Boise CultureCulture

Recent Boise State graduate gives insight to keeping their local business afloat

Recent Boise State graduate gives insight to keeping their local business afloat

The instability of the current economic climate leaves newly graduated students unsure of how to successfully utilize their new degrees and thrive in a world where businesses are struggling.

While people are looking towards the future, with the many questions and uncertainties it holds, sometimes looking in the past, and to the examples of students who have already graduated, is the best answer. 

Lauren Berry, co-owner of The Handlebar in downtown Boise, and a 2019 Boise State graduate, said she has combated job insecurity with perseverance, creativity and community. 

Before the pandemic, on any given night, it was nearly impossible to find an open seat within this bicycle-themed bar. 

Despite opening its doors less than three years ago, The Handlebar has quickly become a local favorite.

Amy Mayton, a senior in the educational leadership master’s program, said that The Handlebar is unlike any other bar in Boise.

“It’s first and foremost a bicycle bar and encourages the community to go out and bike,” Mayton said. “The bar doesn’t have any televisions, but has lots of board games and other games that guests can play. It’s a bar that promotes interaction between customers and makes people feel that they are part of the Handlebar community.”

Now that restaurants and bars have been deemed as nonessential businesses, The Handlebar has worked to find innovative ways to bring their bar to the public.

“Since we cannot have people inside our bar right now, we’re trying to think of other ways to still interact with our customers,” Berry said.

In place of their weekly events they used to have before COVID-19, the staff have begun holding fun and interactive events while maintaining social distancing regulations.

One of these includes a scavenger hunt or “alley cat race.” Essentially, a customer pre-orders a six pack on Thursday and is notified at 7 p.m. where their first set of beers are located, with a total of three clues.

“The first person to complete their six-pack wins some really cool prizes and beers,” Berry said. “There’s pretty much no interaction and it gets people out there on their bikes.”

Beer and wine can also be ordered daily through The Handlebar’s online system, and one of the best parts about their deliveries is the tall bicycle that co-owner Ezra Jackson tries to ride around as much as possible. 

According to Berry, not only does it attract attention from passerby, but the customers love the fun and unique interaction with the owners, which is a sense of familiarity that The Handlebar is known for.

The first six orders of the day also receive a free Smirnoff Ice that can be delivered to whoever the customer wants. Commonly known as “icing” someone, the act contributes to a prank where the recipient of the Smirnoff has to get on one knee and chug the entirety of the beer.

Additionally, The Handlebar has teamed up with a number of local businesses, such as the Dandy Horse Bakes, to encourage and promote purchases from small businesses in Boise.

Risse King, owner of Dandy Horse Bakes, bakes and sells what are known as “pedal pies,” a selection of sweet and savory pies that can be purchased online at their website or through The Handlebar.

“We’ve got something for everyone, and we love slinging pies to Pie-dahoans,” King said.

According to King, it is collaborations such as theirs with The Handlebar that are crucial during this pandemic. By teaming up, customers receive more options when ordering, and these local businesses are able to make money while following social distancing guidelines.

“We are helping each other out, and that’s the beautiful thing about our community,” King said. “It’s the more, the merrier.”

With the stay-at-home order extended to the end of April by Governor Little, the future of many local businesses is unknown at this time. 

According to Berry, the amount of orders they receive vary each day, but they are just trying to remain optimistic and take each day as it comes.

“Honestly, as of right now, we’re just trying to get enough orders to keep the lights on and to survive the pandemic,” Berry said. “However, it has opened doors to future ideas once everything gets back up and running.”

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