Tag Archives: Best of Omaha

Greatness

November 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not a “Best Of” category that we consider, but we should.

There’s a guy who works on the Yard Waste Truck that services my neighborhood, who I noticed one day, who should be considered for one of our “best.” It’s easy to forget the folks who keep everything going—the people who are at the foundation of our society. This guy is great. I don’t use the word great lightly. His greatness can be traced back 2,350 years. Let me explain.

Back in the fourth century B.C.E., Alexander of Macedonia won so many battles, and marched his army over such great distances spreading Hellenistic culture, and named more entire cities after himself than our current president’s eponymous towers, he became “the Great,” or Alexander “the Best.”

Then other conquerors came along to challenge Alexander. Julius “Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres” Caesar made his claim. He spread the Roman Empire across Western Europe right up to the Rhine—where my tree-worshipping German ancestors on the far side of the river gave him reason to yearn for another summer on the French Riviera. He was good, but Julius had a rich, united, populous, hyper-organized society at his back, a society that knew the difference between X and C. Alexander came from a cultural backwater. A rocky province far from the core of a quarrelsome, city vs. city, fragmented Greek civilization that had been weakened by years of internecine warfare and hemlock overdoses. Julius falls short—Alexander the Best.

Mehmed the Conqueror took down the last vestiges of the Roman Empire when he took Constantinople in 1453. He spread the Ottoman Empire across the Middle East, the Balkans, the Crimea, and into Central Europe where he even bested Prince Vlad III, best known as Dracula. But he too, was the beneficiary of a well-organized, large base of operations—the Macedonians were but a speck on the map in a time when most maps were covered with dragons, monsters, and blank spaces. Again, Alexander the Best.

Napoleon humbled army after army sent against him by the scions of a post-feudal, aristocratic system, that was, even then, feeling the tide of “modern” culture as it dampened the careworn threads of its fraying cloak. (But Napoleon had gunpowder, artillery, muskets, factories, powdered wigs, and crepes. Alexander had a one-eyed father and a homicidal mother. Nowadays the lad would have needed some serious therapy, but back then, he translated his trauma into a career of conquest. Alexander outranks him.

So what made Alexander the “Best?”

Was it his tactical skill in battle? His force of personality? His legendary horse Bucephalus? (Forget Roy Rogers and Trigger. Bucephalus was, by all accounts, the “best” horse ever.) All these factors are important, but the root of Alexander’s greatness starts in the forests of Macedonia’s rugged mountains and valleys. There was a tree in that wooded landscape that lent itself to being cut into long shafts. Tipped with a spearhead, these lances, known as sarissas, stretched up to 20 feet long. The Macedonian army, organized into square formations known as a phalanx, bristling with these elongated, fearsome weapons were simply unbeatable—at least until they ran into enraged elephants in the Indus. The wood of these trees has the perfect grain, the perfect blend of flexibility, weight, and strength that could be assembled in sections like fishing pole and used to conquer the world.

Which brings me to those same trees, the trees that made the lances, the trees that grace my front yard—the mighty ash.

My ash trees have grown old. They shed branches like I shed hair. I take those branches and cut, cut, and chainsaw them into shorter lengths that I bundle and leave at the curb. And then he arrives.

Announced with the rumble of the green Deffenbaugh truck, he balances with one foot on a pad and one hand holding a rung at the rear of the vehicle. He performs a perfect semi-jeté off the running board towards my pile of wood before the truck has even made a complete squeaking stop, pirouettes as he snags the broken bundles, and flings them without a single wasted motion into the maw of the compactor. Then, in a blink, he is back onboard and the truck moves on, now carrying scraps of the same wood that made Alexander immortal.

I watched it all from my porch. I thought to myself, “This guy is great.”

He is the best.

Otis Twelve hosts the radio program Early Morning Classics with Otis Twelve on 90.7 KVNO, weekday mornings from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Visit kvno.org for more information.

This column was published in the 2018 Best of Omaha results book.

