Tag Archives: featured

Heart and Soul

May 3, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Edem K. Garro has a penchant for spontaneous musical combustion—meaning that it’s quite common for her to break into song mid-sentence. Like a chemical reaction right before your eyes, elements of passion, sheer musical talent, and miscellaneous magical mystery ingredients move Garro to express herself musically.

Garro says a love of music has always been within her and she’s been breaking into song her whole life. As a child, she religiously tuned in for Showtime at the Apollo—where the talented are cheered on and the talent-challenged are booed offstage—determined to become “undeniably good.” Her innate musical knack and her mother’s “brutally honest” guidance steered her toward that goal. Much like the ethos of the Apollo, Garro believes that “both negativity and positivity help mold and shape us into the Davids or the Mona Lisas we really are.”

“I would sing and my mother would say, ‘Why are you always singing somebody’s else’s song? Why not sing your own song? You’re just as good.’ So I started writing my own music,” Garro says. “Her constructive criticism helped shape me into who I am today. Even though at the time I just wanted to enjoy my TV show, she instilled this sense that I could be great if I worked at it. That you can do anything with practice and passion.”

Garro, who typically performs as Edem Soul Music, is a composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, motivational speaker, and “a musician at heart.” Similar to her diverse pursuits, Garro’s musical style is a delicious gumbo of genres including world, soul, R&B, folk, and more—bordered only by what moves her soul and the souls of her listeners. Her musical mission, after all, is “to revive music, and to bring it back to the loving arms of the people who long for it.”

“When people think of soul music they think of the Temptations, Motown Records, James Brown, but soul has no genre. Soul is something that comes from an indescribable, immeasurable place and it reaches everyone—no matter what language or belief, it reaches everyone—that is true soul music,” Garro says. “My genres are all over the place, but I am soul music in every essence of the word. I produce music and words from my soul and I can’t do anything else.”

Garro, a 26-year-old Maryland native who’s lived in Omaha since age 11, when her father died and her mother relocated the family, says her work as a motivational speaker is an extension of her music.   

“Everything I do, from songwriting to speaking, focuses on bringing awareness to identity,” Garro says. “I’m a first-generation American and my whole family comes from Ghana, West Africa. My culture teaches that it’s important to know where you come from, because once you understand where you come from, you’ll know why you are where you are, and then once you know that, you can better figure out where you’re going. With that comes a sense of power and certainty that no one can take from you. Finding out your identity, staying true to it, and loving yourself, is the best way to navigate this life and ensure some form of growth. That’s my message.”

Although it’s a shame to box it in, Garro’s music is most easily defined as world music because she sings in English and Ga, a language spoken in and around Ghana’s capital of Accra. She also sings in what she calls “no language.”   

“I mostly sing in Ga and English, sometimes both. But when I sing in no language, it’s just pure, raw, emotion and intent,” Garro says. “I find it beautiful because you and I are on the same page regardless of language. Music crosses all barriers and you don’t have to understand the language to find it beautiful. It promotes a different kind of thought and understanding.”

Edem Soul Music consists of a wide array of styles and production. Garro sings and plays the ukulele, harp, piano, guitar, djembe, violin, and alto saxophone. As a multi-instrumentalist, she is largely self-taught. Often, she plays with flutist/percussionist Jason Horacek and support vocalists/dancers Brittney Thompson and LaTryce McAnderson.

Garro had a banner year in 2017. She was a fellow in The Union for Contemporary Art’s inaugural cohort where she created her emotive Sounds of 24th St. project, incorporating the 24th and Lake soundscape into her music. She also earned Omaha Creative Institute’s Omaha Gives Back Grant, which birthed her three-act project African Body, Soul, & Movement, a musical exploration of generations affected by the African slave trade through African drumming, singing, and dancing. Garro kept the momentum and mojo flowing, winning her first Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Soul in February 2018.     

“In 2017 I started to feel like the community that wants to support and advocate for artists was really coming together,” Garro says. “My [Union] residency allowed for my growth as an artist and an individual—to define who I really want to be and how I want to serve this community. It was a road to self-discovery.”

