Tag Archives: featured

Best of Omaha 2019

November 9, 2018 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Omaha Magazine is happy to announce the results of the 2019 Best of Omaha Contest. Click the link for each category to see the winners, or scroll through the entire list below. Categories are organized alphabetically under the following eight section headings: Dining, Family, Health & Beauty, Household, Nightlife, Retail, Services, and Transportation.


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American Dining

Charleston’s Restaurant
Jams American Grill
402-399-8300 | 402-614-9333
Railcar Modern American Kitchen


Kona Grill
Pitch Pizzeria
Two locations, downtown and West Omaha
Bonefish Grill


Bruegger’s Bagels
Panera Bread
Bagel Bin


Rotella’s Italian Bakery
The Omaha Bakery
Le Petit Paris


Famous Dave’s
Tired Texan BBQ
Swine Dining BBQ

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Bowl of Soup

WheatFields Eatery & Bakery
Paradise Bakery & Cafe
402-934-5757 | 402-991-3000
Olive Garden


Le Peep
Four locations
First Watch
Five Omaha-area locations
11-Worth Cafe

Brew Pub

Upstream Brewing Company
The Benson Brewery
Nebraska Brewing Co.

Brick Oven Pizza

Pitch Pizzeria
Two locations, downtown and West Omaha
Dante Ristorante Pizzeria
Noli’s Pizzeria


China Buffet – Mongolian Grill
Valentino’s Pizza
Pizza Ranch

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Abelardo’s Mexican Food
Burrito Envy & Tequila Bar
6113 Maple St. in Benson
Fernando’s Cafe and Cantina


The Cake Gallery
Nothing Bundt Cakes
The Cake Specialist
402-733-CAKE (2253)


Chef in Omaha

Clayton Chapman, The Grey Plume
Jennifer Coco, j. coco
Ben Maides, Au Courant


Taqueria Los Compadres
El Bee’s

Chinese Dining

China Palace
Golden Palace
Golden Bowl

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Crane Coffee
Archetype Coffee


Jones Bros. Cupcakes
402-884-CAKE (2253)
Cupcake Island
Gigi’s Cupcakes


Jason’s Deli
Swartz’s Delicatessen & Bagels
Razzy’s Deli


WheatFields Eatery & Bakery
Farmhouse Cafe
Sweet Magnolias


Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
LaMar’s Donuts
Dunkin’ Donuts

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Family Restaurant

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen
Shirley’s Diner

Fast Good Food

Don & Millie’s

Fish Fry

Holy Name Fish Fry
Mary Our Queen Fish Fry
St. Patrick’s of Elkhorn Fish Fry

Food Truck

402 BBQ Food Truck
La Casa Pizzaria
Dos de Oros – Tie Third
Piccolo Pete’s – Tie Third

French Dining

Le Voltaire
Le Bouillon
La Buvette

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French Fries

Bronco’s Self-Services Drive-In
Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Fried Catfish

Catfish Lake
Surfside Club
Joe Tess Place

Fried Chicken

Jack and Mary’s
Time Out Foods
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers

Frozen Yogurt

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt
TCBY Frozen Yogurt
Red Mango

Gluten-Free Menu

Shucks Fish House and Oyster Bar
Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
Modern Love

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Gourmet Hamburger

Block 16
Charred Burger + Bar
Omaha Tap House

Greek Dining

Greek Islands
Jim & Jennie’s Greek Village
Legacy Gyros


King Kong
Feta’s Gyros & Catering
John’s Grecian Delight


Stella’s Bar & Grill
106 Galvin Road, Bellevue
Smitty’s Garage Burgers and Beer
Dinker’s Bar

Hot Dog

B & B Classic Dogs
Chicago Dawg House
Fauxmaha Hot Dogs

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Hot Wings – Charbuffed

Oscar’s Pizza & Sports Grille
Tanner’s Bar & Grill
Addy’s Sports Bar & Grill

Hot Wings – Traditional

Buffalo Wild Wings
Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings

Ice Cream

Ted & Wally’s Ice Cream
Benson – Downtown
Coneflower Creamery
Cold Stone Creamery

Indian Dining

Jaipur Indian Restaurant and Brewing
Astoria Biryani House

Italian Dining

Lo Sole Mio Ristorante Italiano
3125 S. 72nd St.
Vincenzo’s Italian Ristorante

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Japanese Dining

Sakura Bana
Genji Japanese Steakhouse


Juice Stop
The Grove Juicery & Wellness Cafe
Evolve Paleo Chef

Korean Dining

Maru Sushi Korean Grill
Suji’s Korean Grill
Korean Grill

Locally Sourced Dining

The Grey Plume
Kitchen Table
Au Courant Regional Kitchen


The Market Basket

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Mexican Dining

La Mesa Mexican Restaurant
Rivera’s Mexican Food
Romeo’s Mexican Food & Pizza
Five Metro locations

Middle Eastern Dining

El Basha Mediterranean Grill
Mediterranean Bistro
Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine

New Restaurant 
in 2018

Monarch Prime & Bar
Stokin’ Goat
Best Bison

Outdoor Patio

Marks Bistro
Pitch Pizzeria
Two locations, downtown and West Omaha
1912 Benson


Pasta Amore e Fantasia
Spaghetti Works
Malara’s Italian

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Pettit’s Pastry
Gerda’s German Restaurant & Bakery
Le Quartier Bakery & Cafe


Mama’s Pizza
La Casa Pizzaria

Prime Rib

Jerico’s Restaurant
Farmer Brown’s Steak House
Johnny’s Cafe

Restaurant Beer Selection

Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom
LOCAL Beer, Patio and Kitchen
Growler USA


Reuben Sandwich

Crescent Moon Ale House
Paddy McGown’s Pub and Grill
4503 Center St., Omaha, NE 68106
Goldberg’s Bar & Grill

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Romantic Restaurant

Brother Sebastian’s Steak House
 & Winery
Flatiron Cafe


Paradise Bakery & Cafe
402-934-5757 | 402-991-3000
M’s Pub


Jacobo’s Authentic Mexican Grocery, Bakery and Tortilleria
Cilantro’s Mexican Bar & Grill


Jimmy John’s
Firehouse Subs


Shuck’s Fish House and Oyster Bar
Bonefish Grill
Plank Seafood Provisions

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Smoothie King
Juice Stop
Tropical Smoothie


The Drover
Mahogany Prime Steakhouse
801 Chophouse

Sunday Brunch

Granite City Food & Brewery
Early Bird
Mantra Bar & Grille


Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Umami Asian Cuisine


Voodoo Taco
Two Omaha locations
Rusty Taco
Maria’s Mexican Restaurant


Salween Thai
Mai Thai
Taste of Thailand

Wait Staff & Service

Charleston’s Restaurant
Mahogany Prime Steakhouse
M’s Pub

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Bowling Alley

The Mark
Maplewood Lanes
Western Bowl

Child Day Care

The Hills Montessori
Hamilton Heights Child Development Center
Academic Adventures Child Development Center

Child Party Provider

Amazing Pizza Machine
Pump It Up

Children’s Attraction

Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Omaha Children’s Museum
Fontenelle Forest Nature Center

City Park

Elmwood Park
Memorial Park
Zorinsky Lake Park

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Dance Studio

Nebraska Dance
Kitty Lee Dance
Mary Lorraine’s Dance Center

Family Behavior Therapy

Boys Town Behavioral Health Clinic
Children’s Behavioral Health
Radical Minds

Family Dentist Office

The Dentists
Today’s Dental
Premier Dental


Family Entertainment

Amazing Pizza Machine
Dave & Buster’s

Family Photographer

Carly Urbach Photography
Penny Layne, 
Penny Layne Photography
Tree Jacobson, Happy Little Tree

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Taste of Omaha
St. Stanislaus Polish Festival
Maha Music Festival


Premier Gymnastics
Metro Stars Gymnastics
Nebraska Gold Gymnastics

Haunted House

Scary Acres
Mystery Manor
The Shadows Edge

Laser Tag

Family Fun Center XL
Papio Fun Park

Martial Arts

Championship Martial Arts
Omaha Blue Waves Martial Arts
Siso Martial Arts

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Movie Theater

Aksarben Cinema
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Omaha
Marcus Majestic Cinema of Omaha

Music Lessons

SNJ Studio of Music
Omaha Conservatory of Music
Adkins: Guitar and Music Lessons

Pediatric Dentist Office

Smile Station Pediatric Dentistry
Pedodontics PC
Children’s Dental Specialists


Dr. Lisa Whitcomb, Heartland Family First Medical Clinic
Dr. Kelli Shidler, Boys Town
Dr. Michael Moore, 
Children’s Physicians


Montessori Elementary School 
of Omaha
Duchesne Preschool of the 
Sacred Heart
Gingerbread House Preschool

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Professional Omaha Sports Team

Omaha Storm Chasers
Omaha Lancers
Omaha Beef Football

Public Golf Course

Indian Creek
Elmwood Park Golf Course
Johnny Goodman Golf Course

Youth Athletic Organization

YMCA of Greater Omaha
Millard United Sports
Elkhorn Athletic Association

Youth Cheerleading Club

Elite Cheer
Millard United Sports
Airborne Academy

Youth Summer Camp

YMCA of Greater Omaha
Hummel Day Camp
Camp Legacy

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Youth Swim Lessons

Swimtastic Swim School
DiVentures Scuba & Swim Center
Little Waves Family Swim School



Youth Volleyball Sports Club

The Volleyball Academy
Premier Volleyball
Nebraska Elite Volleyball

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Health & Beauty

Acupuncture – Chiropractor

Balanced Body Acupuncture 
& Chiropractic
Essentials Family Chiropractic 
and Wellness
Becker Chiropractic & Acupuncture


Acupuncture – Licensed

Thirteen Moons, Donna Huber
Natural Health Center, Janis Regier
River Point Acupuncture


Ebrahim Shakir, Midwest Allergy 
and Asthma
Jeffrey Nelson, Midwest Allergy 
and Asthma
James Tracy, Allergy, Asthma 
and Immunonology Associates, P.C.