List-O-Mania

Omaha Ranks as the best for a lot of reasons—from being the best city for drivers to ranking in the top three best cities in which to find a job. We also have a slew of best places, from Henry Doorly Zoo to the Orpheum Theater and Holland Performing Arts Center.

Omahans already knew that—it’s why we live here. But it’s nice to get accolades from outsiders, and we have received many of those recently. This list, compiled with help from the Omaha CVB, highlights some of the accolades we have received over the past two years. Check them all out, do you agree with them?

No. 1s

Best Cities for Singer-Songwriters

Livability.com—April 2016

Best Cities for Car Drivers

NerdWallet.com—May 2015

Top 10 Best American Cities to Work in Tech

SmartAsset.com—September 2015

Best U.S. Cities for Paid Internships

Time.com/money—June 2015

U.S. Healthcare Affordability Index

CastlightHealth.com—June 2015

Fastest Growing Tech Hubs in the U.S.

Uncubed.com—February 2015

Where People are Saving the Most by Refinancing in Nebraska (Douglas County)

SmartAsset.com—February 2015

Top Five Animal Attractions-
Henry Doorly Zoo

Family Fun Magazine—2015

No. 2s

Good Jobs,
Affordable Housing
and High Quality of Life

Gizmodo.com—June 2016

Best Place to Live 2015 (Papillion)

Time.com/money—August 2015

Top Theater Venues in the Midwest (Orpheum Theater and Holland Performing Arts Center)

Venues Today—April 2015

Lowest Unemployment Rate in the U.S.

POLITICO Magazine—January 2015

Best U.S. Cities for Millennial College Students

OnlineColleges.com—March 2015

CNBC—May 2015

Top 10 Best Foodie Cities

Livability.com—2015

Best City for Recreation

WalletHub.com—July 2015

Best Cities to Find a Job

Fortune—June 2015

Most Debt Savvy Residents

SmartAsset.com—September 2015

No. 3s

Best Cities to Find a Job

ZipRecruiter.com—January 2016

No. 4s

Great Small Cities for Food Lovers

Wall Street Journal—March 2015

No. 5s

Best Cities to Work for a Small Business

WalletHub.com—May 2015

Best Metro Area for STEM Professionals

WalletHub.com—January 2015

Best Big Cities in the Midwest

Time.com/money—August 2015

No. 6s

Best Large City for First-Time Home Buyers

WalletHub.com—July 2017

The 12 Metro Areas with the Least-Stressed Commuters

LawnStarter.com—October 2016

Best Cities for First-Time Homebuyers

SmartAsset.com—March 2016

Best Places to Live If You’re Trying to Save Money

GOBankingRates.com —February 2015

Top 10 Cities for First-Time Homebuyers

SmartAsset.com—March 2015

Top 10 Beer Cities

TravelChannel.com—September 2016

No. 7s

Best Cities for Raising a Family

Forbes—2016

Best Cities to Get a Job

ZipRecruiter/msn.com—January 2015

WalletHub.com—January 2015

Top Ten Cities for Creatives

SmartAsset.com—January 2016

No. 8s

The Best Minor League Baseball Towns

SmartAsset.com—2017

Best Large Real Estate Market

WalletHub.com—2017

State Well-Being Rank

Gallup Healthways—2016

Top Cities for New College Grads

SmartAsset.com—2015

No. 9s

Best City for Renters

WalletHub.com—July 2017

Most Caring Cities in America

WalletHub.com—December 2015

No. 10s

2016 Digital Cities: Transparency, Security, Infrastructure (250,000-499,999 category)

Government Technology Magazine—March 2017

Best Large City for First-Time Home Buyers

WalletHub.com—July 2016

Top Tech Cities in the Midwest

ComputeMidwest.com—September 2016

Best Cities to Start a Career

WalletHub.com—May 2016

This list was originally printed in the 2018 Best of Omaha Results IssueTo view this article as it was printed, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/november_3adecember_20boo_20om1217/10

The Best Is Yet to Come

April 5, 2017 by

Wow! A city of “Bests!”