Garro embraces Omaha’s influence on her identity. She muses that had her father not passed and her mother not subsequently been called to move the family to Omaha, Garro may never have met her husband or “come to know music the way I have.”

“I’ve grown a lot here and become who I’m meant to be,” Garro says. “I always say that one person’s ripple in the ocean can create a tsunami on the other side of the world. We have each others’ destinies wrapped around our hands. Who I am is understanding that, being mindful of my words and actions, and trying to help others be mindful as well.”


Visit edemsoulmusic.com to learn more about Edem.

This article appears in the January/February 2018 edition of The Encounter.

Ultramarathoner Kaci Lickteig

May 2, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are runners. There are ultrarunners. And then there’s Kaci Lickteig.

Nicknamed “the Pixie Ninja” by her friends, Lickteig has earned her place among the most competitive ultrarunners in the world. Ultrarunning is the sport of racing distances beyond 26.2 miles, the length of a marathon. Typical distances include 50 kilometers (31.07 miles), 50 miles, and 100 miles. Lickteig has won some of the most grueling races in the sport, including the Western States 100-Miler. For that win, she set the third-fastest time in the race’s 40-plus-year history, 17:57:59.

Her passion for the sport and mental toughness is part gift, part curse. Fatigue won’t slow her; cracked ribs won’t stop her. But in October 2017, she faced an injury that she could not ignore: two stress fractures in her pelvis.

She’s still working toward a full recovery with the help of fellow runner Christy Nielsen. Nielsen is a physical therapist specializing in runners and endurance athletes. Nielsen and Lickteig became friends at the start of Lickteig’s running career. Together, they’re working on returning her to the sport at which she excels.

Lickteig wasn’t a natural with running. Growing up in the small town of Dannebrog, Nebraska, she couldn’t finish her first race in high school without walking. But, training alongside her mom, running became fun. And eventually, it became a lifestyle.

She ran marathons in college, and following graduation in 2012, she ran her first ultramarathon, a 50-kilometer trail run. She won. Her next race was a 100-miler. With encouragement from Nielsen, Lickteig qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathons. Hiring coach Jason Koop in 2014 helped propel her to elite status in ultras. In 2016, UltraRunning Magazine named her the Female Ultrarunner of the Year for winning seven races, beating all runners—male and female—in three of them.

Miguel Ordorica became Lickteig’s running partner around the time she started her ultrarunning. Ordorica recalls a marathon-distance training run with Lickteig nearly five years ago, when she fell and cracked some ribs at mile seven. She kept going, finishing the final 19 miles.

“She’s different from most runners,” he says. “She really doesn’t stop. Most runners stop for bottles of water or to chat.”

That nonstop drive caught up to her in 2017 at the GOATz 50K at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. The signs of an injury were present at the start of the race: pain in her knee and groin, tightness in her back, and soreness in her hip flexors. She popped some Aleve and thought, “It’s only 30 miles.”

Usually 30 miles would be easy for her, but she wasn’t adequately rested. She’d barely allowed herself recovery time from running the Western States 100-mile race in June before she started training again. Her body was exhausted.

She was leading the women runners with a half-mile left in the race when there was a gut-wrenching pop, something she describes as feeling almost like a muscle popping off bone. A physical therapist herself, she had no idea what she did to her body, but she could barely walk.

Two days later, it was confirmed: Lickteig had two stress fractures in her pelvis, along with an assortment of other injuries. Stress fractures, especially in the lower extremities, are common for distance runners, as are knee and Achilles tendon injuries. A stress fracture like hers was rare.

“Tensile fractures are something only 2 percent of [the] population gets,” Nielsen explains. “The combo of her back being tight and her knees being so swollen, something had to give. It was her pelvis.”

She knows first-hand about the pressure athletes put on themselves. Truly trained athletes, she says, have a hard time listening to their bodies and taking a day off. She was that kind of runner, racing competitively for more than two decades and qualifying for three Olympics Trials.