Barre Fitness Facility

The Barre Code
Well Mama
Pure Barre Omaha-Loveland

Beauty Supply Store

LovelySkin Retail Store
Under the direction of Joel Schlessinger, M.D.
Sally Beauty Supply
Beauty Brands

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Breast Augmentation

Aesthetic Surgical Images
Village Pointe Aesthetic Surgery & Dreams Medspa
Westfield Plastic Surgery Center

Charity Walk /
Fun Run

The Color Run
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Race for the Cure


Koca Chiropractic
Gary Elsasser, Elsasser Chiropractic
Gabriel Long, Awaken Chiropractic

Cosmetic Dentist

Steven D. Wegner, DDS
Dr. Daniel Beninato, Premier Dental
Dr. Marty J. Matz, The Tooth Doc

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Cosmetic Surgeon

Joel Schlessinger, M.D., 
Skin Specialists, P.C.
2802 Oakview Drive, Omaha, NE 68144
Village Pointe Aesthetic Surgery & Dreams Medspa
Dr. Nagi T. Ayoub, 
Westfield Plastic Surgery Center

Counseling Services

Counseling Connections & Associates
Associated Counseling Professionals
Omaha Integrative Care

Crossfit Box

CrossFit Kinesis
CrossFit Elkhorn
CrossFit Omaha

Day Spa

Gloss Salon & Day Spa
LovelySkin Spa
Under the direction of Joel Schlessinger, M.D.
Creative Hair Design Salon and Spa


Joel Schlessinger, M.D., 
Skin Specialists, P.C.
2802 Oakview Drive, Omaha, NE 68144
Dermatology Specialists of Omaha
Midwest Dermatology Clinic, P.C.

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Montana Haggerty, 
Allure Health & Med Spa
Meredith Bryant, 
Allure Health & Med Spa
Amy Carey Bishop, Spa Ritual Omaha

Family Doctor

Amanda Kester, 
Essential Family Medicine
Mark Goodman, M.D., CHI
Dr. Edward Mantler, Papillion 
Family Medicine

Female Hormone Replacement Clinic

Allure Health & Med Spa
ReVital Women’s Hormone Clinic
Optima Medical Hormone Replacement & Aesthetic Center

Fitness Club

Blue Moon Fitness
Life Time Fitness
Prairie Life Fitness

Fitness Equipment Store

Body Basics Fitness Equipment
Priority 1 Fitness
Push Pedal Pull

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Float Tank

True REST Float Spa
Blue Oceans Float
Omaha Float Spa

Hair Colorist

Rebecca Forsyth, 
BUNGALOW/8 Hairdressing
Christi Clark
Ricky Newton at Salon Inspired


Hair Salon

Creative Hair Design Salon and Spa
BUNGALOW/8 Hairdressing
Garbo’s Salon and Spa

Hearing Aids Center

Beltone Audiology & Hearing Center
Ear Specialists of Omaha
Professional Audiology and 
Hearing Center

Indoor Cycling Class

Elevate Cycling & Fitness Studio
Torva Fit Club
Sweat Cycle Strength

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Kick Boxing Class

Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping
Impact Kickboxing and Fitness Center
9Round 30 Min Kickbox Fitness

Laser Hair Removal

Milan Laser Aesthetics
Bare Body Shop
Ideal Image

Lasik Eye Surgery

Kugler Vision
Omaha Eye and Laser Institute
LasikPlus Vision Center

Male Hormone Replacement Clinic

Limitless Male Medical Clinic
NuMale Medical Center

Manicure & Pedicure

American Nails & Spa
3618 N. 165th St.
Martini Nails & Spa
Legacy Nails & Spa

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Massage Therapy

Massage Envy
Palmer Massage Therapy
Millard Oaks Chiropractic 
& Massage

Med Spa

Allure Health & Med Spa
LovelySkin Spa
Under the direction of Joel Schlessinger, M.D.
Omaha Med Spa
Concierge Aesthetics


Memory Care Facility

Ridgewood Active 
Retirement Community
Parsons House on Eagle Run
CountryHouse Residence of Omaha
5030 S. 155th St., Omaha, NE 68137

Men’s Haircut

Sport Clips
The Surly Chap Barbers
Scissors & Scotch:
A Premium Barbershop

Men’s Shave

Dennison Dahlman – 
Barbershop & Lounge
Dundee Barber
The Beard and Mane

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Nutrition & Vitamin Store

Complete Nutrition
No Name Nutrition Markets


Omaha Primary EyeCare
Millard Family Eyecare
402-896-3300 | 402-330-3063
Legacy Eyecare
16949 Lakeside Hills Plaza, Ste. 101

Oral Surgeon

Oral Surgery Associates
Village Pointe Oral Surgery, P.C.
Midwest Oral Surgery & 
Dental Implants


Dr. Kort Igel, Igel Orthodontics
Dr. Thomas J. Weber, 
Weber Orthodontics
Dr. Paul McAllister, 
McAllister Orthodontics


Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Michael C. Thompson, Ortho NE
Dr. Mark Goebel, Ortho NE
Dr. Scott T. McMullen, 
GIKK Orthopedic Specialists

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Pain Management

Midwest Pain Clinics
Omaha Physical 
Therapy Institute, PC
West Omaha Cryotherapy

Personal Training Facility

Todd Smith Fitness
iThinkFit Gym
Orangetheory Fitness

Physical Therapy Company

Makovicka Physical Therapy
Excel Physical Therapy
FYZICAL Therapy and 
Balance Centers

Physical Therapy Equipment

Kohll’s Pharmacy & Homecare
Kubat Pharmacy
Relax The Back Store

Pilates Studio

Pilates Center of Omaha
Core10 Pilates
Legacy Pilates, Yoga & More

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Private Practice Medical Clinic

THINK Whole Person Healthcare
Essential Family Medicine of Omaha
Midwest Regional Health Services

Rehabilitation Facility

Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital
Brookestone Meadows

Tanning Salon

Palm Beach Tan
Sun Tan City
Paradise Bay Tanning

Tattoo Parlor

Big Brain
Downtown & West O locations
Eye Candy Tattoo
Liquid Courage

Tummy Tuck

Aesthetic Surgical Images
Westfield Plastic Surgery Center
Village Pointe Aesthetic Surgery 
& Dreams Medspa

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Waxing/Hair Removal

Authentic Brazilian Wax by Vanella
Wild Prairie Spa
Wax On

Weight Loss Center

Weight Watchers
Profile By Sanford
Four Omaha locations

Yoga Studio

Lotus House of Yoga
All levels of yoga for your high vibe life!
Karma Yoga Omaha
Pranam Yoga Shala

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Harrison Hills by Broadmoor
The Biltmore
Broadmoor Hills

Appliance Repair

Andy’s Appliance Repair
Nebraska Home Appliance

Basement Repair & Waterproofing

Jerry’s Basement Waterproofing
Midwest Mudjacking

Building Supply Store

Builders Supply Co.
Millard Lumber

Carpet Cleaning

ZEROREZ of Nebraska
Stanley Steemer
Metro Chem-Dry

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Concrete Installer

Moore’s Concrete Construction, Inc.
Oxford Construction Co.
Schroder Concrete, Inc.


McKean’s Floor to Ceiling
Martin’s Counter Tops

Custom Cabinetry

Titan Custom Cabinets, Inc.
Flair Custom Cabinets & Remodeling

Custom Closets

Marco Closets & Storage
The Container Store

Custom Home Builder

Curt Hofer & Associates
Pohlad Custom Homes
Mercury Builders

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Decorative Concrete

Oxford Construction Co.
Garage Revolution
Lusterstone Pebble Paving

Decorative Painting

Fe Fi Faux Studios, Inc.
Joe Eby Faux and Decorative Painting

Electrical Services

Brase Electrical
Hiller Electric Company
Frederick Electric Inc.

Fence & Railings

S&W Fence
American Fence Company
JK Fencing LLC


Claxton Fireplace Center
Fireplace Stone & Patio
Fireplace by Design

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Floor Coverings

Nebraska Furniture Mart
McKean’s Floor to Ceiling

Garage Doors

Norm’s Door Service
Omaha Door & Window
Overhead Door Company of Omaha

Garage Flooring

Garage Revolution
In The Garage
Garage Floor Coating of Nebraska

Garden Nursery Store

Lanoha Nurseries
192nd & W. Center Rd.
Canoyer Garden Center

Grout & Tile Repair

The Grout Doctor
The Grout Medic

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Handyman Services

Handyman Joes
Houston Home Services

Heating & Air Service

Burton A/C * Heating * 
Plumbing * and More
Thermal Services
SOS Heating and Cooling

Home Accessories

Nebraska Furniture Mart
House of J
12965 W. Center Road
Robin’s Nest
101 W. Main St., Springfield

Home Audio & Video

Custom Electronics
AV Squared, LLC
Echo Systems

Home Builder

Charleston Homes
The Home Company
Legacy Homes

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Home Cleaning Service

Molly Maid
Pink Shoe Cleaning Crew
Maids & More

Home Disaster Restoration

Paul Davis Restoration
BELFOR Property 
Restoration of Omaha
Carlson Restoration

Home Glass & Mirrors

Elite Glass Services
Quality Glass & Mirror
Papillion Glass & Door Co.