Omaha is filled with so many amazing businesses, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs, vendors, doctors, venues, restaurants, and… well you name the category. The “Bests.” They make us proud to be from Omaha.

And yet, how many times have you been on a trip to some exotic locale like Bora Bora, Paris, Costa Rica, Portland, or even Lubbock, and upon being asked where you’re from, you’ve mumbled, “Omaha,” furtively, under your breath?

Despite the fact that our hometown boasts a 6-foot-tall bronze statue of Chef Boyardee, and the archetypical power of our name emblazoned on the Wizard of Oz’s escape balloon, we feel shy about claiming our place as one of the best places on earth.

Admit it. We’ve always had a bit of an inferiority complex about where we’re from—where we live. But, why? Well, I suspect that bit of shame might be rooted in the lyrics of an old song that described this town of ours back in the early days:

“Hast ever been in Omaha,
Where rolls the dark Missouri down,
And four strong horses scarce can draw
An empty wagon through the town?
Where sand is blown from every mound
To fill the eyes and ears and throat?
Where all the steamers are aground
And all the shanties are afloat?
Where whisky shops the livelong night
Are vending out their poison juice;
Where men are often very tight,
And women deemed a trifle loose?”

Hardly a “New York, New York” or “April in Paris,” that’s for sure. The lyrics are no match for “Bombay Se Gayi Poona,” either.

We started with a pretty brutal musical self-image. Maybe this nagging sense of “less than” is rooted in the dearth of good tunes about our fair city.

Groucho Marx tried to lift our spirits with a ditty that included, “There’s a place called Omaha, Nebraska, in the foothills of Tennessee.” The geographical illiteracy, however, negated any positive image building.

Stan Freberg didn’t help with his musical Omaha! that included lyrics like; “Who me? Miss the weenie roast in Omaha?” and “Omaha moon keep shining. You shone on Council Bluffs last June. Leaving Dundee lovers pining. Please remember you’re an Omaha moon.”

Nobel Prize winner Robert Allen Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) sang, “I’m going to ride into Omaha on a horse. Out to the country club and the golf course,” in 1964—no comfort there.

Psychedelic ensemble Moby Grape did us no favors with their 1968 single, “Omaha,” which didn’t mention Omaha even once beyond the title.

Bob Seger sang about “A long and lonesome highway east of Omaha” in his paean to touring as a rock star but he never mentioned actually coming into town while he was in the neighborhood. So, thanks a lot, Bob.

We did hit it big in 1973 when Grand Funk Railroad sang about “four young chiquitas in Omaha,” in their No. 1 hit “We’re an American Band.” The problem was, Little Rock got top billing in the verses, and, after the chorus we ended up getting a hotel torn down.

So here’s the deal, we need an Omaha anthem. A song with the Omaha equivalent of “little cable cars,” and some parallel to “that toddling town.” We need to be where “little town shoes” are headed. Omaha needs a “Best Song About Omaha” winner next year. We need to patch up the psychic scars we’ve borne for all these many years.

It won’t be easy. Others have tried and failed. I’m counting on you, we all are.

Do you have an anthem for Omaha? E-mail a video of your song to Omaha Magazine at editor@omahamagazine.com to be considered for prizes.

This article was printed in Omaha Magazine’s 2017 Best of Omaha” issue.

Lenten Fish Fries

March 16, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Lent in Omaha—a time of repentance and moderation for devout Catholics—is synonymous with crowded lines of happy, drunken people waiting for heaping piles of deep-fried fish.

Parishioners and non-churchgoers alike rejoice with the approach of Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics who have never joined in the fun should not hesitate. All are welcome. Lenten fish fries (complete with raffles, pickle cards, and bake sales) are the biggest fundraising event of the year for many Catholic churches, schools, and charities in Omaha.