“It only took me 20 years to tell the difference from being over-trained and being tired from a workout,” says Nielsen. “And that knowledge is so worth it when you get it.”

Lickteig’s recovery started with extreme restrictions. She could barely stand to get her foot in a pant leg. She could do no weight-bearing activities for the first four weeks. Then, using crutches, she’d walk three miles with Ordorica. She did upper body workouts, strength training, and stabilizing exercises under Nielsen’s supervision first at OrthoNebraska and then at ATI Physical Therapy. Lickteig also works as a physical therapist at ATI.

On the 89th day of recovery, Nielsen had Lickteig run on an antigravity treadmill for 35 minutes at 65 percent body weight.

“I still was able to run. I cried. I cried at minute 17 because I was able to run,” recalls Lickteig.

Four months after her injury, Lickteig has started training for the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in June. With newfound appreciation for the limitations of the human body, she concedes she may run fewer hours each week and add more rest days.

A pelvic fracture or two won’t stop her. The Western States race is Lickteig’s dream race, according to Ordorica: “She wouldn’t miss Western States unless she had a leg fall off.”


The 2018 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run takes place June 23-24 in California (wser.org). For more information about the Omaha physical therapists helping Kaci Lickteig to recover, visit orthonebraska.com and atipt.com.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

from left: Kaci Lickteig and Christy Nielsen

Residential Nirvana

April 27, 2018 by
Photography by Tom Kessler

Dull. Dark. Overbearing. Heavy. These are not nice adjectives to describe a new home, but this is exactly how our clients felt about the new residence they had purchased.

Before

When the homeowners first stepped into our showroom at Interiors Joan & Associates, they explained their dissatisfaction wasn’t about the house itself; they just needed to realize the potential they knew existed within the home. That’s when they connected with Karie Boggs (Allied Member ASID), a professional interior designer with the firm.

After learning more about her clients, how they wished to live in the home, and how they envisioned it to look, Boggs and the homeowners embarked on a major transformation that completely changed both the aesthetics and the functionality of the home—and they never looked back.

What makes this project unique is that the entire transformation was completed with minimal construction. Cosmetic changes included fresh paint, lighting, and a total overhaul of the furnishings. The father of one of the homeowners is in the construction industry in Dubai; his ability to see potential in the home’s bones proved to be a valuable resource throughout the renovation process, and helped his daughter to see the home for what it could be.

We embarked on a renovation project to create an environment that would match the homeowners’ personality and lifestyle. They required space for entertaining, but also wanted the home to be warm and inviting when smaller groups of family are there. Boggs’ design solution was to transform the dark, dreary, and gray home into a light, fresh, and colorful space that would reflect the clients’ culture and taste.

After

Rooms that were once filled with out-of-scale traditional furnishings, muddy gray walls with white chair rail, and mismatched flooring now boast a brighter linen wall color, elements of architectural significance, and furnishings with bursts of color and interest. The great room features a natural stone wall with floating metal shelves and integrated lighting. This built-in design detail provides the space with texture, and all at once creates dimension in the room. Glitzy elements added sparkle to the space: a furrowed metal table lamp, nailhead detailing on the upholstery, and a cocktail table base fashioned out of chrome, while a color palette of raspberry, gold, and copper repeats itself in the cut velvet fabrics and the large-scale artwork.

Custom draperies create a backdrop for the bright, punchy fuchsia fabric used on the upholstered chairs in the dining room. A sparkling chandelier and abstract artwork complete the new, sophisticated space. A sectional sofa with a streamlined frame and nubby textural upholstery anchor the hearth room.

Colorful pillows in a trio of patterns breathe splashes of raspberry, citron, turquoise, and seal gray into the design. While the actual architecture of the media and fireplace wall were not changed, Boggs had the walls painted and a textural treatment applied inside the niches to create a clean yet interesting space for display. Exotic accessories of glass, metal, petrified wood, and silk florals enhance the visual appeal of the media wall.

