Military veteran James Bendel III is being recognized for the work he’s done in the business world and for various charities.
Bendel, owner of Crazy Horse Coffee in Washington, has been named the US Small Business Administration (SBA) Western Pennsylvania Veteran-Owned Small Business Person of the Year.
“It’s a whole lot to wrap your head around,” Bendel said. “I’ve got about 3½ years of running the coffee shop. We just try to keep our heart and minds in the right place and support the community and the people who are supporting us. ”
Bendel, who resides in South Strabane, will receive his award this week, which is National Small Business Week. There will be an event at the coffee shop at 900 Wildflower Circle from 4 to 6 pm Friday, which will include Bendel receiving his award, as well as a fundraiser for the family of a co-worker whose husband has colon cancer.
“I’m so proud of James’ efforts,” said SBA Western Pennsylvania District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “Not only has he started a thriving small business, but he’s gone the extra step addressing the needs of his community by creating a nonprofit arm called Help-Hard.”
Bendel has used the SBA to help him grow his business. An SBA-backed loan assisted him with taking his shop from blueprint to fruition. He used the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan, designed to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic, to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses.
Through Help-Hard, Bendel helps showcase and aid local and national charitable fundraising efforts with initiatives that include supporting Cystic Fibrosis, a backpack stuffed with weekend food staples for underserved children and toy drives.
“We do all sorts of benefits and help the community in all sorts of ways,” Bendel said.
Also through the nonprofit, Bendel provides entrepreneurial assistance to select high school vocational students, by helping them open small businesses.
Bendel, who has had success in the oil and gas industry, opened Crazy Horse in 2018. One reason he opened the shop was that he realized he was stopping in at coffee shops and doing a lot of his work.
“While working in oil and gas, I never believed in paying for Wi-Fi because I was never home anyway,” Bendel said. “I would post up at coffee shops to do my sales reports.”
The Purple Heart Army veteran named his shop Crazy Horse, the name of his Army cavalry unit.
“I was deployed twice to Iraq with that unit, and everyone safely returned home,” Bendel said.
During his first tour in Iraq, Bendel’s platoon was ambushed on Sept. 5, 2004, and he was hit in the chin by a bullet and peppered with shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.
Two years later, on his birthday during his second tour, he escaped tragedy a second time when a bullet struck the very top of his helmet.
Crazy Horse Coffee is open from 6:30 am to 7 pm Monday through Friday, 7 am to 6 pm on Saturday and 8 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Along with various coffees, the shop serves homemade sandwiches and desserts.
His bagged beans are sold wholesale at local grocers, while brewed beverages and desserts are offered to customers at two local, independent outlets. The business recently got into catering.
Bendel employs 19 people, not including himself. He said he has not paid himself from the coffee shop as of yet.
“We’re here to try and grow our business, grow with the community and help the community,” he said.