The beer-infused Friday fry-day gatherings are a popular annual ritual in Midwestern cities with robust Catholic communities. Omaha’s large Catholic population means that several dozen churches will host fish fries throughout the 40 days of Lenten fast (six weeks). Meanwhile, there are plenty of other community groups, such as the local Disabled American Veterans, hosting their own Lenten fish fries.

Some start the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Most begin after Ash Wednesday formally initiates the Lenten season. Some conclude after only a few weeks; others continue for the entire duration of the Lenten fast, including Good Friday two days before Easter.

Not all of them are bacchanals, with children running wild while parents and young adults socialize. A few are alcohol-free. But all are genuine family-friendly celebrations of community.

Expect to spend a few hours standing and waiting in line at Omaha’s most-popular fish fries. The long wait—and the chance to meet new friends while drinking beer—is sometimes the most fun part of the evening.

Omaha Magazine has compiled a list of six must-try fish fries for every week during Lent. But the list is hardly exhaustive. Other excellent fish fries are plentiful in the Omaha area. For those in a hurry, seeking out lesser-known gatherings might even save on the wait time. Or you might just discover a new Lenten favorite.

HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

2901 Fontenelle Blvd., Omaha, NE 68104 . 402.451.6622 . holynameomaha.org

Omaha’s oldest Lenten fish fry event, the Holy Name “Fryday” is famous for its jam-packed line, fried Alaskan pollock, french fries, coleslaw, and Rotella’s bread. The BYOB line makes the event especially unique for the 21-and-over crowd. Those arriving at 6 p.m. can expect to find a line stretching out the church, through the adjacent Holy Name Elementary School, and circling around the building. A wait time of three hours is not unusual. The initiated come prepared with coolers full of beer to sustain drinking through the long wait. Upon entering the main building, a free cup of beer is offered. Another free cup of beer is offered if there’s a line out the cafeteria. More beer is sold inside the cafeteria, and a storeroom accommodates winter coats and coolers. Nebraska politicians are known to make appearances at the event, which averages an attendance of 2,300 people per night. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7

MARY OUR QUEEN CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

3405 S. 118th St., Omaha, NE 68144 . 402.333.8662 . maryourqueenchurch.com

A packed line meanders through the halls of Mary Our Queen School, where intermittent refreshment tables allow visitors to replenish their beer pitchers/cups in one of Omaha’s most-popular Lenten fish fries. Young volunteers walk up and down the school’s hallway to collect emptied pitchers. Popcorn is available in the line near the cafeteria. A drive-through allows motorists to avoid the packed halls. Food options include: fried or baked fish, macaroni and cheese, spudsters, fries, coleslaw, bread, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH OF ELKHORN (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

20500 West Maple Road, Elkhorn, NE 68022 . 402.289.4289 . stpatselkhorn.org

The fish fry at St. Patrick’s features fried or baked catfish and/or pollock. Margaritas and a variety of beers offer a change of pace from the adult beverages typically available at area fish fries. Cheese pizza, fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and dessert round out the available food options. There’s a drive-through, and there are clowns and face-painting for the kids inside. Fridays (5-9:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH

14330 Eagle Run Drive, Omaha, NE 68164 . 402.496.7988 . svdpomaha.org

A cheerful and welcoming atmosphere radiates from the jam-packed line snaking through the halls of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. The event features $3 cups, $8 bottles of wine, and $8 pitchers of Boulevard, Lucky Bucket, or Bud Light beer. For those seeking better quality beer on the cheap, St. Vincent de Paul’s fish fry is an excellent choice. Food options include fried or baked fish, cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and fries or baked potato, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Credit cards accepted. Fridays (5:30-8:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. JOHN’S GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH

602 Park Ave., Omaha, NE 68105 . 402.345.7103 . stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Alcohol is not sold at the event; however, St. John’s offers possibly the most delicious food available at any Omaha area Lenten fish fry. The church also offers historic tours of its Byzantine-style building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. A kitchen full of volunteers (some of whom grew up in Greece and migrated to the United States) cook and serve plaki—a Greek baked cod with Mediterranean sauce. Also available: panko-fried cod, breaded-fried shrimp, baked salmon, and vegetable moussaka (an eggplant lasagna), spanakopita (a pie filled with spinach and feta cheese), and piropita (cheese baked in phyllo dough). Specialty cheesecakes and baklava sundaes await at the dessert bar. Fridays (4:30 to 8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH

