Tag Archives: Atlanta

Family Feud

October 16, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“At home sitting on your couch it’s easy to think of the answers, but when you’re up there you have to be on your A-game and don’t have extra time to think.”

-Danita Webb

There’s no greater certainty than that of an armchair game show contestant. Answers flow easily from a cushy couch, with the benefit of comfy pants, snacks, and extra seconds to spare before buzzing in via the customary shout at the TV screen. 

Now, name something that might derail the masterful omnipotence of such astute sofa spuds. Survey says…the lights, camera, action, live studio audience, and split-second pressure of actually appearing on Family Feud, as several Omaha families discovered. 

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“We’ve always watched the show, yelling answers at the TV, feeling like we knew more than the contestants. So when auditions came to Omaha, we jumped right on it,” says Danita Webb, who joined sisters Dorotha Rohlfsen, Darnisha Ladd, Sherita White, and Beverly Tate to compete as the White Family. 

The fivesome played mock games for producers at the October 2014 audition, alongside hundreds of local families.

“You would’ve thought there really was $20,000 on the line, because we were jumping up and down, high-fiving each other. It was awesome,” says Webb.

One Friday night the following January, Webb and some of her sisters were together when the good news arrived.

“My sister checked her mail and found this blue postcard from Family Feud that said ‘Congratulations!’ and we just went crazy,” says Webb.

The Franklin Family also received that lucky, blue-hued golden ticket to the Feud.   

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Cydney Franklin—who competed with sister Lindsey Franklin, mother Brigette Law Franklin, father Frederick Franklin, and aunt Patricia Franklin—says her mother urged the family to audition in matching “We Don’t Coast” T-shirts displaying their Omaha pride.

“Our family is really close,” says Franklin. “(Auditioning) was mostly just something to do for fun together that actually turned into us getting on the show.”

Six more Omaha-area families made the cut—the Quaites, Coffiels, Shanks, McIntoshes, Kirshenbaums, and Skaffs. But only the White and Franklin families would return from their Atlanta tapings victorious. The Whites won two games, including one Fast Money round victory, and the Franklins took it all the way to game five, the maximum number of games each family can compete in, with five straight victories landing them on the platform with the grand prize car. They may have made it look easy, but both women say their victories were hard fought.     

“You really earn that money,” says Webb. “You have to make sure you’re smiling, clapping, thinking of your next answer. There’s so much going on that it can be stressful. At home sitting on your couch it’s easy to think of the answers, but when you’re up there you have to be on your A-game and don’t have extra time to think.”

“Finishing that fifth game and winning the car was a high point, but honestly, the coolest part is bonding over those memories together. We reminisce often about the highs and lows of Family Feud.”

-Cydney Franklin

While it was her family’s fun-loving energy that got them on the show, Franklin says they realized it was serious business when they arrived in the Atlanta studio. Although they went on to win five games, she says they waited a day and a half to be plucked from the audience to compete, then nearly lost their first game.   

“It was one of the most intense moments of my life,” says Franklin. “We’d gone through so much to get to that point and then were sure we were going to lose, but at the last second my sister came through with the answer—I don’t know how she did it—and we won. We came back the next morning and just kept winning.”

Both women agree it wasn’t all nail-biting nervousness, thanks to congenial host Steve Harvey.   

“He is a riot,” says Webb. “You’re so nervous at first, but he really helps you let loose and have fun.”

“Steve is hilarious, and each episode is almost like a comedy show,” says Franklin. “He’s also really inspiring. At commercial break he shares these uplifting, inspirational messages about being your best self, fulfilling your dreams, and about himself overcoming his own obstacles and hurdles in life.”

Webb and White say that while the prize money was wonderful, it’s the family bonding around celebrating their accomplishment they cherish most.

familyfeud1“Running out onstage to celebrate winning with my sisters was awesome,” says Webb. “It was especially meaningful to us because we tried out in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I am a seven-year breast cancer survivor. We all wore pink when we auditioned and then on the show a year later, too. It was amazing to create those memories together and celebrate that great accomplishment.”       

