Photos | Emma Highfill, Rose Wheat Photography
Stevenson Company, Inc. had already been a staple in North Topeka long before artists began moving to NOTO. The company, which employs about 25 people, opened in its current location in 1952 as a sheet metal shop. Prior to that, the building had housed other businesses and actually originated as a stable.
Joe Pennington’s father, Jerry, bought the sheet metal business in 1990. Joe took over in 2006. Stevenson does 90 percent of its business in the food industry, creating customized products as part of the manufacturing process. The company currently specializes in making an innovative product from stainless steel that helps eliminate breakage in fragile foods. One of the company’s top products, a stainless steel spiral chute, gently delivers manufactured food products—particularly fragile foods, such as chips or crackers—from the machine into the bag so they are not broken into pieces.
Pennington credits the company’s continued success to its willingness to listen to what their customers need and the installation of new equipment and technology that allows them to meet changing demand.
When he first heard talk about changes coming to NOTO and the creation of an arts and entertainment district, Pennington admits he was a naysayer.
“I didn’t see anybody wanting to come down to that location,” Pennington said.
He has never been so glad to be wrong about something. As a business that was already established in the area, Pennington voiced concerns about how the creation of the new arts district would affect issues such as parking and security. He felt that his concerns were heard and addressed and has been glad to be part of the NOTO community, even serving as a NOTO board member. Having a place near work to grab a cup of coffee or lunch has also been a plus for him personally.
Even though one might not view the industrial facility as a direct match to the new groove of the area, Pennington says they actually fit right in with the artisans.
“We are just a bunch of craftsmen. We are not artists, but what we do is definitely a craft,” Pennington said.
Stevenson Company does not rely on walk-in business, so while the creation of the NOTO Arts & Entertainment District has not technically added to his business, Pennington says the added name recognition as a NOTO business certainly does not hurt.
When Pennington attends First Friday events held in NOTO, he has found another reason to be glad his business sits near the action.
“I’m lucky because I have a built-in parking spot for First Fridays.”Pennington said.