5219 S. 53rd St., Omaha, NE 68117 . 402.731.3176 . holyghostomaha.com

Clam chowder is one of the unique offerings at Holy Ghost Parish’s annual Lenten fish fry. The varied menu offers: shrimp, baked or fried cod, macaroni and cheese, or a combo dinner. Each dinner comes with baked potato, salad, fruit bar, and a drink. Beer, margaritas, and “watermelons” (a mixed drink) are sold. While the line is long, the wait is neither the longest nor the most beer-soaked in town. Expedited takeout service is available at the west end of the church. Fridays (4-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Omaha Magazine Wins 2015 Great Plains Journalism Award

April 14, 2015 by

Photo above: Director of Photography Bill Sitzmann, Creative Director John Gawley, Managing Editor Robert Nelson, and Senior Graphic Designer Kristen Hoffman with our award-winning cover at the 2015 Great Plains Journalism Awards ceremony in Tulsa, Okla.

Omaha Magazine won best magazine cover at the prestigious 2015 Great Plains Journalism Awards, one of five categories in which the magazine was named among three finalists.

The Great Plains Journalism Awards annually recognize the best newspaper and magazine journalism in an eight-state region comprising of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. The awards were presented during a luncheon April 13 at The Mayo Hotel in Tulsa, Okla.

Omaha Magazine won the top award in the Magazine Cover category for the January/February 2014 Best of Omaha issue, executed by Creative Director John Gawley, then-Junior Graphic Designer Paul Lukes, and Ben Lueders of Fruitful Design.

We received two of the three finalist slots in the Magazine Cover category. Gawley and Director of Photography Bill Sitzmann were nominated for our November/December 2014 cover featuring local radio legend Otis XII in a story written by Managing Editor Robert Nelson.

Nelson himself was a finalist in the Magazine Profile Writing category for his July/August 2014 cover story on then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and again in the Magazine Column Writing category for his September/October 2014 “The Closer” column, titled “Slogan Explosion.”

Sitzmann was recognized for his portrait of Jeff Toma accompanying the story “The Handyman Diaries” in the January/February 2014 issue of Omaha Home. That story was written by Executive Editor David Williams.

Mike Lang and Corey Hart of Spectral Chemist were recognized for their video supporting our September/October 2014 story “Cricket: The Grandfather of Baseball is Making a Comeback in Omaha,” written by Robyn Murray.

“I am proud of our talented staff and we are honored to tell the stories of the people of Omaha,” Omaha Magazine Publisher Todd Lemke says. “It’s great to be recognized by our peers as being right up there with the best of the best in an eight-state regional competition where Omaha Magazine was the only Nebraska magazine recognized as a finalist—let alone a winner. We also congratulate the Omaha World-Herald for their strong showing at the awards.”

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Best of Omaha Festival

December 1, 2014 by
Celebrate all that Omaha has to offer with Omaha Magazine’s annual Best of Omaha Festival  from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, at Baxter Arena.
Come check out the top voted businesses, chosen by you, the public. With eight different categories: nightlife, family, dining, household, health and beauty, retail, services, and transportation there is something for everyone.
We believe that with our wonderful sponsors and exciting NEW non-profit partner (4-H youth development program of Douglas and Sarpy counties), this festival will be the best one yet!
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the paid door cash revenue will go directly to the Douglas-Sarpy 4-H Club.* Come out and support your local 4-H club, while listening to live entertainment and trying out delicious food and beverage samples. You won’t want to miss this!
*Excludes VIP and Complimentary tickets.
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Ben Lueders

August 4, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The afternoon sun shines through the window, illuminating an armada of Lego creations. Large pirate ships defend one side of the room while, a few feet away, an opposing counter displays Star Wars vessels and such action figures as Anakin and Luke Skywalker manning their battle stations.
Ben Lueders, owner of Fruitful Design, is sitting at a rustic wooden table discussing upcoming projects with intern Nicholas Jones.