Colorful artwork and upholstered dining chairs perfectly appoint the more intimate dinette space. Here, bright yellow, pink, cerulean, and a deep espresso wood finish on the furniture frames replace the once-dark and drab corner of the home. Perhaps one of the most interesting transformations took place in one of the upstairs spaces. What was once a mismatched bonus space for toys was thoughtfully redesigned to serve as a Hindu prayer room for the homeowners and family. Great care was taken to respectfully fulfill every requisite that our clients had regarding the size, finish, look, measurements, accouterments, and requirements of this spiritual space.

Another fantastic transformation was to conceal an inconvenient laundry chute (positioned in the hallway directly atop the steps on the second level of the home). The chute was randomly situated beside a bank of practically useless skinny shelves. Boggs’ clever design morphed the unsightly chute into a part of an artistic installation by disguising the door with a contemporary metal cover that conceals its functional purpose with a more aesthetically pleasing trio of art pieces. The skinny shelves were replaced with floating shelves with LED accent lighting, creating a perfect space for home accessory display.

By incorporating a variety of design elements—crystal chandeliers, mixed metals, antiqued mirrors, lots of finishes, and sumptuous fabrics—the home realized a fresh, colorful, and interesting new personality. The homeowners’ personal tastes, cultural influences, and religious requirements found a residential showcase that is uniquely their own.


Visit interiorsbyjoan.com for more information.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Leave No Trace

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Take a look at 19-year-old Katie Werkmeister scaling an indoor climbing wall, trudging along happily on a backcountry hike, or scrambling along on a bouldering trip, and you’d think she has been adventuring her entire life.

But that’s not the case. “I led a really bland life before college,” she admits.

Growing up in Kearney, she yearned for a “bigger city with more culture.” In Omaha, however, she ended up on a path to some of the nation’s most remote locales.

“College really opened my perspective to get outside,” she says, adding that an outdoor leadership class during her first semester of freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha changed her life.

“We learned about LNT [Leave No Trace] and backpacking to get ready for a trip to the Badlands in South Dakota, where we took turns guiding and leading the group.” 

She learned how to read a map and lead a group through sometimes unforgiving terrain. She also learned that she loved being outside (even when the going gets tough): “Backpacking is sometimes—honestly—not fun, but when you get to where you’re going it makes it all worth it.”

The philosophy of Leave No Trace had a profound impact on Werkmeister. She continues to be amazed and appalled by mankind’s negative consequences on the natural environment—particularly by those people who negatively impact nature while themselves trying to enjoy the outdoors.

Even around the UNO campus, she notices where students create worn walking paths in spots where people are not meant to walk. Werkmeister fully endorses the idea of leaving no trace when out in nature, whether that’s around a college campus or in remote spots only accessible by backpacking for days.

Climbing was a natural next step for this adventurer. She was a complete beginner when she started in 2016.

“Everybody starts at the lowest point. There’s something exciting about being at the lowest point because there’s always somewhere to go from there,” she says.

Werkmeister admits that climbing was not easy in the beginning and didn’t come to her naturally at first. “I went in really weak,” says the young woman who had received a pacemaker in her heart in 2015.

“Sometimes my heart would randomly stop beating and I would pass out,” she says, referring to her health pre-pacemaker. As a result, one side of her body is weaker than the other, which has made climbing difficult. But she’s not the kind of person to give up on something because it’s difficult. Nowadays she’s an active and strong climber, both indoors and out in the wild.    

Currently working at the UNO Outdoor Venture Center, she enjoys helping beginning climbers discover their own strength. “Not many people know it’s open to the public,” she says, urging people to check out the climbing wall even if they aren’t UNO students.

Werkmeister and other staff can help climbing novices learn everything they need, even if they have never climbed before.

As Werkmeister says: when you start from the bottom, you can only go up from there.


