Tag Archives: Field Club

Brew Almighty

January 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The term “act of God” can conjure images of broken levees, tree trunks on car roofs, or even incredibly bad hair days. But for Belgian farmers, it once signified pints of seemingly heaven-sent brewskis.

After harvest, the farmers crushed and boiled leftover grains, leaving them in open casks. Fast forward a couple of months, and the farmers returned to their casks to find them miraculously filled with beer. We now know it was less miracle and more wild yeast blowing in to ferment the wort that created the beer, but the farmers considered it a brilliant “act of God”—or, in Latin, “vis major.” This history inspired the name of Lindsey and Tom Clements’ Vis Major Brewery, which has been a passion project since its genesis.

The couple met in Omaha in 2008, before relocating to Chicago, where they developed a love of craft beer.

“It quickly grew into a passion,” Lindsey says. “Before long, our interest [in] and love for craft beer evolved into homebrewing for fun.”

The couple married in 2011 and returned to Omaha in 2012. That is when they got serious about homebrewing—getting new equipment and graduating from the typical novice extraction process to mashing their own grain. Within a couple years, Vis Major was serving suds at beer fests and other local events. Now, the Clements are polishing off the plans for their brick and mortar Vis Major Brewery, located at 3501 Center Street and slated to open in spring 2017.

The three-story building on the cusp of the Field Club and Hanscom Park neighborhoods was once Clanton’s Grocery. Tom will make beer in the walkout basement. The main floor taproom will seat about 40 people, with an additional private party space.

“We were attracted to the neighborhood because it’s so community-centric,” Lindsey says. “Families there aren’t just neighbors, they’re friends, and they’re really engaged with each other.”

Tom, a former Marine who works as an aircraft mechanic, is the head brewer, pinning down the technical side of the couple’s craft beer vision and ultimately bringing it to life in the clinking glasses of happy Vis Major drinkers. Lindsey handles marketing for Vis Major and works for a local craft beer distributor, which has provided invaluable experience and knowledge of the industry.

vismajorWith Vis Major, the Clements aim to “push the palate of the true craft beer drinker” while also offering styles appealing to entry-level drinkers.

“We want to make beer for people who, like us, are passionate about craft beer,” Lindsey says. “We love exploring craft beer, and I think that’s partially why we had such a great response at tastings.”

The five flagship Vis Major beers are Amen American Wheat, Psalm Saison, Convert Citra IPA, 9th Plague Black IPA, and Almighty Stout. Seasonal brews like summer refresher Eden’s Apricot and autumn ace Proverbial Pumpkin, a Let There Be Hops SMASH Series, and several creative limited release beers round out the existing lineup.

In bringing their dream to life as 100 percent owners of Vis Major Brewing, the Clements have faced their share of financial and other hurdles that might have tried even the patience of Job. But if timing is everything, then Vis Major may be right on time in terms of consumer interest. According the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, in-state sales of Nebraska-brewed beer have grown steadily for years, with nearly a 23 percent increase in 2015 alone.

“There isn’t a brewer out there that didn’t start as a homebrewer,” Lindsey says. “We hope to bring people into the fold of craft breweries. With our location, we see the opportunity to be the neighborhood brewery. Rather than focusing on mass production, we want to create a friendly neighborhood environment that’s welcoming to everyone.”

Visit vismajorbrewing.com for more information.

Feeding Frenzy

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The chatter among agents in the spacious, sunny work area of the NP Dodge Real Estate office in Elkhorn doesn’t focus on the global economy, the Brexit fallout, or what Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve might or might not do about rate hikes. They are too busy writing up contracts and swapping stories about how fast a listing sold in what continues to be a robust housing market.

“We’re seeing multiple offers on one home, like we had 20 years ago,” says Nancy Bierman, who manages 120 agents in the office at 204th Street and West Dodge Road. “Homes are selling above asking price. We’re seeing more cash buys, and homes are going very quickly, selling in one day.”

Homeowners now include millennials, the biggest generation ever to come into the marketplace. They’re moving into all areas of the metro, not just west Omaha.

“The urban market, Omaha’s core, seems to be really strong,” says Jeff Royal, president of Dundee Bank. “Young professionals want to live closer to older, established neighborhoods with more character like Benson, Blackstone, Dundee, Field Club, even south of Old Market in Little Italy.”

