Tag Archives: boutique

Hustle and Sew

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you looked at 46-year-old Tamara Heasler, you’d probably assume that she’s a loving wife and mother who runs a cute, little boutique in the Old Market. And you’d be right. But what you might not assume is that said boutique sells sexy lingerie and adult toys. Or that Heasler had a wild past—you know, the kind of past some of us wish we could boast to our children someday because it would make us seem a little less square.

Drinking, stripping, moving across the country on a whim—Heasler’s done it. “I think it’s important to take risks,” she says. “I started taking risks at a young age.” That’s probably also why Heasler remembers her 20s as a blur. “I’m glad the liver can repair itself because I was a party animal,” she adds.

You know how people joke that it’s only a matter of time before they start stripping to pay the bills? Yeah, Heasler wasn’t joking. Her life was lacking two things—excitement and money. Where better to find both than through stripping?

It didn’t help that she also had a sister to compete with. “My sister was an exotic dancer in a Los Angeles club called The Classy Lady. My thought was if she could do it, so could I,” she says. “I guess you could say it was sibling rivalry.”

Boomers in Fremont, 20’s Showgirl in Omaha, and Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle in Council Bluffs all got a show of sexy Tamara. And no, she wasn’t embarrassed to use her real name (Yes, we’re throwing shade at you, Tasty Melons).20130430_bs_2913_Web

In the early ’90s, Heasler decided she needed a change of scenery and took off for San Antonio, Texas. “I didn’t know anyone who lived there. I just answered an ad in the paper for a roommate.” A bold decision, yes, but it was one that eventually led her to where she is today.

For three years, Heasler lived in San Antonio and bartended. “I grew tired of the bar business. It’s a trap. Once you start to live on tip money, it’s hard to get a 9-5 job and make the same kind of money.” But she couldn’t shake the nightlife.

In Dallas, Heasler found work as a house mom at a gentlemen’s club. If you’ve never heard the term, house mom is fairly similar to a woman who cares for the girls in a sorority house—except, in this case, the girls are strippers. Heasler loved being a house mom because she could work day shifts and care for anywhere between five and 20 girls who reminded her of her younger self.

“Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

“I spent lots of time in the dressing room or running errands for the girls or managers. The club paid me to work, and I received tips from the girls at the end of their shifts. The girls took good care of me [and I them].”

It was there that she stumbled upon a new business opportunity—sewing clothes for strippers. Back in her stripper days, Heasler had sewn on the side, making her own garb. It only made sense that she could help out the girls under her care.

After giving birth to her son—“I guess I did it all wrong. I was supposed to get married first, [but] that damn biological clock started ticking”—Heasler moved back to Omaha to reunite with her “stable” family. She started bartending at Mickey’s Razzle Dazzle once more, but this time, she also worked from home, making and selling clothes for local exotic dancers. In time, she had enough pieces to display her products in local strip clubs.

When she turned 35, Heasler knew it was time to get serious about her career. “I knew I couldn’t work in the bar business forever, especially because tips dwindle when you’re not a young, attractive woman anymore.”20130430_bs_2879_Web

In Dallas, she had seen many sexy clothing stores selling shoes, clothes, and lingerie. Her plan was to open a store very similar in Omaha. In 2004, she did. Basic Tease became the hot spot for local strippers, bartenders, go-go dancers, and waitresses to purchase sexy clothing. Heasler made a large percentage of the inventory, so the girls knew they had unique pieces.

As a former stripper, Heasler loved talking with the girls who came into her shop. “I always told them to have a plan,” she says. “I didn’t want them to fall into that bar-business trap. Many of the girls in the exotic dancer industry are paying for college [or] are single moms. I support them.”

After marrying her “wonderful husband,” Brian, in 2009, Heasler moved Basic Tease from its original location on 120th and Blondo to the Old Market and expanded its concept from just sexy clothing to include adult items, pole dancing classes and parties, and boudoir photography. Are you clutching your pearls yet? You don’t need to. Heasler just wants a comfortable place for women and couples to shop for their sexy needs.

“I love having the store,” she says. “It gives me an opportunity to have my own retail outlet for all of my artistic projects.”

