Genuine – inside and out. That’s where Matt Dennis and Michael Stepp’s story begins for their authentic copper mug business called HandleBend. People appreciated their genuine, handcrafted product and that first mug turned into a successful business.
As HandleBend grew, Dennis and Stepp needed room to grow their production and expand their product line. Looking at options in their hometown of O’Neill, they discovered the Shelhamer Building downtown could accommodate all their needs, with space left over.
This may have caused a moment of pause when you think of overhead costs, but after speaking with local economic developers, their entrepreneurial attitude created a new idea – develop a shared commercial space.
“We came up with a plan to rent out the front portion of the building to other local businesses while reserving the back for HandleBend manufacturing and production. That gave us a way to subsidize our costs, and ultimately to bring that community purpose back to the building,” Dennis said.
The City of O’Neill was ecstatic to work alongside Dennis and Stepp to bring this old building new life. Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), Holt County Economic Development (HCED) and Central Nebraska Housing and Economic Developers (CNHED) were also partners.
In February, the O’Neill Chamber of Commerce held its ribbon cutting for the newly named HandleBend Building. Businesses welcomed into the building are Douglas Street Coffee, Village Flower Shoppe, HandleBend Copper Shop, The Clover, HandleBend Tap and Advantage Logistics.
O’Neill is a retail community of NPPD.
Source: DED at www.opportunity.nebraska.gov