Lueders spent most of his childhood in Hawaii, during which time he was trained in classical piano and enjoyed creating things with Legos. Though he started off studying music in college, he often spent time in the library between classes drawing caricatures of his friends. After hearing about a job opening with the Hawaii Coral Reef initiative, Lueders headed downtown on whim. He surprised even himself by becoming their art director, a position he held for eight years before moving to Omaha in 2006.

He had never imagined that he could make a living drawing sharks, and music soon took a backseat to his newest creative outlet.

Lueders went on to work at local creative firm Eleven19 after winning, of all things, a coloring contest for Big Omaha. It was there that yet another light bulb went off. “I realized my love for working for a small local shop with awesome long-term clients and being able to do very creative work,” he says.

With that vision in mind, Fruitful Design was born. His business offers such services as branding, illustration, print media, and web design. His body of work also includes the background typography seen on the Best of Omaha™ cover of the January-February issue of this magazine.
All that was missing was the perfect space. As with so many young professionals, the thriving scene in Benson beckoned. A client would later morph into a landlord.

Lueders learned of the ambitious mission behind the 402 Arts Collective and director Ben Schafer’s ideas for the old Foundry building on Maple Street in Benson. Schafer planned to turn the space into a coffee shop, recording studio, live performance venue, and more. Lueders began by creating their new logo and branding. The 402 Arts collective became one of his first regular clients, and now is the location of Fruitful Design’s offices.

“I love Benson, it is such a magical place,” he adds.

Now with a space of his own, Lueders’ imagination moves far above and beyond a sketchpad and pencil. A room next to his office is where he teaches lessons on Wednesday nights. And, rekindling a once dormant passion, he is known to write his own music. The 402 Arts Collective’s recording studio shares a wall with Fruitful Design, and Lueders has some studio time saved up that he’s dying to use.

As business grows, the Legos continue to multiply, and musical notes waft back and forth through the walls, just like the innovative thoughts bouncing around in Lueders’ head.

There is still one question left unanswered. Why the “Fruitful” brand?

“I don’t measure my [design] successes by how much cooler they look,” he says, “but what I love to see is that my clients become more fruitful because of them.”

Diagnosing a Troubled Tree

June 20, 2013 by

When diagnosing a troubled tree, there are many variables that come into play. What species of tree are we dealing with? When and where was it planted? What problematic symptoms does it exhibit? One should look at the surroundings of the plant. Construction and soil compaction can play a huge role in a tree’s longevity. Weather is also a big factor. Storm damage, such as hail, can wreak havoc on a tree’s well-being.

The biggest issue we see is poor initial planting. Many trees are planted too deep or too high in the soil. A tree can survive in these stressful conditions for approximately 4-5 years before showing signs of decline. Watering can be a big issue, too. Most trees need 1” of water each week. Not enough or too much water can be detrimental to the tree’s growth.

When treating a diseased tree, the right diagnosis is key. Only a certified arborist will know which fungicide is required to treat a fungal problem, or which insecticide will best treat a tree infested with pests. Using the proper treatment application method is also essential and may depend on the severity of tree damage. When you see a tree exhibiting signs of trouble, it’s best to call a professional arborist right away. Likely, the tree has been in distress for some time. Better yet, employ a regular tree service to service and treat your trees year-round, before the trouble starts.

For tree analysis or treatment, call on the professionals at Terry Hughes Tree Service, voted #1 Tree Service in Best of Omaha™ 2013! Visit hughestree.com for more info.

Tan Without Damaging Your Skin

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Coco Chanel returned from a luxurious vacation in 1929, she declared “The 1929 girl must be tanned,” starting a beauty revolution that changed the sun-kissed look from being a sign of working-class status to chic, wealthy fashionista. Surprisingly, this trend has stuck around for nearly 85 years and has only grown as a desired beauty trait among women (not to mention its growth as a major cash-cow for the beauty industry).