Obsessed With the Dress

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Listen up, drama queens…A new TV reality show, Obsessed With the Dress, airs this summer and takes place right here in Omaha. The location for the show, Winning Crown Boutique in Rockbrook Village, is a dress shop that specializes in pageant wear.

This show will not be just another Say Yes to the Dress, show promoters say. Viewers can anticipate seeing the inner workings of the boutique and learn the background stories and successes of clients, as the show follows each girl through to the end of her pageant. But don’t fear—the show will undoubtedly serve up a heavy dose of drama, much like its bridal show predecessor.

Michele Strom, Mrs. Nebraska 2007 and owner of the boutique, got the idea for Winning Crown while preparing to compete in the Mrs. America pageant. When she couldn’t find a local venue to buy a dress, the entrepreneur-at-heart recognized a retail niche that needed filling and started a dress business out of her home in 2007. She moved the business to the Rockbrook location in early 2009.

Strom says she has no formal background in design. “I just have a unique eye for being creative and an ability to visualize what will look good [on a client]. I missed my calling at an early age, but it’s snowballed into this amazing opportunity to find something later in life that I am really passionate about.”20130404_bs_9891_web

The business has been such a success that Pie Town Productions in North Hollywood contacted Strom about her store being the location for Obsessed With the Dress, which airs nationally this summer on WE Networks.

“Our development team reached out to dozens of such shops across the country,” says Jennifer Davidson, an executive producer at Pie Town Productions. “But when we found Michele Strom and her team at The Winning Crown in Omaha, it was obvious that we had a show here.”

There are two types of drama that unfold on Obsessed With the Dress, Davidson says. “The girls and women shopping for gowns are relentlessly competitive and fascinating. But the staff gets into even more crazy drama. There is a villain at the shop, and he is gunning for the manager’s job. These office politics are off the hook!”

Strom’s staff includes Beau Olson, manager, who has a keen eye for fashion; Frances Nefsky, a graphic designer and creative mind; and Sarah Summers, an expert on all things pageant. “When it comes to pageants, we dress girls to win. I drill that into the minds of my staff and clients. I am not here to get [them] second place,” says Strom.

“When it comes to pageants, we dress girls to win. I drill that into the minds of my staff and clients. I am not here to get [them] second place.” – Michele Strom, owner of Winning Crown Boutique

“Because we have an hour per episode to tell our stories, we get to take a deeper look at the personalities behind the scenes at the shop, who are equally as fascinating as Michele’s customers,” adds Davidson. “Most of Michele’s salespeople are pageant winners themselves, [while] some are not and have their own agendas. Let’s just say that old pageant rivalries never die!”

Strom promises that the girls in the show are the real deal. “These girls come into [the store] for their dresses…They are all our clients and not manufactured [characters].”

Strom wants to bring awareness to not only what her store does, but also to debunk the negative pageant image. “There have been some shows in the past that have been negative, and I want people to see the positive side of these women. These girls are really smart and do a lot for our community. And it’s not just about the dress; it is about making my clients the best they can be.”

Winning Crown accepts drop-ins, but coaching and one-on-one time with Strom requires an appointment. Check out this unique business right here in Rockbrook Village, and tune into the Obsessed With the Dress premiere Aug. 2. Check wetv.com for show air-times.

UPDATE: The show now premieres July 27 at 8 p.m.

Fashion: A Summer Stroll in the Old Market

June 11, 2013 by
Photography by Christian Behr

Model Vanyce of Omaha struts her stuff in the Old Market, wearing vibrant outfits from Souq, Ltd.


Photo 1: Striped Sailor Dress ($125) and Rainstoppers Red Umbrella ($19)
Photos 2 & 4: Straw Hat with White Sash ($39), Multi-colored Smash! Dress ($69), Sterling Silver Citrine Necklace ($69), White Owl Cuff ($35), and Painted Leather Bag ($169)
Photo 3: Orange Peacock Dress ($79)
Photos 5 & 7: Straw Hat with Black Sash ($39) and Striped ’50s Dress ($85)
Photo 6: Mixed Prints Dress ($95) and Multi-colored Beaded Necklace ($39) and Bracelet ($25)

Souq, Ltd.
1018 Howard St.
402-342-2972
souqltd.com

Deb’s-tique

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Located in Clocktower Village just east of Westroads Mall, Deb’s-tique offers an array of jewelry, antiques, home accents, clothing, and gifts at price points its customers appreciate. The store also carries a line of Made in the U.S.A. food items. Owner Deb Schneider describes Deb’s-tique as “accommodating” and “a place that gives customers a warm shopping experience.” Guests are offered coffee and tea and can shop for themselves or their loved ones in a relaxing, personal atmosphere.