Home Remodeling

T Hurt Construction
Cornerstone Remodeling
Total Construction Services

Home Security

Security Equipment, Inc. (SEi)
American Electronics, an Atronic Alarms Company
Sellhorst Security & Sound

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Indoor Window Coverings

Custom Blinds & Design
Ambiance Window Coverings
All About Blinds

Interior Design Firm

Lee Douglas Interiors, Inc.
The Interior Design Firm
Fluff Interior Design

Interior Designer

Marilyn Schooley Hansen, 
FASID, The Designers
Lester Katz, LK Design
Robin Lindley, 
The Interior Design Firm

Kitchen & Bath Plumbing Fixtures

Kitchens & Baths by Briggs
Winnelson Co.

Kitchen & Bath Remodeling

Re-Bath of The Heartland
4123 S. 84th St.
Kitchens by Design
United Services Design + Build

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Landscape Curbing

Curb Curb
Curb Appeal Landscape 
Curbing of Omaha

Landscape Designer

Foutch Landscaping Enterprises
Robert’s Nursery Landscapes & Lawns
Greenlife Gardens

Landscape Lighting

McKay Landscape Lighting
Midwest Lightscaping
Accent Landscape Lighting, Inc.

Landscape Rock 
& Granite

Sun Valley Landscaping
The Rock Place
Above & Beyond 
Complete Grounds Maintenance


Landscaping Service

Carson Enterprises
Patera Landscaping
Sun Valley Landscaping

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Lawn Care

Heartland Lawns Omaha
Forest Green Lawn & Landscaping
Elkhorn Lawn Care, LLC

Lawn Irrigation & Sprinklers

Nature’s Helper
Millard Sprinkler
Quality Irrigation

Mortgage Provider

Regent Financial Group
Eagle Mortgage Inc.
Benchmark Mortgage

Moving Company

Two Men & a Truck
Black Belt Movers
Jim’s Moving & Delivery Co., Inc.


Mud Jacking

Thrasher, Inc.
Mixan Mudjacking
The Driveway Company

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Mulch Provider

Maple 85 Premium Landscape 
Mulch Center
Patera Landscaping
Yard Market Nursery

Painting Services

Gerst Painting
CertaPro Painters of Omaha
Brush & Roll Painting

Pest Control Service

Lien Termite & Pest Control
ABC Termite & Pest Control

Plumbing Services

Burton A/C * Heating * 
Plumbing * and More
Eyman Plumbing Heating & Air
Big Birge Plumbing

Pools & Spas

Classic Pool & Spa
Premier Pools and Spas
Continental Pool & Spa

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Residential Roofing

Moose Roofing
Pyramid Roofing
White Castle Roofing

Residential Siding

McKinnis Roofing
Husker Hammer
Tevelde and Co.

Residential Trash Service

Abe’s Trash Service
Papillion Sanitation
Premier Waste Solutions

Retaining Walls

Patera Landscaping
Jensen Retaining Walls
Hudson Hardscapes

Stone & Brick Provider

Fireplace Stone & Patio
Watkins Concrete Block
Baltazar’s Stone, INC.

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Tile Installer

SkilledSet Tile & Stone
Floors By Dave
Legendary Tile

Tile Store

Sunderland Brothers Company
Ceramic Tileworks Center
Premier Tile Corporation

Tree Service

Terry Hughes Tree Service
Arbor Aesthetics Tree Service
Mutchie Tree Service

Water Treatment Systems

Futuramic’s Clean Water Center
Kangen Water of Omaha
United Distributors Inc.

Windows and Doors

Pella Windows and Doors 
of Omaha & Lincoln
Omaha Door & Window
Renewal by Andersen

Wood Floor Company

Heartland Wood Floors
Timberland Hardwood Floors
Tom Manley Floors, Inc.

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Bar Food

Blatt Beer & Table
Legends Patio Grill & Bar
Barrett’s Barleycorn Pub & Grill

Board Game Cafe

Spielbound Board Game Cafe
Sparta Games
Sozo Coffeehouse

Cigar Bar

Havana Garage
Copacabana Cocktails & Cigars
Jake’s Cigars & Spirits

Cocktail Lounge

LIV Lounge
Holiday Lounge
Wicked Rabbit

Comedy Club

Funny Bone Comedy Club
The Backline Comedy Theatre
Lookout Lounge

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Craft Cocktails

The Berry & Rye
Wicked Rabbit
Trio Cocktails & Company


Cut Spike Distillery
Patriarch Distillers
Brickway Brewery

Escape Room

House of Conundrum Escape Room
The Escape Omaha
Entrap Games: 
Omaha Escape Room Game

Happy Hour

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Irish Bar

Brazen Head Irish Pub
319 N. 78th St.
Two Fine Irishmen
The Dubliner Pub

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Late-Night Dining

Nite Owl
Eat The Worm
Abelarado’s Mexican Food

Live Music Venue

Holland Performing Arts Center
The Waiting Room

Local Band

Lemon Fresh Day
The Confidentials


Roja Mexican Grill
La Mesa Mexican Restaurant
Trini’s Mexican Restaurant


Charlie’s On The Lake
Sullivan’s Steakhouse
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

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Micro Brewery

Upstream Brewing Company
Infusion Brewing Company
Kros Strain Brewing Company

Neighborhood Bar

The Observatory Bar & Grill
The Homy Inn
The Village Bar

New Bar in 2018

Red Lion Lounge
Bärchen Beer Garden

Reverse Happy Hour

Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Stokes Restaurant

Sports Bar

DJ’s Dugout
Six locations
Tanner’s Bar & Grill
The Good Life

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Whisky Bar

Proof Whiskey & Craft Cocktail Bar
Dundee Dell
Liberty Tavern

Wine Bar

Corkscrew Wine & Cheese
Vino Mas
Nosh Wine Lounge

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Antique Shop

Brass Armadillo
The Imaginarium
Found Vintage Market

Arts & Crafts 

Blick Art Materials
7829 Dodge St., 402-397-6077
It’s Yours Pottery

Beer & Spirits Store

Spirit World
Big Dog’s Beverage


The Bookworm
Half Price Books
Parables Christian Bookstore

Bridal Shop

David’s Bridal
Bridal Traditions
Rhylan Lang Bridal

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Provisions by The Grey Plume
Corkscrew Wine & Cheese
Maresco’s Italian Market
2821 S. 108th St., 402-991-9987


Cheese Shop

Northwoods Cheese Haus
Whole Foods Market
Trader Joes’

Cigar/Tobacco Shop

SG Roi Tobacconist
Ted’s Tobacco
The Omaha Cigar Company

Clothing Consignment Store

Scout: Dry Goods & Trade
5018 Underwood Ave.
Absolutely Her Women’s Consignment
Esther’s Consignment

Coffee Roaster

A Hill of Beans Coffee Roasters
Tap Dancers Specialty Coffee
Rally Coffee Co.

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Comic Book Store

Legend Comics & Coffee
Dragon’s Lair Comics
Krypton Comics

Convenience Store

Casey’s General Stores
Bucky’s Convenience Stores
Kwik Shop

Estate Jewelry

Sol’s Jewelry & Loan
Bergman Jewelers
Pretty In Patina


Taylor’s Flower Shop & 
Greenhouse, Inc.
All Seasons Floral & Gifts
EverBloom Floral and Gift

Furniture Store

Nebraska Furniture Mart
Allens Home
Ethan Allen

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Gift Shop

House of J
12965 W. Center Road
Spruce Interiors & Gifts
Stella’s Belle

Golf Store

Austad’s Golf
Golf Galaxy
Golf USA

Grocery Store

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market
Fareway Meat & Grocery

Hardware Store

Ace Hardware
Johnson Hardware
Two locations
Ideal Hardware & Paint Center

Husker Apparel Store

Husker Hounds
Lawlor’s Custom Sportswear

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Jewelry Store

Borsheims Fine Jewelry
14 Karat Jewelry Store
Gunderson’s Jewelers

Local Pet Store

Nature Dog
The Green Spot
Long Dog Fat Cat

Meat Department

Fareway Meat Market
Just Good Meat
Stoyisch House of Sausage

Men’s Apparel

Lindley Clothing Co.
The Simple Man

Natural/Organic Grocery Store

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market
Whole Foods Market
Natural Grocers

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Outdoor Clothing 
& Gear Store

Sierra Trading Post

Party Supply Store

Hobby Lobby

Pawn Shop

Sol’s Jewelry & Loan
Four Aces Pawn Shop
Mid-City Jewelry & Loan

Pet Supply Store

Pets R Us


CVS Pharmacy
Kohll’s Pharmacy & Homecare

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Vic’s Corn Popper
Just Pop’d
Jock & Jill’s Popcorn

