SHELTERING AMERICA FOR HALF A CENTURY
Handi-Hut is an outgrowth of a project by Melrose Displays, a custom metal fabrication company founded by Mel Cohen. In 1971, the New York Times approached his company to see if they could build a newsstand for a Times Square street corner that could be operated by a handicapped person.
Working in conjunction with NYC Department for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, they hired and trained a blind man to operate the newsstand. It turned out to be a success. 23 more newsstands were built, several handicapped people were gainfully employed, and Manhattan’s streetscape got a welcome addition.
Inspired by this experience in social entrepreneurship, his company went on to build aluminum kiosks designed as miniature retail stores and installed in strip mall parking lots. The kiosks were operated by handicapped individuals selling handy services and impulse items like magazines, key making, and film drop-off.
A new company called Handi-Hut was born.
In 1973, Americans started increasingly to leave their cars behind and use buses and trains to get to work. Sensing a larger opportunity in the burgeoning market for mass transit infrastructure, Mel Cohen sold the retail business in order to focus on producing shelters for the growing number of bus stops and light rail stations connecting passengers to work and school.
At the time, many shelters were produced in wood or painted steel. However, the lack of durability and ultimately high maintenance costs of these shelters created problems. Over time, wood tended to rot, and painted steel shelters would scratch, chip and eventually rust.
After much research, Handi-Hut’s team decided on six design principles.
These principles led to shelters that were manufactured in anodized aluminum for longevity, pre-glazed wall panels and roofs to reduce assembly time and cost, slim, sturdy crates for protected and economical shipping, a choice of standard roof styles, sizes and colors suited for varying sites and modular components for economical customization.
As time progressed so did the popularity of Handi-Hut’s prefabricated aluminum shelters, which sold to transit agencies and bus operators around the country.
By the mid-70s, Handi-Hut expanded the range of shelters to include custom walkway covers, building entry canopies, vestibules and enclosures that incorporate many of the same materials as their bus shelters.
In 1993, an EPA Risk Assessment study brought to the public’s attention the health hazards of inhaling secondhand smoke. Within a year, Handi-Hut began manufacturing outdoor smoking shelters using its proven prefabrication methods.
In April of 2019, Handi-Hut was purchased by Richard Cohen, Mel Cohen’s son and founder of Velodome Shelters. Velodome is a recognized leader in the design and production of innovative bicycle parking shelters, secure bike racks and bike storage equipment. The companies were merged the following year, retaining the Handi-Hut corporate name.
The combination of Handi-Hut and Velodome Shelters creates new synergies in design, engineering, manufacturing as well as administrative efficiencies. Both companies have been focused on building infrastructure that provides transportation alternatives to automobiles – whether for mass transit or
Today, we’re expanding to support sustainability programs and the continued demands for better transit options within the community. We still adhere to our founding values of producing high-quality, modular products that are attractive, durable, economical to ship, and easy to assemble at an excellent value.