Daily Living

Daily Living
Perry Bernhardus, technician at Handi Medical
Perry Benhardus, a technician for Handi Medical, works on repairing a wheelchair for a customer in St. Paul.

At the corner of University and Cromwell avenues in St. Paul sits Handi Medical. The sounds of the light rail can be heard as traffic waits for the stoplight in this bustling location. Going on 31 years, Handi serves people with many needs and it recently opened its new showroom in St. Paul. Handi’s chief marketing officer, Laurie Tomaszewski, told Access Press about the new showroom. 

“Our showroom is really the vision of our founder, Mary Benhardus,” said Tomaszewski. “She wanted a place where people could come in and not feel like they are surrounded by medical stuff. Not just wheel chairs, not just hospital beds or walkers. It’s filled in with items that help people just live their lives better.” 

“We want people to be able to stay in their homes as an option because we know when that care in their home is far less its expensive than if they have to go into a facility. The more things we can bring in just to aid people in their daily lives, that’s what our showroom is all about,” Tomaszewski said. The showroom’s purpose is to help clients understand available solutions for daily living. 

Over the years Handi has tried to help customers through finding options that other places might not offer. “Mary and I went to Düsseldorf to the rehab show in Germany last fall to look at what Europe had to offer that the U.S. didn’t. We found a bed that does everything that a U.S. hospital bed will do. It will also rotate and help you get out of bed and stand like a lift system would,” Tomaszewski said. “It really was meaningful to Mary because her dad was a type one diabetic who lost both of his feet. Every morning her mom would have to help turn him in bed and then help get him out of bed. It was just really difficult for her mom to take care of her dad.” 

Equipment and products sit on shelves at the newly renovated showroom of Handi Medical.

The attractive showroom offers a wide variety of products. “We sell a lot of lift chairs,” Tomaszewski said. “We know a lot of people sleep in their chairs. We have a bath lift that sits in someone’s tub. It’s maybe $1,000 dollars but it’s way cheaper than getting a new tub.” 

Specialized beds, different types of wheelchairs, mobility scooters, incontinence products, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) equipment and supplies and many other items are on display in the showroom. The renovated space also features private rooms in which customers can try out new products. There’s also a lounge/waiting area for customers. 

While the showroom itself is spacious and attractive, it is supported by a much larger warehouse that provide space for Handi’s inner workings. A large office area houses staff members who answer phones and help customers. They are among the 120 people employed by Handi. 

Technicians work in the warehouse. Technician Perry Benhardus said that on average, the company repairs about 50 chairs per week. 

The warehouse is abuzz with work. The parts department has an automation system that helps fulfill orders and many isles of parts and medical equipment ready to bring to the front. Employees busily package and fulfill orders, ready to get things shipped out. 

Tomaszewski pointed out that not everything Handi does can be seen with a tour of the business. “Our assistive technology team works with people that have complex rehab needs. When you think of a wheel chair for example it should be treated like someone’s legs.” 

“In Minnesota people often use wheelchairs not only as their legs to get from point A to B. It’s also their car. They’re going to and from trains and with our salt and snow and sand and everything else that wheelchairs have to live through, insurance companies when they pay for them expect them to last five years. We purposefully provide high-end chairs that can take on all of those elements.” 

That pays long-term benefits. “Our service technicians are thrilled because they aren’t repairing them as often, the customer is happy because they aren’t bringing it in as often, and as a company we don’t get paid more because a chair cost more,” she said. “We get the same reimbursement as any other company. We just think it’s the right thing today to provide really high end so people can stay in the community more and stay mobile.” 

Handi has three locations. St. Paul is their headquarters, warehouse and main showroom. Other locations are in Coon Rapids and Mankato. 


Story and photos by Chris Juhn, Handi Medical.