“Finishing that fifth game and winning the car was a high point, but honestly, the coolest part is bonding over those memories together,” says Franklin. “We reminisce often about the highs and lows of Family Feud.”

Following two 14-hour studio days, the Franklins finished their third day at about 3 p.m.

“We walked out of the building, and it was the first day we’d left that the sun was still shining. So we were all joking like, ‘Was this a dream? Did this actually happen?’”

For at-home champs aspiring to transition from couch to soundstage, Franklin and Webb suggest folks bring a lively energy, but one that truthfully reflects their family’s authentic personality. 

“Make sure that you bring that family togetherness and have an enthusiastic personality,” says Webb. “You definitely have to turn it up if you’re going to be on the show.”

Visit familyfeud.com for more information.

Eat Fit Go

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fast-casual restaurant chains, such as Panera Bread and Chipotle, have gained market share in recent years. They offer fresher fare than traditional fast food joints, but maintain the speed and convenience of counter service. Omaha-based Eat Fit Go ups the ante with an even faster and arguably healthier option for consumers on the go.

“I think, in general, the public is going through a food revolution,” says Eat Fit Go owner Aaron McKeever. “Everybody is kind of going towards that health conscious customer. And that’s definitely us. We’re convenience, grab, and go.”

McKeever’s three Omaha stores have large refrigerators stocked with a wide variety of pre-packaged meals and snacks. Every package clearly lists nutritional information and nearly all of them have fewer than 600 calories. There are microwaves for customers to heat up their meals if they choose to dine in.

“When we put this concept together, my partner, Sam (Vakhidov), and I wanted the feeling of a Starbucks-meets-an-Apple-Store. It’s fresh, it’s inviting, you can stay,” says McKeever.

EatFitGo2This isn’t McKeever’s first foray into restaurants or retail. Twenty years ago he started in business with a car dealership and is a former owner of Pitch Pizzeria and Jams Bar & Grill. He says he recently sold his shares in his other restaurants because “at the rate we’re growing with (Eat Fit Go), this needs my focus.”

He is not the company’s only industry veteran. Executive Chef Karl Marsh is the vice president of kitchen operations and comes up with several of the menu ideas.

Sitting at a table in the stylish Aksarben Village location, McKeever explains that they have a range of customers with different dietary needs, including people on low calorie, gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly diets. He says athletes like it because they know exactly what they are putting in their bodies.

One of his regular customers is Brandon Howell. A member of the Right at Home corporate marketing team, Howell says he likes that he can walk to the store from his Aksarben Village office.

“I usually eat lunch there about three times a week, and then I maybe grab dinner twice a week from there,” says Howell. “Really, with me trying to lose weight, it’s the calories that are in the meals, the portion control, the ease of it.”

Howell lives alone and says he doesn’t always want to cook in large batches for himself. He also points out that Eat Fit Go is teaching him about appropriate portion sizes and what is possible to prepare on his own. NOLA’s Dirty Rice and the All American breakfast are his favorites.

“It’s all very high-quality food, and it all tastes good,” says Howell. “That breakfast is like 320 calories, and I struggle to finish it.”

McKeever says his target customers were originally soccer moms who didn’t have time to cook but wanted their kids to eat something healthy on the way to activities.

“I think that the biggest thing with this concept—this grab-and-go concept—is changing people’s lifestyles. They want a healthy option that really hasn’t been out there in terms of convenience. I think that making dinner now at home is a luxury,” says McKeever.

The company is developing a kids’ menu and vegetarian entrees. As the organization expands and more franchises are sold around the country, each market will have a central, corporate-run kitchen that supplies the franchisees with meals.

The first corporate-owned Eat Fit Go locations opened in early 2016 in Omaha, with franchises set to open in several Midwestern cities and as far away as Atlanta and Scottsdale, Arizona.

“They should put one by my house, too, and take all of my money,” says Howell.

Visit eatfitgo.com for more information. B2B

In the Middle of it All

December 1, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Leo A Daly

Chris Johnson graduated from college and looked left.

Then he looked right.

With sheepskin in hand—a degree in architecture from Iowa State—he went chasing his first job in the field.

But not at home.