Retail Art Gallery

Lewis Art Gallery
Blue Pomegranate Gallery
Main Street Studios

Shoe Store

Haney Shoes
6060 Maple St.
The Mix Shoes and Accessories
Buck’s Shoes

Shopping Center

Village Pointe Shopping Center
Westroads Mall
Shadow Lake Towne Center

Sporting Goods Store

Dick’s Sporting Goods

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Sweet Shop

Hollywood Candy
The Cordial Cherry
Chocolaterie Stam

Thrift Store

Thrift World
Four stores in the Omaha area
New Life Thrift

Vape Store

Alohma Vape Superstores
Generation V E-Cigarettes & Vape Bar
Caterpillar Vapes


Soaring Wings | Vineyard & Brewing
Cellar 426
James Arthur Vineyards

Wine Store

Vino Mas

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Women’s Boutique

Four Sisters Boutique
Kajoma’s Fashion Boutique
104 E. First, Papillion

Yarn / Quilting Shop

Personal Threads Boutique
Country Sampler
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft

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Accounting Services

Hancock & Dana PC

 Living Facility

Elk Ridge Village
Lakeside Village by Immanuel
Westgate Assisted Living


First National Bank, Member FDIC
Pinnacle Bank
14 Omaha Metro Locations
American National Bank


Catering Creations
Attitude on Food
Eddie’s Catering

Computer Repair

Elkhorn Computer Sales & Service
Ken’s PC Repair

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Credit Union

Centris Federal Credit Union
Cobalt Credit Union
Veridian Credit Union

Custom Made Furniture

Zongkers Custom Woods
Long Grain Furniture

Custom Picture Framing

Lewis Art Gallery
Malibu Gallery

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Omaha Love

Divorce Mediation

Nebraska Legal Group
Wesley Dodge
Koenig | Dunne

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DJ Service

ShowTime Music
Chaos Productions
JIIK DJ Services

Dog Day Care

The Paw Spa Pet Resort
Dogtopia of Omaha
Bark Avenue Omaha


Dog Training

Dharma Dog Training
Dog Gone Problems
Nebraska Dog Trainers


Dry Cleaners

Max I. Walker
22 locations
Fashion Cleaners
Six locations
NuTrend Dry Cleaners

Duct Cleaning

Affordable Air Duct Cleaning
MAXIM Cleaning & Restoration, Inc.

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Employer – Less Than 100 Employees

OBI Creative
Capstone Consulting, Inc.
88 Tactical

Employer – More Than 100 Employees

University of Nebraska 
Medical Center
Prime Time Healthcare

Estate Planning

Andrew Sigerson, 
Legacy Design Strategies
James Blazek, 
Blazek and Gregg, P.C., L.L.O.
Jill Mason, 
Kinney Mason, P.C., L.L.O.

Event Planner

A View Premier Event Venues

Planning Firm

Northwestern Mutual
Edward Jones
Thrivent Financial

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Funeral Home

Mortuaries & Crematory
John A. Gentleman Mortuaries
Roeder Mortuary

Furniture Repurposing and Restoration

Found Vintage Market
Don’s Refinishing Service
Southern Style Restorations/Furniture Magic


Hilton Omaha
Embassy Suites La Vista
Magnolia Hotel Omaha

Non-Medical Care

Home Instead Senior Care
Right at Home
A Place at Home

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Visiting Nurse Association (VNA)
Home Nursing With Heart
Physicians Choice Home Health Care

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Independent Living

Ridgewood Retirement Community
Elk Ridge Village
Walnut Grove Retirement Community

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Internet Provider

Cox Communications
Six locations
CenturyLink Internet

Law Firm

Baird Holm LLP
Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O.
Kutak Rock LLP

Insurance Company

Physicians Mutual Insurance
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska

Local Website

Under the direction of Joel Schlessinger, M.D.

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Newborn Photography

Penny Layne, 
Penny Layne Photography
Teresa Simpson Photography
Erin Brodhead Photography

Non-profit Event

Omaha Gives Powered by the Omaha Community Foundation
Art & Soup, 
Visiting Nurse Association
JDRF One Walk Mile of Hope

Nursing Home Facility

The Lighthouse by Immanuel
Brookestone Meadows
Papillion Manor Nursing Home

Personal Injury Lawyer

Hauptman O’Brien 
Wolf & Lathrop, P.C.
Gross & Welch P.C., L.L.O.
Sibbernsen, Strigenz & Sibbernsen

Pet Boarding

The Paw Spa Pet Resort
Cottonwood Pet Resort
Clearview Pet Care Centre

Pet Grooming Salon

Park Your Pawz
All About Dogs Grooming Salon
Dogtopia of Omaha

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Pet Photography

Dogtography by Kala Howard
Janine Cooper, JM Studios
Maggie Mellema, C41 Photography

Private School – Elementary School

Brownell Talbot
Saint Wenceslaus
St. Patrick’s of Elkhorn

Private School – 
High School

Marian High School
7400 Military Ave.
Creighton Preparatory School
Duchesne Academy of the 
Sacred Heart

Realtor Agent

Blythe Real Estate Team
Lisa & Dennis Ritter, RE/Max Results
Karen Jennings, CBS Home

Reception Venue

Nuri Event Studio
A View Premier Event Venues
Thompson Alumni Center @ UNO

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Retirement Community

Lakeside Village by Immanuel
Ridgewood Active Retirement Community
New Cassel

Shooting Range

88 Tactical
Omaha Gun Club
2828 S. 82nd Ave.
The Marksman Indoor Range

Small Engine Repair

Ty’s Outdoor Power & Service
Gretna Small Engine
J & J Small Engine Services

Smartphone Repair

Fix It Fast

Storage Units

Dino’s Storage
Armor Storage
Affordable Family Storage

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Tailor Shop

Sy’s Tailor Shop
Jack’s Tailors
G.I. Cleaners & Tailors

Tuxedo Store

Men’s Wearhouse
Tip Top Tux
Gentleman’s Choice Formal Wear


University of Nebraska Omaha
Creighton University
Metropolitan Community College

Veterinary Clinic

The Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital
Best Care Pet Hospital
American Animal Hospital

Wedding Photographer

Chelsea Jo Photography
JM Studios
Stephanie Reeves Photography

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Auto Accessory Store

O’Reilly Auto Parts
Auto Zone
NAPA Auto Parts

Auto Body Repair

Dingman’s Collision Center
Four locations
Dave’s Auto Body Co.
Four locations

Auto Detailing

Dolphins Car Wash + Detail Center
Owner’s Pride
Cornhusker Auto Wash

Auto Financing

Veridian Credit Union
Centris Federal Credit Union
Cobalt Federal Credit Union

Auto Glass

Omaha Glass Pro
Safelite AutoGlass
Metro Glass

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Bike Shop

The Bike Rack
Trek Bikes
Bike Masters Cycle

Boat Dealer

Omaha Marine Center
Valley Marine
SeaLand Marine

Brake Service

Jensen Tire & Auto
Omaha Car Care
Brakes Plus

Car Tire Service

Jensen Tire & Auto
Midwest Tire Co., Inc.
Firestone Complete Auto Care

Express Car Wash

Russell Speeder’s Car Wash
Rocket Carwash

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Full-Service Car Wash

Dolphins Car Wash + Detail Center
Mojo’s Car Wash & Detail Center
VIP Express Car Wash
11910 M St.

General Auto Repair

Jensen Tire & Auto
Haver’s Auto Repair
Exclusive Repair


Luxury Car Dealer

Lexus of Omaha
Mercedes-Benz of Omaha
Audi Omaha

Muffler & Exhaust Service

House of Mufflers & 
Brakes Total Car Care
Three locations
Omaha Car Care
Mad Hatter Muffler & Brakes

New Car Dealer

Baxter Auto | Midwest Car 
Dealer Group
Woodhouse Auto Family
H&H Premier Automotive

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Oil Change

Jensen Tire & Auto
Jiffy Lube
Valvoline Instant Oil Change

RV Dealer

Apache Camper Center
A.C. Nelsen RV World
Leach Camper Sales

Transmission Repair

Certified Transmission
Omaha Transmission
AAMCO Transmissions & 
Total Car Care

Travel Agency

Vacation Superstore
Travel and Transport
Enchanted Honeymoons Travel

Used Car Dealer

Baxter Auto | Midwest Car 
Dealer Group
Woodhouse Auto Family
Huber Automotive

Used Luxury Car Dealer

Lexus of Omaha
Baxter Auto | Midwest Car 
Dealer Group
Mercedes-Benz of Omaha

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The Best of Omaha book is an annual publication of Omaha Magazine. It is available for purchase wherever Omaha Magazine is sold (http://omahamagazine.com/locations/). Subscribers to Omaha Magazine received the 2019 edition with the November/December 2018 issue of the magazine. Subscribe to Omaha Magazine at http://omahamagazine.com/subscribe. Voting is open to the general public online. Voting for the next round of Best of Omaha will take place in 2019 at http://bestofomaha.com

November/December 2018 Instagram

October 24, 2018 by

Here are the nine images featured in our September/October issue. Click on the photos to view the contributors’ Instagram accounts. Include the hashtag #OmahaMagazine with your Instagram photos to be featured in the next issue of Omaha Magazine.

Follow Omaha Magazine on social media via InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. Find us at @omahamagazine.










This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Staying Current with Au Courant

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If beets are on the menu, I’m ordering them. A beet dish I tried during an August dinner at Au Courant Regional Kitchen was the best I’ve had in a long time. The plate of roasted and marinated beets, thyme aioli, and thin-sliced speck (a smoked ham) was made even more delightful by the juicy sweetness of cantaloupe—bright orange, glistening cubes of compressed cantaloupe with the most sublime texture and flavor. 