Schneider is no stranger to owning a business, as she and her husband also run a construction company. Her inspiration for opening her store last September came from her family life and 20+ years as a mother. “Mothers need some time to themselves—to take time and let it be about you,” she says. The boutique provides a space for women to shop for unique gifts and caters to anyone from late teens to late 70s. Deb’s-tique also sees many husbands and fathers shopping for the women in their lives.

“We wanted a broad clientele,” Schneider says. When asked why she chose the location, she says, “It is a central point for many different people…a place anyone can come to.”

Deb’s-tique
617 N. 98th St.
402-934-3770
debstique.com

Here Comes the Bride

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Just as April marks the arrival of springtime, so, too, does it signal the beginning of wedding season—typically viewed as mid-April through mid-October—and the onset of “wedding fever” for many excited soon-to-be and wanna-be brides.

Regardless of whether your nuptials are a year away or far off in the distance, wedding season is a great time to attend Omaha bridal fairs and visit bridal boutiques, floral shops, and other wedding businesses in the metro and start making a list of all your must-haves for your special day. After all, creating your dream wedding takes time and planning—why not get started now?

To celebrate wedding season, we’re spotlighting three metro businesses that provide distinctive products and services for Omaha brides: gown boutique, Rhylan Lang; accessories vendor, Inez Gill; and floral service, Flowers for Special Occasions. All three are owned by local, young women who are not only on top of national trends, but in fact are leading the way in the Midwest with unique, high-end wedding fashions and accessories.

Rhylan Lang

The goal of upscale bridal boutique, Rhylan Lang, is simple—to make sure that each bride leaves with a dress that is as amazing as the memories created. “Every dress in the store is made from silk fabrics,” says owner Tracy Ponec, 29, of her unique collection. “If there is beading, it is Swarovski. If there is lace, it has intricate details. I want brides to be able to tell the difference in quality.”

Ponec, who has a joint degree in textiles and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been working in the wedding gown industry for nine years. “In college, I [did] bridal alterations,” she says. “I never thought I was going to make a career out of it.”

After graduating, she moved to Kansas City. “I had done a few internships that were more in-line with fashion-related public relations, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for that in the Midwest.” But with years of bridal alterations experience on her résumé, she took a shot and applied to the highest-end bridal salon in Kansas City, even though they weren’t hiring. Of course, she got hired. She even had the opportunity to do some professional training in New York with bridal design teams for Vera Wang and Reem Acra. “The owner [of the salon] and I made a great team. I learned so much from him. A few months in, he told me he thought I was born to do this.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

When Ponec returned to Nebraska, she saw the bridal market with new eyes. “Knowing how many of my brides in Kansas City were from Omaha, it was pretty obvious there was something missing for these brides in the Nebraska market.” She worked a bridal position for a short time but then decided it was time to bring her vision to life. A few years later with a business plan in hand, Ponec opened Rhylan Lang.

The name “Rhylan Lang” is actually a play on Ponec’s maiden name, Rhylander. “There is part of me in the name, but [the brand] isn’t about me. It’s about the brides,” she says. Because she cares about her brides, Ponec wanted her gown collection—which starts at a range of $1,600 to $6,000—to be exclusive in the state. From there, it was important to that the dresses were the highest quality fabrics and finishes available at each price point.

“During an appointment, a professional stylist will help select gowns from our inventory based on what a bride is looking for and their budget. The experience here is more intimate and far less chaotic than brides are used to. It’s a pleasant change for those that have been shopping a lot.”

For more information, visit rhylanlang.com or call 402-933-3510.