What’s driving Omaha’s housing frenzy? Chronically low 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, now below 3.5 percent, tell part of the story—one that has benefited everyone involved in real estate, from brokers to builders to bankers.

InterestRates1“It’s a good time to be a buyer,” says Royal. “We’re seeing an uptick not only in mortgage applications, but refinancing as well,” which follows a strong national trend. Figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications have been running more than 21 percent higher than last year—a far cry from the darkest days of the Great Recession of late 2007-2009.

“That was bad,” John Caniglia says bluntly. The owner of John Caniglia Homes, builders of higher-end custom homes, remembers buying a few foreclosures and flipping them just to stay afloat. “We started to see a perk up in 2011, even in the $450,000 range, when interest rates were really low. Then the tight regulations on borrowing money started to ease and we’ve been rolling along every year since, even our apartment and office development.”

The experience of that recession made Caniglia and other developers highly skittish to build on spec—building before you have a buyer—which explains an equally huge factor in Omaha’s hot market: a lack of existing homes. According to Omaha Area Board of Realtors statistics, the 2,600 homes on the market this spring represented a 16 percent drop from 2015, and a whopping 56 percent drop from 2011, when 6,000 residences were available. In addition, the median price of existing homes rose 7 percent over the past year, to $155,000.

“Many baby boomers looking to downsize are finding they have to pay more for less square footage because of the median prices going up, so they’re staying put and their houses aren’t available,” says NP Dodge sales associate Therese Wehner, explaining another piece of the housing crunch equation.

This classic scenario of low supply and high demand has tossed homebuyers into a whirlwind.

“When a house under $150,000 comes on the market, it’s like throwing raw meat into a lion’s cage,” quips Carole Souza, associate broker at NP Dodge. “You have it on the market and within four or five hours you’ve got 10-15 showings. Before the day is done you have at least one offer, sometimes more.”

But the downside of quick decision-making often leads to headaches for all involved.

“We’re seeing an increase in buyer’s remorse,” explains Souza. “They win the battle, but lose the war sometimes.”

The number of sales contracts that fall apart keeps rising. Wehner noticed, over a two-day period in early July, 19 houses that previously sold went back on the market. Three hours later, when she checked again, the number had risen to 21. Sales agents concede it is getting tougher and tougher to seal the deal.

“The buyer rushes into something, they sleep on it and decide, ‘Well, I really like the first house I saw better,’ and then they look for an out,” says Wehner. “And I’m telling you, when that happens, the emotions from the buyers and the sellers can run very, very high.”

Well-trained real estate agents will make sure their client asks all the right questions up front before making any decision. Sometimes they’ll suggest a simple, but effective, gesture to win a bidding war.

“A listing agent told me my client got the house because of the ‘sappy’ letter my client wrote to the homeowners saying, ‘I love how you took care of your home and I will love it, too,’” says sales associate Kori Krause. “Letters can work.”

The health of the real estate industry always depends on the big economic picture, especially as a presidential election looms. As John Caniglia says, “We builders pretty much spend our whole life worrying.” But with less than two months’ worth of housing inventory available and high demand, experts expect the Omaha market to continue its amazing run for the next three to five years.

Visit federalreserve.gov/releases/h15 for more information. B2B

The Banses

August 14, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Engra wed Ronald Banse, the couple shared a dream for their matrimonial abode. They wanted more space in an older home.

He lived in the Field Club area, while she resided in Dundee. Neither of their former homes would suffice.

They searched for about a year before discovering a mansion built in 1905 in the now-resurgent Blackstone district.

Banses4It’s a grand place, but if you ask the homeowners, it is simply home.

“We were awed by the sense of space in this room,” says Ronald as he surveys the main room. “It was the ceilings and the quality. You just don’t find this any place.”

Engra, on top of her attraction to the mansion’s space and heritage, has an academic appreciation for the structure. She studied architecture in college. “They call it a Georgian Revival home because of the exterior, but equally important is the interior,” she says.

The home offers many original features, such as mahogany throughout the formal dining room. The mahogany stops at the edge of the dining room, where the wood becomes a less-expensive maple.

“The woods are used according to status,” Engra says. The door jamb is mahogany on the side where the family and guests would have seen it, but becomes maple on the half that would be seen by servants.”

The original-looking kitchen was actually completely renovated by Engra to look authentic to the time period. The couple first ripped out the cabinets, which uncovered several windows in the room.