Other dishes my dining partner and I sampled, from starters to mains, were equally impressive, well-executed, and beautifully presented. And they reflected the restaurant’s commitment to offering diners the best of what’s in season. 

“We’re sourcing the absolute best products we can get our hands on,” says chef and co-owner Benjamin Maides, who works with area farmers and producers to find the freshest ingredients. “Our menu changes weekly so we can really adapt to what’s available locally. I need to be really in tune with what’s coming out of the ground.”

black bass

The Swiss-born, Omaha-raised chef has worked at a number of local restaurants as well as establishments in Italy, Colorado, and California (including the award-winning Bouchon in Yountville, California). Maides and local restaurateur Carlos Mendez opened Au Courant in November 2016 in the former España spot near 61st and Maple streets, in the heart of Omaha’s Benson neighborhood. The warm and welcoming space—with wood floors, high ceilings, a plethora of plants, and walnut tables built by Maides—combines rustic and elegant elements.

The restaurant’s dynamic menu is divided into four sections—amuse-bouche, aperitif, pasta, and protein. My favorite amuse, the Chovie’s egg, is a soft-boiled egg with a creamy, satiny yolk. The halved egg was set atop crisp, tender green beans with crème fraîche and topped with crispy purple potato chips. Think of it as a deviled egg, but exponentially better.


cantaloupe tartare

Both the egg and a slightly briny and sweet Beausoleil oyster from New Brunswick were perfect little bites to prime the palate. Another amuse featured local organic potatoes—crispy, golden-brown wedges served with dijonnaise, bits of bacon, and julienned green apple.

The kitchen also excels at pasta, all made in-house. Mushroom gnocchi with braised oxtail, heirloom tomatoes, and shaved pecorino Romano was perfectly pillowy and tender with a melt-in-your-mouth texture. A plate of agnolotti (a small, stuffed pasta similar to ravioli) with taleggio, roasted and pickled corn kernels, and pistachios was rich without being heavy. Pickled ramps added bright acidic notes that balanced the sweetness of the corn.


The night we dined, octopus and black bass were among the protein options. Served alongside chorizo and potato, the octopus was tender, delicately sweet, and slightly smoky. The black bass filet—flaky and moist with super-crispy skin—arrived atop a bed of yellow squash, zucchini, and some lovely tiny yellow tomatoes.

Guests who can’t decide what to order may want to consider the chef’s tasting menu, a six-course meal for $55 per person that highlights some of the staff’s favorite dishes. 

Maides says he’s pleased with the response from the community since Au Courant opened its doors two years ago. The goal isn’t to be the best restaurant, but to offer the best food at the best price. “We want to get rid of the notion that a quality dining experience has to be really expensive,” he says.

An inviting atmosphere, well-made cocktails, and top-notch service are all reasons enough for repeat visits to Au Courant, but the refined yet approachable menu is the real draw. 

Au Courant Regional Kitchen
6064 Maple St. | 402-505-9917 

Food: 4.5 stars
Service: 4 stars
Ambiance: 4 stars
Price: $$$$
Overall: 4 stars

Visit aucourantrestaurant.com for more information.

This dining review was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Chovie’s egg

The Crow and the Artist

Photography by Sarah Lemke

There is a flock of metaphorical crows hovering over Andy Acker. Crow-related artworks, meanwhile, have taken over the Omaha-born artist’s home studio in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

The 69-year-old Acker creates bizarre sculptures out of carvings and miscellaneous domestic detritus: keys, old coins, nuts, bolts, and other random bits. 

A figurative painter earlier in his art career, he cuts a striking figure himself at just over 6 feet tall, slender, with glistening white hair and beard, a boyish smile, and mesmerizing green eyes. 

Crows are now his figurative obsession. Acker says they started creeping into his work 20 years ago. 

He began crafting sculptural assemblages when he was working at Heartland Scenic Studios in Omaha. At first, they were just fun projects using leftover bits of wood from the carpenters in the studio. But the pieces eventually took on deeper artistic and philosophical significance for the artist.  

“I love to find art in our everydaysurroundings and to show others the beauty in a tree shadow, patterns in broken parking lot surfaces, peeling paint, or our sunsets,” says Acker, who moved to the Milwaukee area with his wife in 2013 to be closer to grandkids. 

He began seriously considering a career in art as a student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the late ’60s. He majored in art, dabbling in various mediums—oil and acrylic painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, etc.  

After graduation, he joined his wife’s family business helping out at the New Tower Hotel in Omaha. Eventually, Acker found his way into teaching art at McMillan Junior High. He taught there for 10 years and adored his students. 

After teaching, he spent the subsequent decade painting large canvas backgrounds and building stage sets for local theaters, museums, commercial clients, and various other venues.

Starting during his time as a junior high school art teacher, Acker would draw cartoon caricatures of departing colleagues as going-away presents. All the co-workers would sign his poster-sized drawings.

“We would zing them with all the things they would say,” he says, explaining how the caricatures would roast the outgoing colleagues with funny quotes written onto the posters. “We had one teacher that would come into the teacher lounge and cuss about kids like a railroad worker. He hung it in his den, and it was popular. I also did that for retiring co-workers at Heartland Scenic Studios.”

Cartooning was another of Acker’s favorite artistic formats before the crows flew into the picture. “I used to always do our Christmas cards as cartoons, but even those have been taken over by the crows,” he says.

His interest in crows began in Omaha. One morning, while driving to McMillan to teach art classes, he heard a crow caw. It seemed to be following him. The bird flew alongside his car through several lights. Finally, it gave one last “caw, caw” and turned into a cemetery nearby the school. 

Acker went about his daily routine. But the crow’s cawing nagged in the back of his mind. He began to notice crows more and study their behavior as well as the historic place that the crow has in history, literature, and art.

A crow is often a symbol of either bad luck or death, but that is not always the case, he says. A crow may be a symbol of life, magic, and mysteries. The prophetic bird also symbolizes intelligence, flexibility, and destiny.

Soon, Acker started to notice crows appearing almost everywhere he journeyed. He began to study crows, and that eventually led to them appearing in his varied mediums of artwork—painted, sculpted, carved, and showcased in mixed-media assemblages.

In his art, the crow offers a reflection on the human condition, a foil for various universal struggles. For example, “Crow Dreaming of Becoming a Man” shows the carved bird riding on a train engine. 

“My future is to continue to experiment with different media and characters from nature to explore human feelings of isolation and wonder, leading to bigger questions relating to our human condition,” Acker says. 

His work last showed in Omaha during a group exhibition, Tinkerbell’s Mausoleum: Assemblages from Whimsy to Macabre, at the historic Florence Mill’s ArtLoft Gallery on July 1-Aug. 31. 

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Omaha Poets Populate 2018 One Book One Nebraska

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nebraska poetry is not all about farms and cornfields (although some of it is). 

The state has inspired a wide variety of poets and poems, as demonstrated by the 2018 One Book One Nebraska selection, Nebraska Presence.

The book presents an anthology of poetry written by Nebraskan poets. Some of the poems do reference Nebraska land and farming communities, says book editor Greg Kosmicki, but many poems also discuss “major life events, births and deaths, weddings and funerals… the fabric of life.” 

“It’s not just Nebraska stuff; it’s human stuff,” Kosmicki says. 

The Backwaters Press (a small publishing press in Omaha that mainly focuses on poetry) published Nebraska Presence in 2007. Kosmicki, founder of The Backwaters Press, co-edited the anthology with Mary K. Stillwell, author of The Life & Poetry of Ted Kooser. 

Prior to 2007, the most recent anthology of Nebraska poets was Forty Nebraska Poets, edited by Greg Kuzma in 1981. 

Kosmicki says the idea for the new anthology was conceived by poet Marjorie Saiser and himself, born out of the desire to highlight the many modern Nebraska poets.

Nebraska Presence features poems from more than 80 Nebraska poets, including up-and-comers and nationally acclaimed veterans. Kosmicki and Stillwell used word-of-mouth and classified advertisements in Poets & Writers magazine to solicit poetry submissions. 

They invited poets to submit work on a variety of topics. Aside from Ted Kooser—a former U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry—no one had more than two poems included. 

Kosmicki says, “We didn’t want to have an anthology that was typical of a lot of anthologies that will be lopsided with three or four or five [poems] of the really well-known poets, and then one by everyone else.” 

Looking back on their selection process a decade ago, Kosmicki says they tried their best but did miss some people and types of poems. 

Twenty poets in Nebraska Presence are Omaha residents (though two died in the years following the anthology’s 2007 publication).

According to Kosmicki, the goal of Nebraska Presence was to provide a collection of poetry that was accessible to the average reader. Many of the poems are about the events of ordinary life and are relatable on a basic human level. 

“I’d like people to know that it’s accessible, and that the poems in it will make them think and make them move,” he says. 

The editors at The Backwaters Press were ecstatic when the anthology was named the choice for the 2018 One Book One Nebraska on Oct. 21, 2017. In addition to bringing recognition and potential donations to the nonprofit press, the selection of Nebraska Presence marks the first time in the program’s 14 years that the One Book One Nebraska committee has chosen a collection of poetry. 

