NC entrepreneurs are August Hot Topics speakers

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

Four of the newest business owners in Nebraska City—Cindy Gude, Honey Lynn Self, Derek Grotrian, and Katie and Josh Hayes—discussed some of the decisions behind their business start-ups during the August Hot Topics at Scooter’s Aug. 11.

Gude, who owns Little Things Boutique at 615 Central Ave., said she has long had a dream of running her own business. 

After other boutiques offering adult clothing opened up downtown, Gude noticed there were no children’s boutiques in Nebraska City. When the tenant who was renting her building announced plans to retire, Gude decided to make her dream come true.

Gude opened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been pleased with the “amazing” support she has received from shoppers. 

Her store is expanding its merchandise to include clothing from children from newborns to size 10. She said she added sizes in response to customer requests for clothing larger than size 7.

Gude said her boutique name was inspired by her daughter Taylor, who has special needs.

“The small moments and accomplishments have meant so much to us,” she said, “that I just kept coming back to Little Things” as a business name.

Taylor works in the boutique, and Gude said her future plans call for working with the Life Skills program at Nebraska City Public Schools to provide work experience opportunities for Taylor’s peers.

Honey Lynn Self took over the operation of Self Expressions Gallery, 713 Central Ave., in September 2019. She has expanded the number of artists showing in the gallery space from 26 to 40.

“Everything in there is handmade by someone,” she said. “You don’t realize how much talent is in there.”

Self said she has been offering artist demonstrations, classes, and one-on-one instruction, and her future plans include expanding those offerings to attract more visitors.

Derek Grotrian, co-owner of Cornhusker Beef, 815 Central Ave., said the feel of downtown Nebraska City was what attracted he and his brother Doug to open their  “walk-in storefront small town butcher shop” on Central Avenue.

Although COVID-19 turned his original eight-month project into something that took more than a year to complete, Grotrian said his business is continuing to grow with weekend visitors and residents.

He said the shop is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays because he and his family noticed that visitors seemed to make a Sunday afternoon visit to Central Avenue for one final look at downtown before leaving Nebraska City. 

Some of them take some frozen Cornhusker Beef home with them, he said.

Grotrian said he believes the Sunday downtown traffic is “what Nebraska City is trying to do, with visitors walking around and looking at the little shops.”

He said Cornhusker Beef raises 100 percent of the animals they sell, and the processing area of the shop is located in the basement.

Josh and Katie Hayes have opened three locations of their Relax and Unwind coffee and sandwich shops in southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa, including one in the Nebraska City Fareway, 1738 S. 11th St.

The business began with a specialized camper that Katie and their 9-year-old daughter took to community events to serve coffee and sweet drinks.

Josh Hayes said that in the case of their business, the COVID-19 shutdown may have helped them get established.

“Everyone was in town, off work,” he said, “and it was something to do” to visit the coffee camper as the Hayeses went from town to town, selling their drinks.

After opening brick-and-mortar locations in Auburn and in Hamburg, Iowa, the Hayeses decided to be part of the Fareway store in Nebraska City, which has a drive-through window.

“The foot traffic at Fareway was a good fit for us,” said Josh Hayes.

Katie Hayes said she gets her inspiration for the sweet drinks from social media and from her own experiments with blending different tastes.

Hot Topics is a monthly gathering hosted by Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce to highlight community events. It takes place at Scooter’s Coffee, 2104 S, 11th St. Call 402-873-6654 for more information.

Honey Lynn Self, Self Expressions Gallery