The problem is more and more women are getting skin cancer while trying to achieve this look, even those in their early 20s who should barely have had time to damage their skin. With too much natural sun exposure, as well as tanning booth UV exposure, this beautiful look seems a little too dangerous. But as it’s the time of year again for swimsuits, women are lining up to get that perfect tan.

So how can we get the bronzed look without actually harming our skin?

If you’re attempting your own self-tanning experience, try Here Comes the Sun™ ($28), one of the many Philosophy skin care products available at Sephora in Village Pointe Shopping Center. According to Sephora’s website, “This self-tanner provides a sun-inspired golden glow within hours of application while an amino acid complex helps firm and tone for smooth, healthy-looking skin. The oil-free, streak-free formula is easy to apply for even, mistake-proof coverage. Skip the sun, and go for the glow.”

Cheaper options—like Jergens Natural Glow, L’Oreal Sublime Bronze, or Sally Hansen Airbrush Leg—usually range from $7-15 and are available at Walgreens, Target, or Walmart. But always read the product reviews first! While these products will save you money, they can sometimes spread unevenly or leave your hands, arms, knees, ankles, and feet looking too brown or awkwardly orange. A few minutes of online reading can be the difference between countless hours of frustrated scrubbing in the shower and a thrifty, beautiful glow.

If you don’t trust your own handiwork to get the desired effect, most local tanning salons have spray-on tanning available. Best of Omaha® winner Ashley Lynn’s Tanning, which has 11 locations in Omaha, is known for its “sunless tan” spray-on tanning.

A “sunless tan” at Ashley Lynn’s only takes a few minutes. Clients can go fully nude or wear swimsuits. Single sessions cost $30, but the tanning salon currently has a $39 special for three sessions.

“We use the VersaSpa spray tan booth,” says Dana Morinelli, director of marketing with Ashley Lynn’s. “There’s a clear treatment and a bronzer treatment. The bronzer is topical. [It] washes off so you can see it right away. Both are composed of skin-firming agents to give you long-lasting color.” Morinelli adds that the color in the clear treatment develops four to eight hours after the session, and both treatments usually last about five to seven days, depending on skin type and daily skin care routines.

Though the bronzer treatment isn’t recommended if you’re getting a quick spray-on tan during your lunch break before heading back to the office, Morinelli assures that the treatments are water-soluble, so clothes won’t be stained.

“If you’re looking for quick color with fewer sessions, then [sunless tan] is perfect. It’s completely cosmetic, and it gives you that immediate tan,” says Morinelli.

From Lightbulb Sales to Magazine Tales

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Todd Lemke discovered the art of the deal as an eight-year-old growing up in Papillion. One day, his father, Raymond—who believed that allowances should be earned, not given—drove the family station wagon to the old Skaggs store and loaded up on dozens of discounted lightbulbs. When he got home, he got out a map of Papillion, divided it into three sectors (one for each of his children), and told his boys to fan out and sell the lightbulbs. Young Todd dutifully knocked on doors. The exchange with the homeowner would go something like this:

“Are you with the Boy Scouts?”

“No.”

“Are you with a church group?”

“No.”

“Well, who are you with?”

“Just myself.”

(Pause)

“Okay, show me what you have.”

More times than not, he sold a lightbulb.

In many ways, the bulbs shined a light on the path Lemke would take in the future. The youngster with a natural gift for sales became an adult with a knack for creative promotion. Just two years out of college, Lemke combined his skills and launched what would become Omaha Magazine.

Now celebrating its 30th year, Omaha Magazine remains at the top of its game, boasting 36,000 subscriptions—remarkable for a city this size. It’s sold at Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. Additionally, a copy of the publication can be found in every hotel room in the metropolitan area, reaching a half-million visitors to the Midlands per month.

Like many success stories, Omaha Magazine started humbly and underwent several transformations. Lemke, the owner and publisher, guided every stage.