Visit unomaha.edu for information about the climbing wall and excursions with the Outdoor Venture Center.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Outdoor Entrepreneurship

March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There have been a few viral online videos for Ultimate Fishing Gear’s Skinzit electric fish skinner. The handheld device can also been seen on the rack at Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops, or on Amazon.com. Chris Kielian, an Omaha-area native and one of four owners of Ultimate Fishing Gear, says he crunched the numbers, and then sat back, amazed—the owners did not expect their product to generate $1.4 million in sales in the first year.

The prototype of the Skinzit was made from an electric tool.

The Skinzit is a machine that removes rib bones and skin from a scaled-fish fillet, leaving the meat intact. Kielan says the device produces 30 percent more meat than a typical fillet because the device allows one to spare the belly meat rather than simply discarding it. Simply cut the fillets from the sides of the fish, and Kielian says, “the device does the rest.” With a bucket of 10 panfish, 30 percent more meat per fish adds up fast. Kielian’s business partners are his brother, Brian, and brothers Eric and Perry Parks. They all share a love of fishing. Chris says they each contribute their unique skill sets to make their business successful. Chris is the main sales and marketing person. The partners agree that leaving their money in the business will help it grow. “We as owners don’t take much out—we keep it in there. Everything is paid for,” says Chris. “We reinvest.” Chris is able to reinvest because Skinzit is not his main source of income. By day, the Parks brothers run Computer Cable Connections, where the Kielians are also employed. Chris says the idea for Skinzit comes from the Townsend Fish Skinner, which is an out-of-production device that skins fish using the same mechanism, albeit hand-powered and narrower.

It took Chris and his co-owners roughly four years to create the product. Milestones in Skinzit’s actualization include selecting an engineering firm, testing and tweaking prototypes for a number of months, having parts manufactured on the assembly line in the Philippines, and having packages show up on the doorstep ready to sell.

Finished Skinzit product

“It took 4 years to get the first 5,000 (Skinzits),” says Chris. The capital cost was “heavy,” more than $500,000. Ultimate Fishing Gear owns seven patents on their product, which took roughly three years to acquire. A special electronic certification was necessary and recertification is required quarterly. But their greatest asset is their ability to use the internet.

Videos of their invention have racked up more than 30 million views across social media. The product hit the market in 2014, and in 2015 one video created by a customer generated almost 9 million hits. Another video of a customer using the product in late 2016 generated several more million views. Each video causes a large spike in sales.

“[Once you have a viral video], it wipes out your inventory,” says Chris, who suggests that Ultimate Fishing Gear has other ideas for novel products, but he cannot disclose them due to patent reasons. “I wish I could,” he says, sounding hopeful. His advice to other entrepreneurs and inventors is simple: “You need the time to make it work, the cash, and the capital. You want to have a product that no one else has—that was the key to the success of our product.”


Visit fishskinner.com for more information.

From left, Brian Kielian, Chris Kielian, Eric Parks, and Perry Parks

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Seeking Counsel of the Wilderness in Summer

March 16, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Spencer Hawkins has encountered bears 24 times in his life.

One encounter happened when he woke up early to fish. Pausing to change his lure, he says, “something felt wrong. I turned over my shoulder, and from where I had just walked, a grizzly bear was walking into the water right at me.” With nowhere to go in deepening river, Hawkins called out for fellow camper Ben Bissell, who immediately came to the rescue, bedecked in nothing but boots, boxer shorts, and a shotgun. Then, the bear picked up a dead salmon from the riverbank and simply walked away.

The vast expanse of nature can be intimidating for some, but for Hawkins, it is his summer home. In the remaining nine months of the year, Hawkins is a counselor at Andersen Middle School. He enjoys telling his students about his travels, enriching their lives with his stories while imbuing them with a respect for nature and its beasts. 

Hawkins’ thirst for adventure started in college, when he and three friends began traveling to national parks in Utah and Montana to rock climb. One friend wanted to fish in the location of the film, A River Runs Through It, which gave birth to their new pastime. This gave way to a rock climbing trip to Devil’s Tower in northeast Wyoming.