As the 2018 One Book One Nebraska selection, Nebraska Presence has been the focus of library book clubs and reading groups across the state, allowing the general public to read poetry that they would not have otherwise. The program’s website states that the goal of One Book One Nebraska is to promote one book, either written by a Nebraskan or set in Nebraska, for all Nebraskans to read and discuss. The focus on poetry across Nebraska this year promotes a different kind of discussion and spurs new ways of thinking about Nebraska—including its land and people—that the previous selections of fiction and nonfiction could not. 

“I think that reading poetry can take the reader into a different place and to a different way of thinking about their world,” Kosmicki says.

Visit onebook.nebraska.gov or centerforthebook.nebraska.gov for more information about One Book One Nebraska.

Odes to Omaha

Short Home-Aha Poems by Local Poets

Omaha Magazine asked local Omaha poets featured in Nebraska Presence—the selection for the 2018 One Book One Nebraska—to provide a short poem about how the city inspires them (along with a brief biographical summary).

Twelve poets responded. Their poems are featured alongside bios, listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Two of the Omaha poets published in the book, Brian Bengtson and Fredrick Zydek, died in the time that elapsed between the anthology’s original publication and the statewide recognition. 


Brian Bengtson
(May 13, 1966—Mar. 13, 2015)

Bio: Bengtson was born in Omaha and wrote poetry from the time he was “old enough to hold a crayon.” He was the author of three collections of poetry: Leavenworth Street (The Backwaters Press, 2009), Gay…Some Assembly Required (Lone Willow Press, 1995), and First Chill (PublishAmerica, 2005). Bengtson passed away on .

Michael Catherwood

Bio: Catherwood’s first book was Dare, by The Backwaters Press. His second book, If You Turned Around Quickly, was from Main Street Rag. His third book, Projector, was from Stephen F. Austin Press. His work has recently appeared in The Adirondack Review, Bluestem, Louisiana Literature, Kentucky Review, Measure, The Minnesota Review, Numero Cinq, Red River Review, Galway Review, and Westview. Since 1995, he has been an associate editor at Plainsongs, where he writes essays. He is the editor of The Backwaters Press. 

“The Prayer”

These are the days we imagine
all light will soon go out, that our lives
will end sooner than we want. It’s expected
as we age while the sun directs the light 
show early mornings, the cardinals
in their dances in the backyard sky, our 
histories that sit like gargoyles 
in the trees. Fatalist. No. 
Just the spring days 
with their documentary of joy and beauty—
all the splendor that will be missed. All 
the beauty we will add slowly to 
while we return and

Marilyn June Coffey

Bio: Coffey, a Nebraska native, lived for 30 years in New York City. While there, her controversial novel Marcella broke a world record (for being the “first novel written in English that used female masturbation for its main theme”) and her wry poem “Pricksong” won a Pushcart Prize. Now an internationally published author, Coffey lives in Omaha with a feisty orange cat and an undisciplined garden. She writes history books. Her work has appeared on the cover of The Atlantic, including “Badlands Revisited: A 1974 Memoir of Murderous Days in Nebraska” (which can be found online). Coffey’s Mail-Order Kid was a bestseller on Amazon, and her Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers also garnered accolades. Coffey’s latest—That Punk Jimmy Hoffa!—details her trucker father’s clash with the Teamsters. 

“From That Punk Jimmy Hoffa!
by Marilyn June Coffey”

“That cussing of yours must of
burnt up the reporter.”

“Come on. What difference
would my swearing make?”

“In the Omaha World-Herald?
It’s a family paper, .”

Lorraine Duggin

Bio: Duggin was born and raised in Omaha, a graduate of South High with B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and a Ph.D. in English/creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s been a Master Artist in Schools/Communities since the 1980s with the Nebraska Arts Council and Iowa Arts Council and is on the Speakers Bureau of Humanities Nebraska. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies, winning numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination, a Mari Sandoz Prairie Schooner Award for short story, an Academy of American Poets first prize, and a Nebraska Arts Council’s Individual Artists’ Award in Poetry, among others. She is an international folk dancer in three groups who perform locally and regionally, and plays recorder with an early music ensemble (Women of the Glen). She teaches English-language learners at Metropolitan Community College, where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010.

“Poets in Omaha—a Series of Haiku”

creativity blossom;
secret gardens thrive.

Heavenward, earthbound,
a cello’s sonorous drone—
Symphony of words.

Like fish multiplied,
gold splashing in backyard ponds,
plotting our dreamscapes.

Lyrical lines form
—Missouri’s meanderings—
A poem is born.

Shagbark hickory
—hiking Fontenelle Forest—

lure us; unlimited skies
nourish this.

Greg Kosmicki

Bio: Kosmicki is the founding editor of The Backwaters Press. His own poetry has been published in more than 100 literary magazines, and he is the author of 12 books and chapbooks of poems. His book of selected poems, Leaving Things Unfinished: Forty-some Years of Poems, is slated for publication by Sandhills Press. He and wife Debbie are retired, live in Omaha, are parents of three, and grandparents of two.

“A Visit From the Master”

Housefly lands on my keyboard 
Shows me I must write
v, f, r, 4, e,

Steve Langan

Bio: Langan earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the Paul Engle Postgraduate Fellowship from the James Michener Foundation. He is the author of Freezing, Notes on Exile and Other Poems, Meet Me at the Happy Bar, and What It Looks Like, How It Flies. Langan’s poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including the Kenyon, Gettysburg, Chicago, Iowa, Colorado, North American, Notre Dame Review, Southern Humanities Review, Fence, Verse, Jacket, Slope, Pool, Diagram, and others. He teaches at UNO in the English department and Writer’s Workshop (where he serves as program development coordinator). He also holds the title of UNO’s interim director and community liaison for medical humanities. Additionally, Langan is founder and director of the Seven Doctors Project, established at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2008.

(Excerpt from a longer poem)

City no one’s said it best about;
city that ignores its river,
its young, its elderly, its myths.

I sat in its taverns for five years,
my pledge not to miss a day—
that pledge got me nowhere,

no perched bar to lean on, elbows
dug in like roots, to watch its river
spill mighty waste set down

to join its hostile older sister,
the Mississippi. For five years
I searched for the perfect tavern

like Ponce de Leon…

(Reprinted from Witness’ American Cities Special)


Matt Mason

Bio: Mason won a Pushcart Prize and two Nebraska Book Awards; was a finalist for the position of Nebraska State Poet; and organizes and runs poetry programming for the State Department, working in Nepal, Romania, Botswana, and Belarus. He has over 200 publications in magazines and anthologies, including Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. His most recent book, The Baby That Ate Cincinnati, was released in 2013. Mason lives in Omaha with his wife, the poet Sarah McKinstry-Brown, and daughters Sophia and Lucia. Mason is also the executive director of the Nebraska Writers Collective, an Omaha-based nonprofit that supports and promotes both established and emerging writers. He was instrumental in organizing the Omaha affiliate of the national Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry competition.


Omaha is more
than what you knew,
this dirty town carnival windy
small town metropolis
you thought
you were only
passing .

J.J. McKenna

Bio: McKenna is professor emeritus of English at UNO. For him, Omaha is a great place to observe and participate in people’s lives: to see former students like David Martin, who directs a writer’s camp at UNO each summer; or Leslie Irwin, chair of the English department at Millard North; or his grandson, Mason, who wrote an award-winning poem about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. McKenna witnessed the scene described in his poem, “On the Last Day of School,” one May as he was driving past Westside High School and four girls in high spirits swirled onto Pacific Street in a bright red Ford convertible. “I shared their joy, if only for a moment,” he says.

“On the Last Day of School”

On the last day of school
four in a cherry red Ford
cruising topdown
long hair flying

wind lifting their laughter
their spirits rising now
this day this time

Sarah McKinstry-Brown

Bio: McKinstry-Brown is the author of Cradling Monsoons (Blue Light Press, 2010) and This Bright Darkness (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, McKinstry-Brown is the recipient of two Nebraska Book Awards and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems appear in RATTLE, Ruminate, Smartish Pace, Sugar House Review, West Virginia’s standardized tests (a beautiful irony given that she was, is, and will always be, a terrible standardized test-taker), and elsewhere.

“What the Farmer Knows”
(For Julie)

is about giving each seedling a name,

though it may not take.
Hope is backbreaking.
Even in dreams, feel the pull, the till,

turning earth, soil so dark
it becomes night sky, and the seeds
in your hands, .

Michael Skau

Bio: Skau is professor emeritus of English at UNO, where he taught for 37 years. He studied under Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gregory Corso at Naropa Institute in Boulder, and has published books of literary criticism on Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Skau was named the Winner of the 2013 William Kloefkorn Award for Excellence in Poetry. Wayne State College Press published his collection of poems, Me & God, in 2014. His chapbooks After the Bomb and Old Poets were published by WordTech Editions in 2017 and 2018. In 2014, Skau founded the Imaginary Gardens Reading Series, which he coordinates and hosts every month.

“James Joyce in Omaha”

My first year teaching at UNO,
I gave an exam in my fiction course.
One of the students, a little below
a B so far, chose Joyce’s “The Dead”
for his test topic, the lyrical force
of the ending, its melancholy awe:
“It would put your mind in
a wonder,” he said.
I found my vocation in .

