The founders of a very successful local business are celebrating the opening of the Handlebend building in O'Neill.
We talked with Michael Stepp who is a co-founder of the company called "Handlebend". Matt Dennis is the other co-founder. The company all started about 12 years ago, when the two friends started making copper mugs by hand. "It's just organically grown from there," Stepp said. "When we caught our first wave as a company, and it was like we just got a big hug from the state of Nebraska. The support we have received is great."
The copper mugs that Dennis and Stepp make are traditionally used for a cocktail called the "Moscow Mule." The mugs are now in high demand, and shipped around the country. "We've been lucky enough to ship a few worldwide. We've shipped to Ireland, Australia, and actually Russia."
Now, the Handlebend building is open in O'Neill on Highway 275 and 20. "The concept we've put this building around is, we've got other businesses that are already outstanding that have moved here," Stepp said. "The idea is that if a customer comes in the front door for any one of those businesses, the rest of the businesses stand to benefit." There is a coffee shop, a flower and gift shop, a photography studio, and the copper mugs are made by Handlebend in the back of the building. "We want this building to promote a sit down, slow down, spend time with your loved ones kind of atmosphere," Stepp said.
The Handlebend used to be owned by the Shelhamer family for many years. Locals remember the building as a grocery store. An effort has been made by Dennis and Stepp to maintain the history of the building.
"One of the biggest things I've learned in opening this building is, we've worked with a lot of homegrown businesses," Stepp said. "The level of talent in Nebraska is incredible. We are not just a flyover state, we are a gold mine of homegrown talent." So, the next time you are in O'Neill, you'll want to check out the Handlebend building.