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Manhattan’s Best

Matt Wallace from Cat Cans and Kevin Neitzel from The Fridge are both self-made, and two of Manhattan’s Most Influential Men

Matt Wallace of Cat Cans Portable Service of Manhattan:

How did Cat Cans come about??

The whole time that I was going to school at K-State, I worked at Standard Plumbing. I worked for them the whole time I was going to school. I did that, then went went into the plumbing side by myself, mostly at Fort Riley and doing some things like that, but I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to build something that had some worth, and some value going into the future, instead of working for somebody. I found a need to fulfill, and that’s kinda how it began. It was September 2010 when we started Cat Cans. 

How does Cat Cans tie into the passions of your life? 

Believe it or not, actually, I do enjoy to work. Sometimes like any other job, it can become mundane, and you need a break and want to go do something else, but I thoroughly enjoy making something, building something. I love seeing plans come to fruition, and having things be successful. I like training a lot of the young guys we work with on how to be men. There’s lots of skills that we offer. Some of these young guys we get in here don’t even know how to inflate a tire. So that’s pretty rewarding. There just lots of things that we can coach and mentor.

What do you do to maintain a balanced life? How do you disconnect from work? 

That’s hard! (“He doesn’t!”, laughs his wife, Aricca.) That’s a really, really hard thing to do. Even when we go on vacation, we always get a call or two that “there’s a problem with this, or there’s a problem with this”, so you cant ever truly - I think - 100% disconnect. If you go on vacation for a week, it takes about three days to not think about work, and then you really have just two days of actual vacation. It really does come down to trust though. It’s about trusting people, and having a good crew around that can get the job done when you’re not there, and running it how you need it ran.

What’s the best life advice you’ve received since you’ve started Cat Cans? 

I didn’t really have a mentor for this company. You learn to pick people, and find people, that you stylistically try to emulate their success. A great example for me would be Howie’s Trash Service. Howard & Greg Wilson are really, really successful people. In life, and in business. They’re good people, they’re Christian people. They’re good at what they do. I haven’t really gotten any advice from them, per se, but I have always drawn stuff from them. 

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? 

 Im an avid fly fisherman, but I was on a soils judging team at Hutchinson Community College and placed at the National Championships! I was also on the soils judging at Kansas State too, and it’s really parlayed, and is very helpful for what I do. Agronomy Soil & Water Science doesn’t have to all be ag. There lots of instances when I use what I went to school for multiple times a week. When we go to a new house, and look at soil conditions for a new lateral field or lagoon, or sizing systems for new houses and properties. It’s actually been quite helpful. (“He’s an All-American soil judger!”, Aricca!)

Kevin Neitzel from The Fridge Liquor Store:

How did The Fridge come about?? 

The Fridge was in existence when I started working there, under the name of Franz-White, and it was my college job. When I was a senior, they offered me a permanent spot to stay, and when I came aboard, The Fridge was born. Instead of having three partners names, we had to rename it. That was honestly the hardest part of opening the store! For two weeks, every night, we had name choices and ideas thrown out there, and my wife (Beth) and I didnt like anything we came up with. Frustrated one evening, we were headed out on the back patio to brainstorm, and we both went to grab a beer from the fridge. When I came outside, I said, “I just went to the fridge to grab a beer. I think that’s the name!” We simmered on it for a few days, and 22 years later, it’s still stuck. 

How does The Fridge tie into the passions of your life?

My passion is not sitting at a desk all day. I like the challenges that come with having your own business, and I just really like daily challenges. The passion of the challenge of going to work every day, and making something work, or the store work, or a situation work. The days I like the most are the most hectic days. The more hectic you can make a day, those are my most enjoyable days. 

What do you do to maintain a balanced life? How do you disconnect from work?

It took me about 14 years to learn how to disconnect from work. I used to open, and close the store, every single day for 13 years. I was the one that took the money from the bank in the morning, and took the deposit every night. I felt like I could control a little more, and make sure the quality of the service and everything was what I expected, but learning to trust my employees, and the people that I hired, made me able to disconnect. Having good employees allowed that to happen. I trust the decision my managers make, and I think they know what I would do in the same situation. We’ve had the same core group of eight people for nine years!

What’s the best life advice you’ve received? 

I think you get out what you put in. My father owned a business he worked in every day. You cant expect somebody else to do the work, and he told me I needed to work every day and do it. That I would get out what I put in. I mean, working 12 or 13 hours a day working when I first started was a lot, but I got the reward 20 years later. You get out what you put into it.


What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you? 

If people didn’t know me 20 years ago, they would be surprised to know that I was very, very shy, and didn’t like to talk to anybody I didn’t know. Approaching somebody I didnt know, and asking them if they needed help, that was just not my personality. It was rough! I had to make myself learn how to do that. Twenty years later, and its changed my personality. I can go talk to anybody now, and don’t have a problem talking to strangers. 

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