The friends’ first big trip to Alaska was prompted by a friend about to enter medical school. They spent 35 days in the wilderness, relying on nothing but each other and their intuition for survival. Hawkins says, “We were really remote, so we had no help. You couldn’t call on your cellphone, we didn’t have anything that worked, so we just relied on each other, caught and ate a lot of fish, moved camp, got rained on, made a fire, and [moved to a] new camp.” Floating down the river for three weeks, the explorers ate only the plants available and fish they caught, which lead to noticeable weight loss.

Fishing has probably made them more attractive to bears. Once, while Hawkins and his travel companions were sleeping, they heard a rustling outside of their tent, and the sound of something rummaging around the surrounding brush. Hawkins, springing from his tent suddenly, saw a 500-pound black bear that had been rifling through the camper’s equipment take off through the forest, snapping trees in half like they were twigs. Luckily, Hawkins recalls, the bear hadn’t found their inflatable raft full of supplies down at the riverbank, which could have easily been destroyed by the massive beast, stranding them in the Alaskan wilderness with no way to call for help. 

Bears aren’t the only animal Hawkins has seen. While cooking freshly caught fish in the dark one night, Hawkins heard noise coming from the other side of the campsite. He shone a flashlight into the woods, where about 10 pairs of glowing eyes stared back at him from behind the foliage. A pack of wolves had come to investigate the culinary aroma. Following a one-minute stare-down that seemed like ten minutes, the winner of the fish supper was the humans.

Hawkins’ days of asking friends to run after a bear in their underwear may be behind him. These days, his trips tend to be more family-friendly, although he continues to frequent national parks.

“When you are rock climbing you have to focus only on what you are doing and the rocks and trees around you. The worries of the world, your everyday life, you don’t have time to worry about.”


This article was originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Vie et Mort d’une Etoile

November 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Concept & intro by Jared Spence | Photography by Bill Sitzmann | Design by Derek Joy
Art direction assistance by Jamie Danielle Hardy | On set assistance by Johnny Ireland
Modeled by Jake Re | Agency Sasha Models

Life gives way to a passing.
A passing of shards of a former self.
A gaining of lessons learned.
A passing to transgressions of yesterday.
Death makes way for transformation.
Growth.
A rebirth. a new start, a new self.
Through the fires of the
journey awaits a restfulness.
Wisdom.
Peace.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Encounter.

Greatness

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.

2017 ASID Awards

November 3, 2017 by

Great interior design can turn any home into a showcase. Whether a person’s tastes run traditional or contemporary, whether a person prefers bright colors or a neutral palette, professional interior designers can turn ideas into reality. The Nebraska/Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers recently announced the winners of their annual design contest. Here are the Gold and Silver winners.

Design Impact Winner

Designer: Becky Rea, ASID
Firm: Fritz and Lloyd
Photographer: Lisa Guerra

The client desired a modern interior—executed with finishes of white walls, white acrylic cabinetry, and polished salt-and-pepper concrete floors. Large windows were a must-have. With strategic placement and sizing, some windows bring views of interior art walls to exterior spaces; other placements allow for privacy while providing ample natural light.

Gold Winners

Designers: Colby Washburn, ASID, & Nancy Pesavento, ASID
Firm: Interiors By Joan
Photographer: Tom Kessler

Two large islands—creatively designed to fit within the constraints of this kitchen—provide ample counter space and comfortably accommodate the lifestyle of this growing family. Unique materials were chosen for ease of maintenance and to create a dramatic, contemporary kitchen.

Designers: Julie Odermatt, ASID, and Rachel Costello, Allied ASID
Firm: D3 Interiors
Photographer: Amoura Productions

A retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation was created through the use of natural elements, a soft color palette resembling a sandy beach, a steam shower with built–in speakers, and windows allowing the outdoors to become a part of the “spa” experience. Removing the hall closet to expand the space allowed for a private water closet, which was an important element in this design.