Inez Gill

Courtney Zurcher, 24, got the itch to start her own accessories business after making scarves for her family and friends. Today, she is the owner and designer at her accessories business, Inez Gill. Since starting Inez Gill, Zurcher’s accessories have been featured in Omaha’s Wedding Essentials and on Daily Candy, an e-mail newsletter and website devoted to what’s new and hot. She’s even designing accessories for the Daily Candy editor’s wedding.

“Inez Gill actually came from a combination of family names,” she explains of her business’ name. “My grandfather’s mom, Inez, was the kind of woman who just painted everything. She even painted the fridge once. She was very eccentric. Gill was my grandmother’s last name. She was a traditional mom and did needlework to make clothing.” Zurcher likes the combination of Inez and Gill because “one was artsy and one was practical,” which is how she’d like to approach her business.

When it comes to weddings, more brides are willing to pay for high-end products that are unique. That’s where Inez Gill accessories come in. “Accessories have a lot of life because you can put it on and it will change an outfit completely,” says Zurcher, who recently displayed her work at Omaha Fashion Week. Most of Zurcher’s bridal accessories are for the brides who want really fun, colorful looks. “I want [my pieces] to feel like accessories from a 1920s hat shop down the street—things that tailors and seamstresses would custom-make.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

While most designers and bridal vendors ship in their accessories, Zurcher creates and designs each piece. “Some designers draw sketches, but I just think of what I have, and then I put it together. I do have to put a lot more thought into how I design an accessory though because I take so many different pieces and put them together. I have my own system, and I don’t buy anything pre-made, unless it’s like a vintage leaf or something.”

With suppliers coming from everywhere (even some out of England), Zurcher has a lot of unique pieces to work with in creating each accessory. Natural stemming, vintage leaves, rhinestones—she finds all kinds of items from her suppliers and antique shops. “I don’t really follow a particular style,” she says of her mix-and-match work.

But just because Zurcher makes her accessories by hand doesn’t mean they look handmade. In fact, she prefers to spend more time making each accessory have a high-end look, even if it takes her more than the usual three to five hours. “I just like making things that make people feel good.”

For more information, visit inezgill.com.

Flowers for Special Occasions

“We have a strong passion for floral design,” says Jessica Pitt, 29, owner and designer at Flowers for Special Occasions. “We are always reinventing our work to stay fresh and in touch with the ever-changing fashion of the [wedding] industry.”

Although Pitt studied Fine Arts at College of Saint Mary and Behavioral Sciences at Bellevue University, she says that the floral business is in her blood. With four generations of her family having been involved in florals, it was only natural for Pitt to take up the business. “I grew up in my mother’s flower shop, spending afternoons as a child playing in the shop and eventually working there from the time I was 15 through college.”

A customer actually gave the business its name. “We were trying to establish ourselves as a vendor who worked exclusively with weddings and other special events. The name just sort of stuck,” Pitt says. But the business is also known as the Flower Design Studio, which Pitt explains comes from their days as a co-op with two other businesses.20130227_bs_7197 copy

Pitt says Flowers for Special Occasions is unique because they custom-make floral arrangements. “None of our work is based on cookie-cutter bouquets,” she adds. “We work with the client to develop a special feel for the event, and we create our pieces based on our collaborations.” Budgets of all sizes are welcomed by the Flowers for Special Occasions team. It doesn’t matter if a couple is working on a small or large budget—Pitt says the floral arrangements will look beautiful.

“We have built a very loyal following through the years. We work primarily through word of mouth. I believe [that] our happy clients and their referrals are what has built and sustained our company, making it the success it is today.

“Since we are a family business, we all have a personal stake in wanting our business to succeed. We never cut corners,” she says. “We have one chance to get it right, so we always strive to give each wedding something very special.”

For more information, visit flowersforspecialoccasions.webs.com or call 402-891-1602.

Seth McMillan

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Seth McMillan, is a self-proclaimed “accounting nerd” by day at Infogroup and by night he’s owner and renaissance man of the quirky downtown men’s boutique McLovin on 10th and Mason streets.

McMillan considers himself an intense and multifaceted person, which definitely lends itself to his careers in two vastly different fields. “I am an economics nerd, and I like to read biographies, but I also like to watch stupid teen comedies, and I enjoy people. I think you just need a bit of different things in your life.”