“I thought the best design only occurred on the West Coast or East Coast,” Johnson says.
Turns out what he was looking for was right in front of him all along—Leo A Daly, one of the largest planning, architecture, engineering, interior design, and program management firms in the world.

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But Johnson, a native Omahan, didn’t know that Leo A Daly.

“It was almost embedded in me that they’re an Omaha firm just doing Omaha work,” Johnson says. “I wasn’t sure of their national or international design presence.”

He dug deeper.“Holy cow,” he recalls discovering, “there’s a great design firm right here doing things all over the world.”

Johnson joined Leo A Daly in 1990 and today is a vice president and managing principal in Omaha. His years with the firm are but one chapter in its extensive history. It was begun in 1915 by Leo A. Daly Sr. and remains in family hands with his grandson, Chairman and CEO Leo A. Daly III.

Early on, the firm indeed was Omaha-centric, its work featuring more than a handful of projects in and around the city for the Catholic church.

“Look at some of the turn-of-the-century Catholic churches and, more often than not, you’ll see Leo Daly on the cornerstone,” Johnson says.

But it was a much larger Catholic project that helped Leo A Daly become much larger—Boys Town.

The firm’s first major planning assignment came in 1922, creating the Boys Town master plan for Father Flanagan’s 160-acre campus that then was 10 miles west of Omaha. The relationship continues today as Leo A Daly has designed 90% of Boys Town buildings.

Leo a Daly's original rendering for Boys Town (1922).

Leo a Daly’s original rendering for Boys Town (1922).

Others in Omaha and beyond began to take notice.

“Boys Town really began to grow Leo Daly into a regional and national architecture and engineering firm,” Johnson says. That led to work for the healthcare market. Then came work for the federal government related to national defense.

Eventually, Leo A Daly went global. Today the privately held company’s portfolio includes projects in nearly 90 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Clients include public, private, and institutional organizations in sectors including aviation, commercial development, higher education, transit, and transportation. And while other firms in the industry increasingly become specialized, Leo A Daly has intentionally stayed multidisciplinary.

“We want to think holistically about these facilities, both during design and when they are operational,” Johnson says. “We really learn a lot from each other as far as innovation.”

That’s helped give the firm staying power. So, too, has a quality staff, Johnson says, and a marketplace that rewards “quality and innovation,” a statement backed by more than 500 design awards.

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The company has more than 800 design and engineering professionals in 32 offices worldwide—Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Atlanta, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, an engineering, infrastructure consulting, and program management division of Leo A Daly, is in 18 cities.

But corporate headquarters remain in Omaha at almost its geographic center on Indian Hills Drive. The office boasts one of Omaha’s finest art collections, which has been amassed by the Daly family over the years.

“You’re really working in an atmosphere that elevates your game,” Johnson says of his surroundings.

Thank goodness for that Omaha presence. The city would be unrecognizable without such icons as First National Tower, Mutual of Omaha, Memorial Park, and other landmarks.

And Leo A Daly is building today the icons of tomorrow. Recent projects include the mixed-use development in downtown’s Capitol District, Nebraska Medical Center’s Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, and the relocation of Creighton University Medical Center to CHI’s Bergan Mercy Campus.

Also notable is the company’s transformation of the 1898 Burlington Passenger Station into a state-of-the-art television station for KETV. Among the project’s chief designers was Leo A Daly architect Sheila Ireland. Objectives included an initiative to keep the past visible where possible, allowing the building to tell its own story. Throughout the building are signs of the original 1898 Greek Revival design, its dramatic 1930s renovation, and updates from the 1950s. In one space, plaster from a bygone era has been cleverly framed as wall art. Even signs of the station’s 40-year vacancy remain visible.

Perhaps only a firm that’s been around nearly as long the station is wise enough, bold enough, to take such an approach.

“It’s exciting to work at a firm that has as much history with the city of Omaha as Leo Daly has,” Ireland says.

She hopes her work on the Burlington Station will help it last “hopefully for another 50 to 100 years.”

Chances are Leo A Daly will still be here—in the middle of it all.

Visit leoadaly.com to learn more.

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