moved to Arkansas from Portland, so I was pretty cocky. I was from out west – I had lived in California and Oregon most of my life, so I wasn’t really understanding of the Arkansas culture for a while.
Mrs. Leverett was one of my favorite teachers. Being in her class taught me a lot about how to think for myself. I was terrible at English and really awful at the whole “figuring out the deeper meaning” of what we were reading, but she taught me how to think and challenged me to think about why I believed what I believed. That’s been really useful for me, and I will always love and respect her for it.
Blue Sail Coffee Roasters has three locations:
Downtown Conway | 1028 Front Street, Conway
Midtown Conway | 250 Ave, Ste 140, Conway
Tech Park | 417 Main Street, LR
You can visit their website, read more of the Blue Sail story & see their menu here.