5 uplifting stories: Miami University grads ink multi-million deal, 20 years of Neal’s Famous BBQ and more

Mike Neal, owner of Neal's Famous BBQ, has been in the food business in Hamilton for nearly twenty years. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Mike Neal, owner of Neal's Famous BBQ, has been in the food business in Hamilton for nearly twenty years. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Here is a look at five positive Butler County stories that were in the news this week.


TV ‘Shark Tank’ competitors who are Miami University grads ink multi-million deal

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Recent Miami University graduates Oliver Zak (left) and Selom Agbitor impressed in their high-pressure debut last year on ABC's nationally televised show "Shark Tank." The pair, which created the Mad Rabbit skin care company, got investor Mark Cuban to pony up $500,000 for their start up firm. The two, who just signed a national distribution deal, are shown on stage during the broadcast. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

Recent Miami University graduates Oliver Zak (left) and Selom Agbitor impressed in their high-pressure debut last year on ABC's nationally televised show "Shark Tank." The pair, which created the Mad Rabbit skin care company, got investor Mark Cuban to pony up $500,000 for their start up firm. The two, who just signed a national distribution deal, are shown on stage during the broadcast. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

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Recent Miami University graduates Oliver Zak (left) and Selom Agbitor impressed in their high-pressure debut last year on ABC's nationally televised show "Shark Tank." The pair, which created the Mad Rabbit skin care company, got investor Mark Cuban to pony up $500,000 for their start up firm. The two, who just signed a national distribution deal, are shown on stage during the broadcast. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

The skyrocketing careers of two Miami University business graduates — who landed a half-million dollar investor last year on TV’s “Shark Tank” — has now seen them ink a multi-million deal to take their tattoo skin care product across America.

The new business partnership is propelling the Miami grads to even higher success than they ever imagined when they were college roommates living in a modest apartment next to the Oxford campus.

For Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor, Class of 2019 finance majors, it’s a stressful time — but it’s the good kind of stress, they told the Journal-News.

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Neal’s Famous BBQ celebrates the journey from $10 and a dream

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Mike Neal, owner of Neal’s Famous BBQ, has a new location, Neal’s Grab ‘N’ Go, now open at 997 Eaton Ave. in Hamilton. The modest storefront is strategically located next to Flub’s Ice Cream, providing a dinner-and-dessert dining option to hungry Hamiltonians. On Friday, three days before that locations ribbon-cutting ceremony, he received delivery of his third restaurant, Neal s on Wheels, which was built by a custom food truck manufacturer in Fitzgerald, Ga. Neal stands inside the new Neal s On Wheels trailer that he plans to have wrapped with his logo and photos of his food items. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Mike Neal, owner of Neal’s Famous BBQ, has a new location, Neal’s Grab ‘N’ Go, now open at 997 Eaton Ave. in Hamilton. The modest storefront is strategically located next to Flub’s Ice Cream, providing a dinner-and-dessert dining option to hungry Hamiltonians. On Friday, three days before that locations ribbon-cutting ceremony, he received delivery of his third restaurant, Neal s on Wheels, which was built by a custom food truck manufacturer in Fitzgerald, Ga. Neal stands inside the new Neal s On Wheels trailer that he plans to have wrapped with his logo and photos of his food items. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Mike Neal, owner of Neal’s Famous BBQ, has a new location, Neal’s Grab ‘N’ Go, now open at 997 Eaton Ave. in Hamilton. The modest storefront is strategically located next to Flub’s Ice Cream, providing a dinner-and-dessert dining option to hungry Hamiltonians. On Friday, three days before that locations ribbon-cutting ceremony, he received delivery of his third restaurant, Neal s on Wheels, which was built by a custom food truck manufacturer in Fitzgerald, Ga. Neal stands inside the new Neal s On Wheels trailer that he plans to have wrapped with his logo and photos of his food items. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Editor’s note: This article is provided by The Hamiltonian magazine and first appeared as justhamilton.com.

HAMILTON — 20 years ago, Michael Neal set up his first sandwich stand selling a family staple: barbecue sandwiches. He’d learned how to make barbecue sauce and slow-cook meat to perfection from his father.

“My Dad is from the South, Alabama, so we have Southern Alabama dishes, barbecue with homemade sides. We grew up farming, planting our own vegetables. We have Southern roots,” Neal said.

