Utah Stories

Making It Work – From Home

Utahns who chose to work for themselves at home rather than at the grunt of the cubical.


Starting from nothing and building a life, whether clearing land for a farm or gambling on an enterprise, is the image many people have of the Old West. That spirit continues today with people who take a chance, people who turn their backs on corporate models and blaze new trails. Three local businesses have done just that – starting home businesses and finding success.

Roundy Boots

Don Roundy preping a sewing machine for work on a new boot.
Don Roundy getting ready to work on a pair of custom boots. Photo By Mike Jones

Don Roundy started repairing shoes in 1974. Today he works, making custom boots, shoes and sandals, from a studio he built behind his house. He also makes saddles, a skill he learned from Brad McClellan in Vernal, Utah.

Don grew up in a ranching community and speculates that maybe his draw to the profession is in his blood. “I don’t know if it made a difference, but I have saddle and harness makers on both sides of my family back from when horses and buggies were the means of transportation.”

Through the years, he learned his craft from several teachers and through personal study. He now passes on his knowledge at Salt Lake Community College, teaching classes on boot making and shoe design. For him, it is a matter of trying to pass on a disappearing trade.

Don Roundy outside of his residential shop
Don Roundy outside of his residential shop

Don makes each order according to his customer’s specifications. In the time-honored tradition of quality hand-craftsmanship, he builds them one at a time at his work bench. Don says, “Every day I learn more by practicing excellence with every repair and every custom order I am blessed with.”

The wait for a pair of custom boots can be three to four months, but, as his customers can attest, they’ll be the best boots or shoes you’ve ever owned.

Roundy Boots is located at 4826 S 2200 West.


Oasis Gardens and Koi

Matt Mayer has raised fish since he was a kid. A few years ago he moved into a house in Sandy and decided he wanted a pond with aquatic plants and koi. He started shopping and found only overpriced supplies that were not up to his standards. So, he decided to raise the fish and plants himself.

Ornamental Koi
Ornamental Koi

He started the business as a sideline while working a full-time job. Then, when his life circumstances changed and he took over most of the domestic duties around his house, he made the enterprise a full-time occupation.

Koi are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp. Popular in Japan, koi can be found in different colors and patterns. Besides breeding koi, Matt also cultivates aquatic plants for ponds such as lilies, lotus, cattails and rushes.

His business has led him into pond design, and Matt is currently working on a large pond project for a golf course in St. George. He maintains his business in Sandy through internet sales and drop-in business by appointment.

Offering a better product at a better price is Matt’s goal. Through growing his business, he’s gained knowledge and expertise, noting that “Anyone who wants anything to do with koi comes to me.”



Verlo Ottley Nightcrawlers

Emily of Nightcrawlers
Emily Mendenhall of Nightcrawlers

Spreading the word through business cards, signs and Facebook, Verlo Ottley Nightcrawlers is a home business in the Taylorsville Gardens neighborhood. Verlo started the business in 1975 and grew through walk-in traffic and word-of-mouth.

The sign out front boasts that they are open 24/7. This is possible because they sell their worms from a vending machine. The worms are packaged in cups with a special bedding Verlo invented that keeps them alive for six to eight weeks.

Besides people who drop by their home location, the business supplies worms to Harmons, some gas stations and pet stores.

Emily Mendenhall started helping out with the business five years ago, and assumed ownership nearly three years ago. She started raising red worms that are sold for composting. Worm composting is using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic materials. When the scraps pass through the worm’s body, they become a nutrient rich soil amendment called vermicompost.

Stop by 4300 South 2200 West and stock up on worms both for fishing and gardening.


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