Small Business

Small Business Spotlight: Father, son hope their business makes Wichita much sharper

Mark, left, and Patrick Madden are the owners of M&M Sharpening Services, a knife- and blade-sharpening business they run out of their home.
Mark, left, and Patrick Madden are the owners of M&M Sharpening Services, a knife- and blade-sharpening business they run out of their home. The Wichita Eagle

Mark and Patrick Madden are big on mottoes for their sharpening service – from “never a dull moment” to “a dull knife is just a stick.”

There also is “If it doesn’t shave, it doesn’t leave.”

Last week, to prove it, Mark had Patrick film him shearing a 3-by-1-inch patch of hair off his arm with one pass of a kitchen knife, then post the video on Facebook.

“We do everything on social media,” said Mark Madden, Patrick’s father. “We have a lot of fun doing that.”

And, apparently, success. Five years after starting M&M Sharpening Service, the Maddens say they are close to growing their part-time business out of a 400-square-foot space in their garage. M&M specializes in sharpening kitchen knives, scissors and hunting knives but also works on hand tools, pruning shears, chainsaws, lawnmower blades and just about anything else that benefits from a razor-sharp edge (including, of course, razors).

The Maddens’ shop sprang out of Patrick’s effort to earn his entrepreneurship badge in the Boy Scouts. That required coming up with a business plan for a hypothetical business, from assessing demand and competition to securing financing and fashioning a marketing campaign.

After all that work, Mark Madden said, “We just thought, ‘Let’s make it official. We’ll do this.’ ”

Mark said he inherited his love of sharp knives from his grandfather.

“He was a sharpening aficionado. Every knife in his house except the butter knife was a razor blade.”

Mark tutored Patrick, who sharpened knives for fellow Boy Scouts growing up.

“I’m not nearly as versed in some things, especially chisels and chainsaws,” Patrick said, referring to two of his father’s specialties. “But kitchen knives and pocket knives, I ace those things.”

Not surprisingly, Mark has a motto for chisels: “A dull chisel is just a screwdriver.”

The Maddens say their research showed the Wichita market wasn’t inundated with professional sharpening services.

Since starting out with hand files, the Maddens have acquired three belt sanders, a chainsaw blade grinder and more. Along with sharpening, the Maddens promise to remove rust, condition handles, polish items and lubricate all moving parts. M&M contracts with several restaurants to sharpen kitchen knives on a twice-monthly basis, including pickup and delivery.

For most items, Mark said, next-day service is possible. Hand planes and saws “take a little bit longer. I’m very picky.”

Some of the work is seasonal, from gardening tools in the spring to chainsaws in the fall.

For now, M&M is a part-time endeavor. Mark has been a musical instrument repairman for 23 years, currently working at Senseney Music. Patrick is pursuing a geology degree at Wichita State University and, like Mark before him, is now an adult Scout leader.

Mark says they have seen “a lot of cool stuff” brought in for sharpening, from samurai-style swords to an adze, a type of wood-working tool said to date back to the Stone Age.

M&M also works on darts, gouges, archery tips and archery hoods. The shop currently doesn’t have the right equipment to tackle circular saw blades, ceramic knives and hair shears. The Maddens are thinking about buying some equipment that would allow them to expand their services.

“Our goal in the future is to get out of the garage,” Mark said.

They anticipate more growth in their business. Just recently, a woman brought in a kitchen knife that had dulled after she replaced her butcher block with a granite countertop.

“I could have ran it across my arm and only made a welt,” he said.

And that, as the Maddens might say, just won’t cut it.

Now you know

M&M Sharpening Services

Address: 5916 Bunting

Phone: 316-293-8293

Owners: Mark and Patrick Madden