If you find yourself along Hwy 5 and Alcoa Road in the near future and need a cool drink to quench your thirst or a warm cup of coffee to get you going, then you’ll want to pull in to one of Benton’s newest hot spots, HTeaO.

Don’t let the Texas outline in the logo turn you off. This place is locally owned, and if you skip it, you’ll be missing out on more than two dozen of the best fresh tea flavors, as well as a darn good time inside.

“It’s just that much fun to work there,” said owner, Greg Shinn. “We’re an up-and-coming franchise, the 82nd store overall, and the first one in Arkansas. We brew 26 flavors of fresh iced tea daily and sell it by the cup, the mini-gallon, half-gallon, or full gallon, however you want it.”

HTeaO is an Amarillo, Texas-based company specializing in fresh-brewed iced tea. The company was founded in 2009, and in addition to brewing their variety of flavors every hour, HTeaO uses a special water filtration system to get maximum freshness.

Shinn’s Benton location is the first in Arkansas. As of this month, HTeaO is reporting 435 locations either open or under construction across the U.S., well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming “the Starbucks of iced tea.”

“Our proprietary tea blends are naturally infused from fresh fruits. We don’t add any syrups or artificial flavors. We take real fruit, dry it, mix it with the tea leaves, and then brew it. The inside of our store is a full sensory experience. When the doors open you smell the freshly brewed tea, and you can see all the flavors neatly displayed in a wall of bubblers. Customers can choose a sample cup and taste all 27 flavors, as well as browse the store for all sorts of unique food and gift items. The inside of our store is a great vibe!”  

A native Arkansan from the Magnolia area, Shinn has always been around small business and has the entrepreneurial spirit.

Through the years, Shinn has grown his business pursuits to include hotels, five radio stations in Hot Springs (co-owned with his sister and partners), and more. But it was a trip to Colorado five years ago that took him and his wife, Dawn, down an unexpected and pretty sweet path.

“She’d been an educator for 27 years and was getting close to retirement,” he said. “We were looking at other franchises to consider, and while out there, I struck up a conversation with a guy at our resort who told me he was starting a franchise called HTeaO. 

“No sooner than he’d said that, a group of younger people at the end of the table, probably late high school or college age, start telling him how much they loved the product and were ranting and raving about it,” he added. “Right away, my wife and I knew this was something we needed to look into.”

HTeaO’s Benton location opened in October 2023. “Things have gone really well,” Shinn said. “We’ve been in the Top 40% of franchises since opening. We do so well because we’re the only location in Arkansas, right now, and we’re still trying to get the brand recognition out there. We have an incredible group of team members. We can proudly say that we’ve had zero turnover since we opened. Our proudest moments are when we get reviews from customers about how nice and helpful our team members are. We know we have a great product, but we’re also proud to have a great team.”

Shinn says he and his staff also get asked frequently about their Texas-inspired logo and if it’s ever going to change. 

“We’re asked all the time when we’re going to get the outline of Arkansas instead of the outline of Texas. We have to tell them that this is a Texas-based franchise, so the outline of Texas will stay. Our customers seem to be ok with it.”

Customers also appear to be ok with the lively atmosphere of country music playing inside the shop, tea brewing at almost every angle greeting them when they walk in the door.

“We have 26 flavors plus our secret menu, which is accessible through our app,” Shinn said. “It was all born from experimentation of putting different flavors together. You take our sweet Texas Chai and a Ryan Palmer, and the mix tastes just like apple pie. Also, if you take Sweet Almond Green and combine it with Sweet Coconut, you get a flavor like wedding cake. That’s just another wrinkle that makes this fun.”

Along with its expansive tea offerings, HTeaO carries a line of Yeti and Hydro Flask products, an array of high-end fresh snack options, and the Free Rein coffee line, owned by actor and Yellowstone star, Cole Hauser.

“When we decided to move forward, my wife officially retired from Bryant school district to help run the store. She jokes that she’s working more now than she ever has and she’s supposed to be retired. But she is loving it. More than 60% of our business is repeat customers, and my wife knows many of them by name. Once someone comes in and tries the tea, they always come back!” Shinn said. “We’re actively working to get more stores going, and she’ll oversee those. Our goal is to have several HTeaO stores across central Arkansas. But in the meantime, we’re having a great time.”