Arrow Coffee Company and Pool House owners Ben and Rachel Motley have always worked side by side.
After taking over a business at a young age, the Motleys said their complementary strengths have allowed them to continue on that path and enter into new endeavors together.
The couple met as teenagers while working at a camp in the Kansas City area. They remained friends and started dating during their time at K-State.
“Her apartment was on my way to class, and I would stop in for breakfast,” Ben said.
“And sometimes lunch and dinner,” Rachel said.
They worked together at Bluestem Bistro and learned they enjoyed working together. They planned a couple of events together, realized how much they liked it and considered venturing out on their own. They married in 2011.
They said during this time they fell in love with the hospitality industry. Rachel graduated from K-State with a degree in human ecology in 2012, and Ben left K-State to pursue a career in the business.
“That was where I found myself coming alive, and that’s what I found myself enjoying,” Ben said.
A friend opened Arrow Coffee Company in 2013, and both joined the team there shortly after, ultimately taking over the business. The couple, now both 33, opened Pool House, a tropical-themed cocktail bar, in 2018 and Arrow Cocktail Lounge/Arrow Bodega in the former Harry’s space in 2022.
Rachel said being so young when they started out in business probably made them more fearless.
“I think it was kind of, ‘Let’s try this thing out and see if it could work, and what’s the worst that could happen?’ because I think that’s how you see the world when you’re young,” Rachel said.
Rachel said they have complementary strengths. Ben is more of the logical, detail-oriented planner, and she is more of the emotional brain. The couple said they realized even in those early days at the camp that they could work well together.
“What I liked was working together on the same kind of thing and seeing people work with different skills toward the same goal, when you’re all bought in,” Ben said. “You’re greater than the sum of your parts.”
In addition to just enjoying spending time together, they said they have the same values and goals for how they want to operate their businesses.
“We definitely share the same vision,” Rachel said.
They enjoy working with other people in local businesses and holding events to highlight products and the work local producers do. They recently had a Kansas Day dinner featuring products across the state from beef producers to wineries and distilleries. The theme was the state’s motto, “Ad astra per aspera,” which is Latin for “To the stars through difficulties.”
“We have a very interesting ethos in the Midwest where it’s like, ‘Things can be good, but it’s going to be really hard,’” Ben said. “So we were thinking, through this dinner, that we’re going to taste the stars of Kansas and acknowledge the difficult work that went into producing it.”
They said sharing unusual, special product is one of their goals with their businesses. They said they want to carry products that customers might not find on the shelves just anywhere, whether it’s the liquors used in cocktails or food sold at the bodega.
“Having cool stuff is only cool if you get to share it with people,” Ben said.
Rachel said they aren’t creating any businesses that haven’t been created before, but they enjoy doing things their own way. She said Pool House is a good example of that. Especially when the bar first opened, people walked in expecting to play pool, she said, confused by why there were flamingos everywhere.
“People didn’t get it and still sometimes don’t,” Rachel said. “It’s not for everybody. Anyone and everyone is welcome, but not everyone will connect with it and that’s totally OK.”
They said they want to provide unique experiences to people, whether they live in Manhattan or are just passing through. The Motleys said they can’t do that by doing exactly what everyone else is doing.
“And we’re kind of strange, and it’s a wonderful life, to be strange,” Rachel said.