Having his hand in a multitude of pots is something McMillan says is not a new lifestyle for him. “Work is great, and the store is off to a good start, and I’m happy, but it’s a struggle to balance. It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s really fun.”

Originally from East Tennessee, the University of Memphis graduate studied both accounting and music. He earned his stripes in accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers firm in Atlanta before being recruited to act as Director of Revenue Accounting at Infogroup here in Omaha.

His path to Omaha wasn’t intentional, McMillan says. “I knew that I wanted to have a segue job into being an entrepreneur. I saw that I could do all these things in my current job that would help me get the skills I need while I’m figuring out my segue.”

McMillan gives big compliments to his boss at Infogroup for allowing him these opportunities to pursue his passions. “I think he’s very progressive and sensitive to unique situations…and he has a really high tolerance.”

“I didn’t know retail, but what I do know is fun, and I do know how to engage people.”

Since moving to Omaha in June of 2011, McMillan has settled in nicely. “In January [of last year] was when things really started cooking. I bought a truck, a piano, and my partner came into my life. All of these things I’ve always wanted started happening.”

McMillan says he also fulfilled a life-long passion of being an entrepreneur with McLovin. “I had never had an interest in retail prior. It was principal, supply, and demand. I didn’t know retail, but what I do know is fun, and I do know how to engage people.”

Brian Williams, a friend of McMillan’s and one of his best customers, says it’s his personality and passion that have made his transition into his jobs as well as into the community so smooth and rewarding. “It’s his drive more than anything. He puts in a lot of hours, and I don’t know how he does it,” Williams says.

“One of my mottos is whatever you do, add value,” McMillan says. That seems to be his plan not only for his career but as a larger plan for Omaha.

McMillan says that down the road, he hopes to help brand the area south of the Old Market, where his shop lies, as well as brand Omaha as a whole. “We need to recruit more young professionals here, so they don’t move to Chicago, Denver, New York, or Los Angeles. The way to do that is to do cool things here. We need to have fun, and we need to invite more people to the party.”

“He’s not afraid of new challenges like bringing a new business to Omaha,” Williams says. “He’s very driven and outspoken.”

McMillan says what he wants to do is simple. “If I can help take care of people’s needs along with helping elevate Omaha’s cool-factor, it’s enough for me. At the end of the day, it’s about having fun.”

Kat Moser’s Photographs

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kat Moser “fell in love with photography” while watching a cousin develop pictures in a home darkroom, and although she was only 6, her heart was won. It would be more than 50 years before she acknowledged herself as an artist, but there was no hesitation in her choice of medium. Watching figures emerge onto the paper floating in emulsion had seemed magical to the child. Today, she still attests, “It’s all about the alchemy.”

There does seem to be a spirit of the ancient mystical pursuit of transformation in Moser’s photographs. Women’s gleaming bodies float effortlessly in sun-sparkled bodies of water; branches reflected in streams write runic formulae in the sky; rough buttes are recast in silver and shadow. “Ethereal, mystical, spiritual—these are just some of the words I use to describe my work,” she says in her artist statement. “All three represent the primal connections we have with Mother Earth and her female qualities. I am deeply moved by the powerful yet often unseen worlds that surround and link us to life’s profound mysteries.”

"Morning at Fontenelle"

“Morning at Fontenelle”

Moser’s direction is intuitive, sensitive. She is attuned to myths and fairy tales, and the wordless understanding nurtured by decades of yogic practice. At the same time, her work is honed by learning from contemporary masters and enriched by discerning study of the genre and perspectives widened by travel. She is knowledgeable and demanding of the process necessary to achieve the desired finished effect—the look of infrared film.

Infrared light exists just beyond our range of vision; cameras using this spectrum capture a view we can never see—strong colors and contrasts, milky-white foliage, and porcelain skin. With IR film no longer readily available, Moser has customized two digital cameras to produce infrared’s other-worldly images.

“I’ve always been interested in spirit photography [of the late 19th century],” she says. “I loved the romantic, Victorian, ethereal quality of infrared from the first time I saw it. The longer I use it, the more interested I am in its possibilities.”

