The Joint offers fresh mix of comedy and coffee
Beyond brewing delicious coffee, The Joint is a fresh, contemporary place for students to unwind and enjoy quality entertainment. Boasting a metropolitan cafe during the day, as well as cabaret comedy at night, beer on tap and a medley of musicians on stage, The Joint has blended together the perfect recipe for entertainment that appeals to all ages.
The owners of The Joint, Steve and Vicki Farrell, who hail from Minnesota and St. Louis respectively, chose North Little Rock’s historic Argenta Arts District for several reasons.
“We didn’t intend to come to Argenta when we came [to Arkansas]; we didn’t know where we’d be. But we had visited the area and looked at properties. The space was about the right size and the people we talked to were very friendly. It was just kind of an accident, a happy accident,” Vicki Farrell said.
“John Gaudin kind of spearheaded the revival of Argenta. His crew is a terrific bunch of people with a real vision to make this a true arts district. We got excited about it, so we started talking about the plan and the role we could play to make it happen,” Steve Farrell said.
“The progress that this part of town has made in the past 10 years is incredible,” Vicki Farrell said.
“Argenta was pretty rough. I lived in North Little Rock about eight years ago, and [this area] was dangerous,” Brett Ihler said. The actor completes the trio of performers known as “The Main Thing” and also performs alongside his wife in “The Joint Venture,” the cafe’s improvisation group.
“Now they have all of the arts here. There’s still not a lot of foot traffic yet, but it gradually grows a little each week,” Vicki Farrell said.
“We hoped to drive out the coke whores and replace them with artists,” jested Steve Farrell.
The Joint has seen much praise since it opened in June 2012. Friday night comedy acts are almost always packed to capacity. UrbanSpoon.com users gave the Joint 4.5/5 stars. Local beer connoisseur, “John the Beer Snob,” complimented them on their “great selection.”
The 2,400-square foot business differentiates itself from any garden-variety sidewalk cafe by its two stages: the main one in a 100-seat cabaret theater, and the smaller one in the coffee shop. Also unique is its home-brewed coffee from a manual espresso machine, live music from both local and touring musicians, affordable food, fine wines and the smoothest tap beers available.
“The chicken salad is the bomb,” added Steve Farrell.
Though many middle-aged and older people frequent The Joint, younger crowds are its target clientele. The coffee shop and bar presents many things that appeal to students. They are open from early morning to late at night, they offer free Wi-Fi and a quiet location to hang out or study, and their menu is very reasonably-priced. I bought 16 ounces of the most exquisite pumpkin spice latte for about $3.
“We see a range of faces, from the Thursday headbangers to the wine-sippers and family. It’s a great clubhouse,” Steve Farrell said.
Students can find entertainment at The Joint almost every night of the week. Tuesdays mean family-friendly “Jazz Jams” with no cover, and Wednesday nights welcome the comedy improvisation act known as “The Joint Venture.”
Thursday nights are “Big Dam Beer Nights,” during which guests can enjoy live music and shave $1.25 off each 20-ounce beer. Friday and Saturday nights are reserved for “The Main Thing,” which starts at 8 p.m.
By far The Joint’s most successful endeavor is “The Main Thing,” the two-man-and-one-woman comedy troupe comprised of Little Rock-native Ihler and the Farrells. They have performed a variety of shows on the Joint stage, a few of which were “Electile Dysfunction,” “A Fertle Family” and “The Last Night at Orabella’s.”
“I think younger people like us more and get our humor better, but older people can afford us,” Steve Farrell said.
Featuring almost weekly beer samplers and packed Big Dam Beer nights, the Farrells are optimistic that the word about their venture is sure to spread.
The Farrells identify themselves as “real espresso-lovers,” and with a vision to merge their two passions of comedy and coffee, they have introduced several signature coffees unique to the Joint, including the popular German Chocolate. They also brew honey lattes and peanut butter mochas.
To maintain its urban edge and resident appeal, The Joint purchases several of its foodstuffs from local vendors. The chicken salads are from Bray Gourmet and the pastries are from Community Bakery; both restaurants are located in downtown Little Rock. The Joint purchases its custom-roasted coffee from Robert Huckleberry in Fox, Ark. In addition, this watering-hole serves Diamond Bear on tap. Diamond Bear Brewing Company, on Cross Street, has been brewing local beer since 2000.
The Joint also nods a mindful head to sustainability with its biodegradable coffee cups, lids, and sleeves. Also, all used-up coffee grounds are donated to the local herb garden.
The Joint is primarily family-operated. Sarah Farrell, daughter-in-law to owners Steve and Vicki Farrell, manages the café with her husband, Adam Farrell.
“Adam and I were in coffee together [as Starbucks employees], and we love coffee, so what could be better? We have great music, great shows, great coffee and it is just a fun place to work,” she explained while preparing my latte.
The space now occupied by The Joint has undergone countless renovations.
“When we came in, it was literally nothing from wall to wall,” Steve Farrell said. The first floor was empty space, the second floor was offices and the third floor was reserved for apartments. They have since converted the space to include a loft, theater, courtyard, kitchen, restaurant lounge, green room, costume closet and five bathrooms.
Where do the Farrells hope to see The Joint one day?
“Well, we have the best coffee in the city,” Steve Farrell said with a smirk, “and we would like to be an event venue for special boutique events. Meaning, I would love to see a big-name artist in here [similar to Jack Johnson] recording a live album for maybe $80 a ticket. I think people would be willing to see a well-known artist, and they would be willing to pay what it would take to make it happen.”
Several revered musicians have already graced The Joint’s stage, ranging from local act The Big Dam Horns to Seattle-native Fill the Silence. Jazz artist Rodney Block frequently plays, as well as the Funkanauts, Via Lotus and Trey Johnson.
The Farrell couple offered advice for UALR students, especially aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Always just take the next step,” Steve Farrell said. “Don’t try to narrow the focus, because maybe you’ll discover that your talents lead you elsewhere. I thought I wanted to be a rock musician. Once I got to college, I considered acting. Because I always just took the next step. I learned that I liked to write comedy, and I combined what I learned to create this [“The Main Thing” and other endeavors].”
“Whatever you do, you do it well,” advised Vicki Farrell. “Maybe someone else will see something in you. I originally wanted to be a tap dancer. But he [Steve Farrell] needed me to play drums,” and that push for variety has allowed the Farrells to open up six theaters and create countless memorable characters. Oddly, all of her characters are proficient drummers.
Though The Joint advertises primarily by word of mouth, readers can find information about the business in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Arkansas Times.
The Joint is located at 301 Main St. in North Little Rock, down the street from City Hall. To make reservations, call 501-372-0205. Otherwise, call 501-372-0210 for the bar and cafe.