“If you want to know what makes Omaha tick, then you have to know its people. And we do a better job talking about people than any other medium in town. It’s people, people, people, and then food. This town loves food.” – Todd Lemke, publisher

“I graduated from UNL in 1981 with a degree in journalism. I weighed my options and decided to sell homes,” Lemke deadpans, knowing his career choice came out of left field. He explains, “My mother and father sold real estate when I was growing up, and I got my real estate license in 1977 when I was still in high school.”

Lemke may have opted for sales, but he believed in the power of promotion. He advertised the custom-built homes in a weekly alternative newspaper called City Slicker and lured first-time homebuyers to view the models using a P.T. Barnum approach. Newlyweds Greg and Terese Bruns checked out Lemke’s block party one weekend.

“We went out there, and here is Todd dressed up in a clown suit,” says Bruns. “He had bands playing. He was handing out candy and balloons and pop. It was a carnival. And the next thing you know, we’re signing papers for a new house. That’s how we met.”

One day, the owners of City Slicker offered to sell the paper to Lemke. Flush with cash from his real estate deals, Lemke took them up on their offer. It was 1983.

“The first thing I did was turn City Slicker into a glossy, four-color magazine. I did that for three years,” says Lemke. But he discovered that the ad-buying community wanted a readership that was “past the party age.” So he literally dumped City Slicker one day and started another magazine the next day called Omaha Today, distributed free around town.

Seeking to stabilize his investment, Lemke went to a competitor who owned a monthly publication, Our City. It listed all the local shopping, eating, and entertainment hot spots. Lemke thought it would be a good merger “because he had a magazine that was in all the hotels.” The marriage went through in 1987. But there was still a missing piece to the puzzle.

“The name [Our City] didn’t do much for me,” says Bruns, who by this time was working with Lemke selling ads. “I mean, I’d call a business and say, ‘Hi, this is Greg Bruns from Our City,’ and they’d go, ‘Huh? Never heard of it.’ I said to Todd, ‘Why can’t we change this?’”

In 1989, Our City and Omaha Today became Omaha Magazine.

Magazines pulled from Omaha Publications' archives.

Magazines pulled from Omaha Publications’ archives.

“The name carried so much more meaning with people,” says Bruns, who soon became the vice president and Lemke’s business partner. “People became more willing to talk with me.”

As the ads increased, so did the content of the magazine. In addition to a thorough restaurant and entertainment guide, Omaha Magazine upped its profiles of people who make this community work.

“Over the course of 30 years, we have done thousands and thousands of great, positive people stories,” Lemke points out with pride. “If you want to know what makes Omaha tick, then you have to know its people. And we do a better job talking about people than any other medium in town. It’s people, people, people, and then food. This town loves food.”

The look of the magazine also sets it apart: thick, glossy, and beautifully photographed. An innovation that really put Omaha Magazine on the map is its annual “Best of Omaha™” edition.

“We started that in 1992,” says Bruns. “It’s absolutely huge and gets bigger every year.”

Lemke, an optimist by nature, says he wakes up every morning with ideas that he can’t wait to bounce off his editors, photographer, graphic designers, and sales staff. His business sense, however, has kept the ship afloat. He expanded his publishing business to include B2B Omaha, a business quarterly; The Encounter, a magazine focusesd on downtown; HerLiving, with articles devoted to women; Family Spectrum, featuring helpful stories on kids, education, and family; and the Old Market Directory, a guide to business and events in the historic district. Equally important, Lemke doesn’t shy away from innovation.

“Print publications have to embrace social media and the internet,” he says. “You can read all our magazines online, and we link everything.”

Lemke never forgets the lessons from long ago, when he sold lightbulbs door-to-door. He learned to look a customer in the eye. He learned to listen to what they had to say. For 30 years now, he’s been listening to what Omaha wants and needs—and chronicling it.

“I’m fortunate. I picked an occupation that I can do for a long time.”

Happy anniversary.