"Frozen Blooms"

“Frozen Blooms”

Moser’s photographs transform the familiar into images as fragile and foreign as dreams. A title, “Mahoney Retreat” from the series “Other Worlds – Inner Life,” leaves viewers retracing their own memories of the nearby park. In “Pool of Tears,” the pattern of overhead branches echoes dark-wet strands of hair. Delineated against a broad white back, the composition is both the scene and its reflection, illustrating the series’ title, “Illusions of Water.”

One of Moser’s models, Kristi Mattini, worked at Nouvelle Eve when invited to participate. “I have a long history of ballet,” Mattini says. “Sometimes, there’s a theme, but usually I just go through the dance movements in water. It’s impossible to hold a pose, which shows how good she is at catching the moment.” In the same way that Moser isolates a fleeting image and imbues it with a sense of timelessness, she creates an artwork of an individual. “Even if I’m standing next to my photograph,” Mattini says, “people don’t realize it’s me, and I can appreciate the work without feeling self-centered.”

"Isadora"

“Isadora”

In Moser’s years between little girl and award-winning photographer, there was a degree in fashion merchandising, work as a buyer, and Nouvelle Eve, a high-end women’s boutique in the Old Market. For nearly 40 years she expressed her creativity in developing the store, the brand, and the clientele. The photographs she enjoyed taking liaised with the shop’s sophisticated marketing profile. In those years too, she and her husband renovated a condo and established Jackson Artworks, ahead of the curve in living the Old Market life.

“I loved retail, loved that lifestyle, but I reached a turning point,” she says. “It was very clear to me.” The time had arrived to recognize and embrace the artist that had been waiting all those years. “I believe that everything I’ve done has been foundational to my life as an artist.” In the past few years, the Mosers have sold the shop and the gallery, generating a tremendous sense of freedom, and finally time, Moser says, to “relearn how to play.”

"Mahoney Retreat"

“Mahoney Retreat”

During her long apprenticeship, she gained a thorough understanding of infrared’s characteristics, always moving toward more subtle and mysterious results. [Note: All Moser’s images are created photographically; none are Photoshopped.] Looking ahead, she would like to explore adding techniques, such as encaustic, or printing on surfaces other than paper. The knowledge she has acquired over a lifetime hasn’t dimmed the awe of her first experience. “Oh, no,” she says with a smile. “The expertise allows the magic to happen.”

Kat Moser’s work is handled exclusively by Anderson O’Brien Fine Art (aobfineart.com).

Mary Wadja

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mary Wajda enjoys the hunt for fun fashions and accessories in unexpected places. Harbor Farm Chick Market, Voila! and House of J are some of her local go-to shops for whimsical, affordable pieces.

“I have an eclectic style,” says the 25-year veteran in advertising and media, now with Morningfire, Inc. “I’m fortunate that I work in an industry that allows me to express my personal style.”

“I love classic pieces—a great leather coat, a structured jacket, pearls—and mixing them with something feminine or unexpected—lace, sparkle, and anything girlie! And I love, love, love jeans! LA Idol is my favorite brand.”

“I have an eclectic style…I love classic pieces…And I love, love, love jeans!”

The mother of two teen girls, Wajda jokes, “I had my daughters late in life, so I try to dress so I look young and not like their grandma, yet age-appropriate. I don’t want to be a 51-year-old woman trying to look 25…I would take 45! And I refuse to wear old ladies’ shoes. I love my heels!”

A long-time cancer survivor, Wajda has always made caring for her health a priority. The former USVBA volleyball player (“My husband [Rich Wajda] and I met playing volleyball.”) used to be a dedicated runner, but has moved on to less-jarring cardio and weights. “I try to work out three to four times a week…I take Strike, strictly strength, spinning, and total conditioning classes at Lifetime Fitness whenever my schedule allows. Push-ups and sit-ups are a daily must, too,” she adds.

Wajda attributes her good health in part to drinking 100oz. of water daily, taking vitamins and supplements, and using skin products with retin A, sunscreen, and moisturizer. “I try to avoid the sun…and never sleep in my makeup.”

All your work has paid off, Mary Wajda. You look fabulous!