James Solheim

Bio: Solheim is a children’s author with books from Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Penguin Random House, and other publishers. He gives presentations at schools, conferences, and libraries, with previous programs all across the nation—including Florida, Washington, Minnesota, Alabama, Vermont, Arkansas, and Nebraska. His inspirational Think Big! presentations involve fun-filled activities to help kids aspire to greater futures. The Wall Street Journal and PBS included his book It’s Disgusting—and We Ate It in their lists of best books for getting boys to read. A graduate of the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, he has taught writing at Southern Illinois University, Northwest Missouri State, and Washington University in St. Louis. He is also active in Omaha’s folk music and dance community.

“Winter’s First Note”
(A triple haiku about the after-concert
air outside the Holland Center)

After Beethoven,
the cool loose noise of night wraps
us with Omaha’s

last fall snap. Feels like 
the pond wind’s chilled just for us.
Whirling from on high,

one flake, light enough
to float, dimples the water.
A touch and it’s .

Sarah Voss

Bio: Voss, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, currently serves as a contract chaplain at Methodist Hospital and is a state family-plan mediator. Her first chapbook of poems—Possum, Beaver, Lion: Variants—was released in October 2017. A mother, grandmother, and step-great-grandmother, she lives in an old Omaha farmhouse with biochemist-spouse Dan Sullivan and two cats, Orange and Gravy. In an earlier career, Voss taught math at UNO and then was the math program director at the College of St. Mary. She carried math into her ministry. Her doctoral dissertation eventually turned into What Number Is God? (SUNY, 1995) and she has since published and lectured extensively about the relationship between religion and math/science. She’s now working on a collection of essays based on metaphors drawn from math, i.e., “mathaphors.” One such essay—“The Miraculous in Number(s)”—can be found in the summer 2018 edition of Parabola: The Search for Meaning.

“The Gravel Road”

where else can you live
as close to a gravel road
as the one framing the farm 
of my midwestern youth yet

still be smack in the midst
of a city filled with arts 
music, math, metaphor
poetry, philanthropy, pride 


Richard David Wyatt

Bio: Wyatt was an associate editor of The Backwaters Press for 15 years. He retired from UNO’s Criss Library in 2016, after 20 years. He has published poems in publications such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Poetry, Southern Indiana Review, and The Midwest Quarterly. A book of poems, Gathering Place, was published by WSC Press in 2016. Born in California, Wyatt has lived in Omaha for 30 years, having earned a BFA in creative writing from UNO in 1977. He has also lived for stretches of time in Oregon, Illinois, and Long Island, New York. But Omaha, on the edge of the “sea that once solved the whole loneliness of the Midwest” (to borrow the words of James Wright) has been his “true home.”


What the crow flies toward
isn’t important—rather his shadow,
ever-present, the sky, too,
afraid it won’t have enough stars.

Fredrick Zydek
(May 18, 1938—May 6, 2016)

Bio: Zydek was the author of eight collections of poems, a biography of Charles Tase Russell, Learning the Way of Coyote (a novel), and numerous articles, reviews, and essays published in a wide variety of religious, commercial and educational journals. He published over 1,000 poems in literary magazines. Born and raised in the Northwest, he taught at UNO and later at the College of Saint Mary. When retired, he divided his time between home in Omaha, from which he edited Lone Willow Press, and a small working farm near Brunswick, Nebraska. Fredrick passed away May 6, 2016. 

Other Omaha poets published in Nebraska Presence include: 

  • Paul Dickey 
  • Art Homer 
  • Bruce Koberg 
  • Clif Mason 
  • Sally Molini 
  • Ernst Niemann

Visit thebackwaterspress.com for more information about Nebraska Presence: An Anthology of Poetry.

This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

From left: Michael Catherwood, Matt Mason, Lorraine Duggin, Michael Skau, Sarah Voss, J.J. McKenna, Rich Wyatt, and James Solheim

Pingpong, Popcorn, and Pops of Colors

September 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ervin & Smith’s office resembles an aquarium floating above the Aksarben Village street level. But instead of fish, there is a full-service advertising and public relations firm occupying the second floor of 1926 S. 67th St., Suite 250.

Pedestrian passersby can catch a glimpse of ad agency life through bare full-wall windows wrapping along the southeast side of the modern office building. 

Ervin & Smith’s stand-alone popcorn machine beckons from the corner of the second floor overlooking Lotus House of Yoga and the new HDR headquarters. 

The suite’s bare-glass southern wall faces Genesis Health Clubs with a row of pod workstations—partially enclosed, high-backed club chairs in teal and gray upholstery. The east wall of the office space features three house-shaped semi-private spaces with bar tables and chairs.

Heidi Mausbach, president and CEO of Ervin & Smith, says the current design is the result of a collaborative process focused on fostering an environment conducive to teamwork and community engagement.

Mausbach challenged the local architectural office of RDG Planning and Design to build an office space that encourages fun, collaboration, and community involvement. Everyone on the Ervin & Smith team participated in RDG’s research to provide insights on an ideal working environment for a diverse workforce.

“People wanted more private space, more collaborative space, more comfortable space, but many didn’t want an open environment. So we really dug into what’s the problem and heard that a lot of times in an open environment it’s just flat desks all the way across, there is very little privacy,” Mausbach says.

RDG tackled the assignment with a variety of mobile dividers, private offices, and myriad café- style booths. A mix of materials—plywood, metal, and textiles—were incorporated into the designs to serve as visual buffers. Soundproof materials ensure a quiet workplace to the agency’s staff of 42 employees.

When Mausbach was thinking about effective ways to use the new office, she decided to invite clients and representatives of other companies to use Ervin & Smith’s meeting space. For example, employees who serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations can do community impact work in the large conference room. And if more space is needed? The garage door separating the large conference room and multifunctional kitchen can be put up for more people to gather.

Ervin & Smith was named in Best Places to Work by Ad Age in 2014, 2016, and 2017. The Omaha-based advertising and PR firm also earned a Top Company Cultures award from Entrepreneur magazine in 2017, and it received a Business Excellence Award for Leadership from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in 2018.

“We want to continue to have a culture that people want to work here, so we can recruit and retain the best talent. We put a lot of emphasis on making it a great place to work,” says Mausbach, adding that Ervin & Smith sought to foster career, social, financial, physical, and community well-being among its employees, based on research from Gallup.

“With Gallup, they have five different categories of well-being, so we’re looking at creating perks that align with those,” she says. “This year, we bring in lunch twice a week. Free lunch aside, it brings together coworkers for a little bit of downtime and builds social relationships outside of the work that we are doing.”

And then there is that free snack. “The popcorn machine is used every single day,” Mausbach says. So is the pingpong table in front of it.

One of the team’s associate creative directors, Aaron Christensen, enjoys both. He even keeps a recurring appointment with Don Aguirre, one of the agency’s senior copywriters. These creative staffers bounce ideas off each other during their daily pingpong contests. And they keep score.

“For me, the daily pingpong game serves as a brain break,” Christensen says. “It gets me away from my desk and gets the blood flowing a bit. I haven’t had any amazing creative breakthroughs, but just taking the time to stop thinking about things is an important way to come back and get a new perspective on a problem I’m trying to solve.”

“Playing pingpong is my daily reminder of just how great of a gig I have at Ervin & Smith,” Aguirre says. “It’s just a fun way to give myself a mid-afternoon brain-break.”

“That playful, give-your-brain-a-break type of environment, sometimes that’s where the best ideas come from,” Mausbach says.

Visit ervinandsmith.com for more information.

This article was printed in the October/November 2018 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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.

Elizabeth Byrnes

November 20, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Students come up to me in the halls and ask when the pantry is going to stock toothbrushes…Toothbrushes…What they’re coming in for, it’s not just food they need, but basic items to survive and help their family.”

-Elizabeth Byrnes

Tucked away in a discreet supply room at Ralston High School, beyond the steel lockers and crowded classrooms, Elizabeth Byrnes is stocking nonperishable goods.

While classmates hurry to first period at 7:30 a.m., Byrnes shuffles paperwork, counts inventory, coordinates volunteer shifts, and organizes pick-ups and drop-offs for the school’s food pantry.

Byrnes is not your typical teenager. Sure, she’s a 17-year-old cheerleader who gabs on a smartphone and loves to shop at American Eagle. But this 5-foot-6-inch brown-eyed beauty takes her community service seriously.

So when she saw a sign last year advertising the school’s free food pantry, titled the R-Pantry, Byrnes decided to check it out.

“I didn’t know it was needed,” she says.

On that particular day, she visited the small closet of a lecture room where teachers had been operating a makeshift pantry that allowed students in need to shop anonymously for food, toiletries, and other supplies inside the high school.

Roughly 60 percent of students at Ralston Public Schools receive free or reduced-rate meals.

To create a healthy pantry, teacher Dan Boster says the Ralston High staff noticed the need and donated nonperishable items and the seed money—roughly $800 worth—in exchange for casual dress days.

“Once the pantry was created, we handed it off to the students,” says Boster, who also serves as National Honor Society adviser and oversees the pantry project.

Byrnes acquired the larder responsibility and has helped it evolve from the small closet of a lecture hall into a spacious supply room with large tower shelves brimming with food as diverse as artichoke hearts, fruit snacks, and granola bars.

Byrnes has grown the one-person operation to having 70 volunteers on deck to assist when needed. She has presented before the Ralston Chamber of Commerce when soliciting for donations and has advocated and made Ralston High an official Food Bank of the Heartland donation site.

She describes the families who utilize the pantry as living break-even lifestyles, existing paycheck-to-paycheck, with little left over for simple luxuries such as lip balm or toilet paper. Students from such families experience a lot of stress and anxiety over where their next meal is coming from, she adds.