Silver Winners

Designer: Courtney Otte, Allied ASID
Firm: The Modern Hive
Photographer: Paula Moser

The challenge for this “bachelor pad” was working with existing finishes while producing an updated environment. The client required spaces for working from home, relaxing, and entertaining. Contemporary furniture, fabrics, and finishes—using a neutral color palette—complement the existing materials and create an environment that is pleasing to all guests.

Designer: Joan Sorensen, ASID
Firm: Interiors By Joan
Photographer: Tom Kessler

This major renovation was the path to generating a transitional/contemporary design with European influences. Upholstered wall panels, mirrors, and a calming color palette were used to create a more spacious and airy look.

Designer: Brianne Wilhelm, Allied ASID
Firm: D3 Interiors
Photographer: Amoura Productions

Designing a sophisticated and modern bedroom with industrial influences for a teenage boy’s small 11-by-11-foot bedroom was a challenge. A low platform bed was centered on the longest wall. Open storage shelves with closed door storage at the bottom fit snuggly on either side of the headboard. Adjustable task lamps were clipped to each corner of the headboard and an oversized pendant provided general lighting and drama to the room. Accessories included three metal oil drums, reclaimed wood, and bronze metal items.

Designer: Kris Patton, ASID
Firm: Interiors By Joan
Photographer: Tom Kessler

Upon entering this home, the first thing a guest will see is the room with the player piano—which the family enjoys sharing with friends. The room was redesigned bringing the fireplace into scale and flanking it with an antiqued mirror, space for a large piece of art, and a massive carved wood panel with textured wall covering behind it. Furniture and window treatments completed the room, achieving a new level of functionality.

Designer: Michele Hybner
Firm: Falcone Hybner Design
Photographer: Amoura Productions

This new home boasts a minimalist look with a neutral palette and contemporary design. Generously sized closets help to minimize clutter and maintain a clean, open appearance. The busy professional couple, with three active children, required a highly functional home. To achieve this, the mud and laundry rooms were located next to the garage so backpacks and used clothing could be disposed of upon entering the house. These rooms open into the pantry and kitchen, making grocery storage an easy matter. The two bedrooms on the lower level share a built-in-study desk and space for entertaining.

Designer: Shawn Falcone
Firm: Falcone Hybner Design
Photographer: Amoura Productions

The love of color and art sets the stage for this custom ranch home. By using neutral tile, cabinetry, flooring, stone, and paint, the space provides the homeowner with the ability to display vibrantly colorful art and accessories (and the potential to rearrange them at will).

Designer: Lisa McCoid, ASID, AIA
Firm: D3 Interiors
Photographer: Tom Kessler

The overall goal of this dining room was to create an elegant, yet casual, upscale feeling for the homeowners to entertain within the home. In order to accomplish their goal, the design focused on built-in details and furnishings. The tone-on-tone color palette of soft grays and warm off-whites, accented with faux finishes and antique mirrors, brings a balance to the space and creates a beautiful dining room.

Designer: Diane Luxford, ASID
Firm: Falcone D-Lux Interiors
Photographer: Tom Kessler

The owner desired a contemporary feeling for their new home on a lake, which gave them an ideal living environment for summertime entertaining of friends, family, and grandchildren. The designer was able to give the space a unique design personality with tile, granite, cabinetry, mirrors, lighting, and paint/wall covering selections.

This article was printed in the November/December 2017 issue of Omaha Magazine.

The Centennials

September 4, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Pop quiz: From the following options, which is the oldest? a) sliced bread, b) Betty White, c) NP Dodge Real Estate, or d) traffic signals? Time’s up. Pencils down. Those who answered a, b, or d, sorry but those options are incorrect—do not pass go, do not collect $200. While NP Dodge’s founding in 1855 predates many marvels of the modern world, Omaha is actually home to more than 40 companies that have passed the centennial mark.

Gone are the cobblestone streets (save for a few in the Old Market) and telegrams of yesteryear, but these businesses are here to stay, serving as the base of a mid-sized, Midwestern metropolis thriving in the 21st century. This is made all the more impressive considering these companies have survived industry-changing technological advancements, social and economic shifts, a Great Depression, and a Great Recession. But Omaha’s oldest institutions aren’t keeling over anytime soon if they have anything to say about it.