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Linden Theater in Hamilton sparks interest from Revivalists frontman David Shaw

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The former Linden Theater, later renamed the Grand, may become a music-entertainment in Hamilton's Lindenwald neighborhood, with musician David Shaw of the Revivalists interested in the project. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The former Linden Theater, later renamed the Grand, may become a music-entertainment in Hamilton's Lindenwald neighborhood, with musician David Shaw of the Revivalists interested in the project. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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The former Linden Theater, later renamed the Grand, may become a music-entertainment in Hamilton's Lindenwald neighborhood, with musician David Shaw of the Revivalists interested in the project. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Hamilton native David Shaw, leader of New Orleans-based adult alternative rock band the Revivalists, has shown interest in transforming the Lindenwald neighorhood’s former Linden Theater, later renamed the Grand, into an music entertainment venue.

City Manager Joshua Smith told Lindenwald’s neighborhood organization, PROTOCOL, Shaw recently visited Hamilton with promoters who consulted with city officials regarding the former theater and how it could be converted into an entertainment venue.

Frank Downie, leader of PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others; Celebrate Our Lindenwald), said that news came during a virtual gathering the group held this month.

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Selfie Scene business features 20 vignettes for taking fun photos

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Selfie Scene, located at 580 Miamisburg Centerville Rd., was opened in early December by Dayton natives and friends of 25 years, Matthew Gwin and James Kavanaugh, Jr. The business partners were fraternity brothers at Bowling Green State University, and both were coincidentally alumni of Archbishop Alter High School in Dayton. PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Franks

Credit: Staff

Selfie Scene, located at 580 Miamisburg Centerville Rd., was opened in early December by Dayton natives and friends of 25 years, Matthew Gwin and James Kavanaugh, Jr. The business partners were fraternity brothers at Bowling Green State University, and both were coincidentally alumni of Archbishop Alter High School in Dayton. PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Franks

Credit: Staff

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Selfie Scene, located at 580 Miamisburg Centerville Rd., was opened in early December by Dayton natives and friends of 25 years, Matthew Gwin and James Kavanaugh, Jr. The business partners were fraternity brothers at Bowling Green State University, and both were coincidentally alumni of Archbishop Alter High School in Dayton. PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Franks

Credit: Staff

Credit: Staff

Sometimes, taking a quality selfie isn’t as easy as “saying cheese.”

There are businesses dedicated to making selfie-taking a fun outing and entertainment option for friends of all ages, and that’s exactly what the Selfie Scene in Washington Twp. (Montgomery County) has set out to do.

Last month, friends of 25 years, Matthew Gwin and James Kavanaugh, Jr., opened Selfie Scene, located at 580 Miamisburg Centerville Rd. The business partners were fraternity brothers at Bowling Green State University and are alums of Archbishop Alter High School in Dayton.

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McCrabb: New senior center director traveled from Reno to Middletown; ‘all the pieces came together’

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Diane Rodgers has served as executive director of Central Connections since the end of November. She served a similar position in Reno, Nev., and moved to be closer to her daughter. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Diane Rodgers has served as executive director of Central Connections since the end of November. She served a similar position in Reno, Nev., and moved to be closer to her daughter. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Diane Rodgers has served as executive director of Central Connections since the end of November. She served a similar position in Reno, Nev., and moved to be closer to her daughter. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

When members of Central Connections, Middletown’s senior center, meet Diane Rodgers, they always ask where she lived and worked before.

“Reno, Nevada,” she tells them.

That’s when they reach to adjust their hearing aids.

Rodgers, who oversaw a senior center and worked with the homeless population in Reno, was interested in moving from the West Coast to be closer to her daughter, Naomi Smith, 22, a recent Seton Hall graduate who lives in New York.

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AND, for an extra sixth story of the day ...

Lakota West defensive back receives scholarship offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame

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Lakota West Malik Hartford reflects on their Division I Regional final football playoff game loss as Moeller celebrates in the background Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 at Dwire Field in Mason. Moeller won 21-17. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West Malik Hartford reflects on their Division I Regional final football playoff game loss as Moeller celebrates in the background Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 at Dwire Field in Mason. Moeller won 21-17. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West Malik Hartford reflects on their Division I Regional final football playoff game loss as Moeller celebrates in the background Friday, Nov. 19, 2021 at Dwire Field in Mason. Moeller won 21-17. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West defensive back Malik Hartford was among a wave of players in the class of 2023 to receive an Ohio State over the past week.

A four-star “athlete” prospect who had 58 tackles for the Firebirds last season, Hartford is the No. 4 prospect in the state and No. 217 in the nation in 247Sports Composite rankings.

The 6-3, 180-pounder also had two interceptions and caught a 49-yard pass as his team went 11-2 and advanced to the regional finals in Division I.

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