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Reel Family Breathing New Life into the Historic T.J. Lycan Building

Matthew, 35, and Alex (Clark) Reel, 33, took ownership of the historic T.J. Lycan building on Friday, February 2, 2018. They are the proud owners of one of Edina’s most well known structures.

The building was sold by Asa L. Shaw, who owns a number of buildings in Edina.

Alex, a Knox County native, has been marveling at the building since she was a child. Growing up, she was fascinated by the structure and recalls marveling at it in her youth.

“Everybody who sees that building has a connection with it,” said Alex. “It went up for sale on September tenth. We went and looked at it on the eleventh.”

“The day the sign went up in the building we set up a showing and started making real plans,” said Matt. “In order to do so, we realized we were going to have to do it right and we were going to have to give up part of our farm. During that process, I also had a couple conversations with a couple of the administrators out at school about how to help students make the transition from school into the workforce.”

The Reels have big plans for the Lycan building, which include phases of improvements and being of great benefit to the Knox County community. The Reels plan to add apartments to the building and reopen it as a business incubator. They have named it “The Incubation Project”.

“Phase one will be getting apartment spaces upstairs. After that, the business incubator,” said Matt.

A business incubator helps startup businesses succeed by providing support and limiting financial risk to the new business owners.

“I had been doing research into business incubation and talking to others working in small town revitalization in other areas,” said Alex. “We believe that Knox County has a future that could be very bright – that has online workers and entrepreneurs.”

“We’ll set it up like a gym membership. We’ll have WiFi (internet access) and printers, business amenities and work stations. There will be areas people can sit with their laptops and a couch. We want to create a space where they can be around other professionals, sharing ideas, energy and inspiration,” said Matt. “We will also bring in successful entrepreneurs to give talks and share their knowledge. Anything from business planning to budgeting to payroll to insurance.”

The Reels are already working on restoring and remodeling the building. They are in the process of applying for grants to help with the financial end of the project. They expect it to take two to three years to become operational.

“That building has played such a huge part in the economy of the community and the economic development of the past. I think it just makes sense that it can be at the heart of the revitalization,” said Alex. “We are going to try to focus on restoration, not just renovation. We want to maintain the historical aspects of the building.”

The Reels have built a website for people to follow their progress and share stories and memories about the Lycan building. You can find it online at

Click HERE to see them on Instagram.

The Reels have four children: Agnes, 11, Elijah, 9, Josephine, 8, and Thomas, 6.

Matt works as a Field Agent for the Knights of Columbus. Alex is the Director of Development/Planned Giving at Truman State University.

This story was featured in the February 28, 2018 edition of The Edina Sentinel.

Story by Echo Menges