“We learned a long time ago that we’re completely tied to the health of this community,” says Nate Dodge, president of NP Dodge. “By doing everything we can to help Omaha grow and succeed, we ensure our longevity as well.”

Like many of the companies in Omaha’s century club, NP Dodge started from humble beginnings. America’s longest-running, family-owned, full-service real-estate company, NP Dodge was founded by two brothers, Grenville and Nathan Phillips Dodge, who left Massachusetts to homestead in Douglas County in 1853. The company was born from a tiny office in Council Bluffs, with the brothers surveying land in the metro area to determine where property boundaries began and ended.

Two centuries later, the company employs more than 500 real estate agents and has been led by five generations of Dodges. According to the current Dodge at the helm of this massive real-estate ship, keeping it all in the family is not what has helped them stay afloat for so many years.

“It all ties back to the customer and how we can support the community in time, talent, and treasure,” Dodge says. “I believe the company has evolved and changed with the customer. [People] that work here focus on how we can best serve and exceed expectations in that given time.”

NP Dodge has evolved internally as well. It boasts an impressive number of women in leadership with 65 percent of all managerial roles belonging to women. Additionally, the company has continually made efforts to create transparency from top to bottom.

“I believe great ideas survive great debate, so we make leadership as accessible as it can be,”
Dodge says.

Another company that stakes its success in their ability to be proactive, not reactive, is Aradius Group, formerly Omaha Print. Founded in 1858 as the publisher of a now defunct tabloid, The Nebraska Republican, the company has grown into a full-service marketing agency and printer. Name it and they do it, including creative work, design, sales, scheduling, client services, and press work.

“We couldn’t continue doing business as we had always done in the past,“ says Steve Hayes, CEO. “Being just print didn’t give us the opportunity to grow. We needed to re-evaluate ourselves and expand services to remain relevant to customers.“

They did just that two years ago when they bought a full-service ad agency in Lincoln. With an expanded arsenal of services came a new name, and Omaha Print officially rebranded to
Aradius Group.

“We quickly realized that marketing ourselves as Omaha Print was not conveying the level of work we are now able to offer,“ Hayes says. “We grew up on print, we believe in the power of print, but we now communicate with prospects and clients in a multitude of different ways.“

The new name is a geometry-inspired metaphor, as a radius leads you to the center of a circle, just as the marketing company is at the center of their customers’ successes. Additionally, the spokes of a wheel are radiuses; thus, the new name reflects the fact that they can now offer clients an entire wheelhouse of marketing services.

Due to their continual evolution, Aradius still works with many of the same clients its founders did in the 1800s, including the State of Nebraska, Union Pacific, and First National Bank.

“We like to say we’re a two-year company with a 159-year background,“ Hayes says. “Omaha Print has really grown and progressed on parallel with Omaha.“

The Byron Reed Co., a property management firm founded in 1856, has also evolved with the city. What started as a small real-estate and land-development agency—one responsible for the original survey of Omaha and the creation of many of today’s subdivisions—is now a company that specializes in property management and investments. Its current portfolio consists of apartments, warehouses, office buildings, and commercial strip centers.

While the company’s progression has helped keep it competitive, president R. Michael Alt credits his employees for the firm’s longtime success.

“In the management business, God’s in the details,” Alt says. “Our employees have to like people, pay attention to detail, and enjoy the business while being knowledgeable of the industry and how it’s changing with time.”

 Take one look at these three Midwest companies, each remaining titans of their respective industries, and see three success stories, each due to their employees’ willingness to adapt to the times.

“Instead of being reactive to what is changing, you need to be a part of the moving tide—a piece of what the industry is changing to,” Hayes says.

Visit npdodge.com, aradiusgroup.com, and byronreedcompany.com for more information.

This article published in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B.

Martin Hager, vice president of agency services at Aradius, leads a group discussion.