“I saw how education is extremely difficult to get, especially if there’s a need in the household,” Byrnes says. “Students come up to me in the halls and ask when the pantry is going to stock toothbrushes…toothbrushes…What they’re coming in for, it’s not just food they need, but basic items to survive and help their family.”

Food insecurity—which means that people lack access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle—can be invisible, she explains. “Not knowing if there will be dinner on Friday night or lunch on Saturday.”

The R-Pantry idea is a positive response to a really challenging situation: student hunger. It is not the ultimate solution, but it is a start.

“I have so much respect and admiration for these students who are asking for help to support their

Byrnes excels in calculus, biology, and creative writing. She serves on DECA, is a class officer, and participates in National Honors Society. She enjoys running, hiking, and playing with her two dogs—Sophia and Jack.

Byrnes credits her family for always influencing her to do what’s best and help those in need. Dad (Robert E. Byrnes) is a doctor. Mom (Mary Byrnes) is a mortgage banker. Brother (Kent Keller) is a police officer.

“Her empathy for people runs very deep,” her mother says.

However, the driven teen doesn’t always communicate well with mom and dad, jokes her mother: “She was never one to seek glory. We didn’t know how involved she had been in the pantry until she was recognized. When she made homecoming court, we didn’t know about it until people began congratulating us.”

Mom adds, “She moves through life as if this is just a job. Helping others is just what she does.”

Byrnes plans to attend a four-year university next year and major in biology. She’d like to someday become a cosmetic dentist or dermatologist.

Byrnes encourages other young people: “If you see something you could change or help out, don’t be afraid to jump in there. You could change someone’s life with your one small action.”

The R-Pantry at Ralston High School (8969 Park Drive), is open on Fridays after school until 4 p.m. To volunteer, contact the school at 402-331-7373.

This article was printed in the Winter 2016 edition of Family Guide, an Omaha Publications magazine.

Fighting Misogyny

October 14, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The undefeated Wilson fights her second career match at the Ralston Arena on Friday, Oct. 14.


“Fighter” is a very connotative word. People hear it and think of large, brutish men knocking each other out for money. They think broken homes, difficult childhoods, and a last resort. Women are an afterthought, usually in the form of the devoted and completely dominated girlfriend or as the victims of domestic violence. The occasional person, when prompted, remembers Ronda Rousey’s infamous loss to Holly Holm—or how hot they both are. Typically, people respond so negatively to the idea of women in combat sports that I don’t even bring up the topic. Upon mentioning an upcoming fight or my training for the first time, the initial question people usually ask is not where do I train, or what’s my record; they ask what my boyfriend thinks of it. The readiness of this question, of the mindset that prioritizes the manner in which I relate to men as the most important part of my identity, is a big part of the reason I fight. The implication of that question answers the usual follow-up question of how I got into mixed martial arts.

I had my first cage fight in January of this year, at 110 pounds. I invited only four people outside of my team to watch, three of them women. I defeated my opponent via unanimous decision, meaning the fight went the full three rounds but the judges agreed that I was dominant throughout. It felt like a victory for not only myself and my team, but for all the skinny little girls around the city who are constantly being told they are too small or cute to get into any sport rougher than tennis. Afterward, I felt a little better equipped to handle the frequent instances of random men deciding to follow me on a run or asking me to get into the car as they drove by. My only battle wounds were bruised knuckles and a small bump to the left of my eye that quickly faded into a minor, reddish bruise. I loved having the visible symbol of my victory on my face. In part, because combined with the right amount of “resting bitch face,” it seemed to deter creepy strangers from approaching me in coffee shops or while walking down the street. 

But I wasn’t quite able to wear even my minor injuries, symbols of a well-earned victory and a major milestone in my life, with pride like the male fighters can. I remember my boyfriend coming out of his first fight, his only loss to date, with a badly broken nose and blood in his eye. Everyone’s first assumption was that he had been in a fight; I know because strangers approached him, excited to talk about how he had engaged in the most masculine of sports and emerged in reasonably good shape. Where he was met with excitement, I was handed cards with hotline phone numbers from sympathetic gas station employees who didn’t believe my story. For the week or so that my bruise was noticeable, any boy I happened to be walking around with that day was on the receiving end of accusatory glares, head-shaking, and lots of poorly muffled whispers. Outside of the martial arts community in the area, it was like my victory was something I should have hidden behind closed doors. Apparently, even after all those days of getting up at 5 a.m. to train and then spend hours at the gym, I still looked like an easy target. It wasn’t my first time being silenced about something I was proud of. Gradually, I realized that MMA will not change how most people see me, but it has changed how I see myself. 

During the month leading up to my second fight—this one at 115 pounds—I still encountered the stereotypical ways that women are perceived in relationship to the word “fighter.” But impositions of societal norms were not my concern during that time. Four weeks out, being a fighter means nothing about gender roles; it means constantly eating. Specifically, it signifies the consumption of a constant stream of protein shakes, eggs that I am beginning to accept will never taste good no matter how many different ways I cook them, supplements, vegetables, and what feels like gallons of water. I have put on close to 10 pounds of muscle since my first fight, in order to be able to cut a few pounds of water to make 115 pounds before weighing in, and then rehydrating back to a heavier weight the night before the fight. Beyond my diet, being a fighter means balancing the commitments of a full-time student working toward a double major, an internship, and a job while doing everything I can to win in the cage.

As a junior in college, fighting means training at an offensively early hour so I can get all my studying done before morning classes, so I can get school and work knocked out before maybe having time to eat an actual dinner, all so I can focus on working out and night training. It means trying to get to bed around 10 p.m. so my body can recover and I can do it all again the next day with a little more weight added to every lift and a little more of a push to get my 3.57 GPA up to a 3.6. It means discipline, and making adjustments when I need to study. I love my routine right now. I love training and then letting whatever Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing techniques I learned simmer in the back of my mind while I study, then letting my brain process information about Renaissance Europe and sonnets while I lift. My interests in academia and in sports complement each other, and I have heard the same from other fighters—contrary to the myth that fighters tend to be uneducated.

With all of these things considered, people wonder why I would choose to be a fighter. I grew up playing softball and soccer, and have no formal background in combat sports. I am attending college on full academic scholarships and do not fit the stereotype of a cage fighter. So why would I, at 19 years old, decide to add cage fighting to my resume alongside mission trips and semesters on the dean’s list? I guess I can see how on the surface the choice might seem a little incongruous, but to me mixed martial arts is the most natural thing in the world to pursue. The long answer as to why I fight is that I live in a world where I once didn’t get hired because I wasn’t “willing to consider leaving my boyfriend” (according to the man who was interviewing me). With such experiences in mind, I don’t get how becoming a fighter could be anything but a logical course of action. In a world where women are still considered annoying if they speak, people listen to me when they see MMA on my resume. The short answer is that I like it, just as I like soccer and softball. The sport fits my personality.


Random men still follow me and yell rude comments if I’m downtown at night. Realistically, I don’t think there’s much I will ever be able to do about that. Even as I’m writing this, there’s a boy I’ve never met at the table behind me yelling “hey” every time I stop typing, but no matter if they’re a heavyweight (205 pounds and up) or a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, almost everyone I have encountered in the MMA community has shown me nothing but respect. Yes, I train ground game and standup with men, but I have never had another fighter follow me to my place of work, stand outside the door, and yell for the girl in the dress. Even if I do look like an easy target, instances of disrespect I have experienced in this most “masculine” of sports are nothing compared to the disrespect I get from men on the street on a daily basis. I think there’s a lesson there, with regard to our society’s skewed perception of what it means to be masculine. The guys I fight with are not the same guys who are treating women like inferior beings on the street or in their relationships.

The fundamental message that fighters fight to convey is simple: “I will not be dominated.” To me “fighter” is not a word synonymous with troubled home life or hyper-masculinity or misogyny. To me it means being relentless, indomitable, dedicated, nurturing, receptive, empathetic, soft spoken, even-tempered—I think all of these words describe most fighters better than whatever people think of when trying to come up with reasons I shouldn’t be one. With all due respect to those trying to look out for me, I don’t see how it’s unsafe for me to be locked in a cage with another woman my size compared to how dangerous it is for me to walk down the street. Or to, in general, be a woman who physically exists and takes up space in the world. Silencing my interests won’t fix the real problem.

“Hey” boy just invited himself to have a seat at my table. He has started talking to me despite having been pointedly ignored for at least ten minutes and the fact that I am obviously in the middle of something. I am not polite in response. I have no interest in being dominated by a culture that puts women in boxes and has taunts at the ready in case they try to fight back. I have no interest in being quiet about my sport in order to protect people from a discomfort that I’m guessing doesn’t compare to the discomfort of a 14 year old having her ass grabbed by a stranger. I don’t care if it’s “inappropriate” for me as a “young lady” to be excited to get into a cage and physically beat another girl. I’d rather autonomously lock myself in a cage than be folded neatly into a gender role. I don’t care what your perceptions are of what it means to be a fighter, or what you think it means to be a size 0 and 20 years old with blue eyes. As my coaches and training partners are constantly reminding me, I’m not here to apologize. I’m here to dominate. 

Visit http://ralstonarena.com/events/detail/dynasty-combat-sports-dc-50 for more information.

“Fighting Misogyny” was originally published Friday, Oct. 14 online at omahamagazine.com.