Banses1“It was like a whole different room at that point,” Engra says. She then stripped the woodwork and began considering other ways to make the room look even more accurate to its original time period.

A pantry became the refrigerator, which was covered with wood and made to resemble an icebox.

As the original home would not have featured many appliances, the butler’s pantry has become extra storage. The north side of the pantry is original, but the south side has been expanded. The couple found 100-year-old glass to maintain the older home’s appearance. Since they like to entertain, they have made room in the butler’s pantry for a stacking freezer and fridge hidden in the cabinetry.

The home uses radiated heat, and one heater in the butler’s pantry, specifically, is used to help with entertaining. A radiator that resembles a tea tray is perfect for keeping food warm until it is time to serve.

This is a home built with the intention that domestic workers would maintain it. There are two staircases: one main staircase for the family, and a second staircase for hired help.

Although the home uses radiant heat, the place contains two fireplaces. Original green tiles surround one hearth in the main room. Original blue tiles surround the other in the library on the top floor. Unlike many homes with multiple hearths, the two fireplaces use the same flue instead of having separate chimneys.

Throughout the spacious house, original oil paintings by Engra hang on the walls. There is plenty of room for the couple and their unique possessions.

“What home can accommodate a 7-foot-tall asparagus?” Engra says of one of her paintings. “It just makes me smile.”   OmahaHome

The Tornetens’ Life in the Rows at SoMa

April 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about living Downtown is just how similar it can be to living in the suburbs.

“I wanted a garden. I’ve always been a big gardener,” Judi Torneten says when asked why her family chose their Rows at SoMa townhouse. “When Steve showed me this place, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. The garden is right outside our door.” After a moment of thought, she adds, “And we’re a block from the farmers market where we get fresh produce.”

The Torneten family consists of Steve, Judi, and their young daughter Jolena. Their three-level home includes a two-car garage connected to the main floor, a fireplace, a patio, and a rooftop deck.

“I like that it’s convenient,” Judi shares. “We’re really busy people, and when we were deciding that we should move Downtown, I counted how many times we had been Downtown in a month. It was ridiculous. We do 80 percent of our activities down here.”

Steve works Downtown as a realtor and loves the convenience of being able to walk to both his work and his appointments. “There are days that I don’t even drive my car,” he says. Judi teaches nearby at Omaha Public Schools while Jolena attends school not far from home. Additionally, Judi sings with Opera Omaha. “It’s easy to get to rehearsals. They’re all Downtown,” she says with a laugh.

But while moving Downtown was an easy decision for the Torneten family, it wasn’t an easy task. “The biggest thing about moving to a condo or townhome from a house is that you have to get rid of a lot of stuff,” Steve admits. “But it’s incredibly liberating to throw all that stuff away.”

An added convenience to living in their unit is the ease of taking care of their property. “I was excited about doing yard work for about the first five years of owning a home,” Judi recalls of their previous residences in Field Club and Bellevue. “After that, we were just paying someone to do our lawn, so it was kind of silly to have one.”

The family doesn’t have to shovel snow, mow grass, or even pick weeds. “Plus, this whole complex is probably the most organic,green-friendly landscape you’ll ever get living Downtown,” Steve says, adding that the company that cares for their grounds, Squeaky Clean Organics, doesn’t even use a motorized lawn mower.

While it’s easy to imagine adults finding fulfillment living near such a vibrant part of Omaha, what could there possibly be for an 8-year-old like Jolena to enjoy? “It’s amazing,” Steve responds. “But I think that there’s more for kids to do down here than there is in the suburbs. We walk. We go on family bike rides. She goes to The Rose Theater or takes acting classes. She takes drawing classes with local artists. There’s just so much.”

And while the family can’t pinpoint just one favorite restaurant or shop, one thing is certain. “It is great to be able to walk to Ted and Wally’s,” Judi concludes with a grin.

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Exploring Omaha on Valentine’s Day

February 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Valentine’s Day is all about sharing the love and letting your spouse, your children, your friends—even your dog—know that you care.

But when it comes to Valentine’s Day celebrations, it can be a little difficult to share the wealth when you find yourself stuck in the stereotypical rut of chocolate, flowers, and the same dinner at your favorite restaurant every year.

Home to dozens of distinct neighborhoods, Omaha offers hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered, as well as classic landmarks that might be overlooked on Valentine’s Day.

Meghan Francis and Kerry Jones, founders of the Omaha-based blog Wise Owl + Sly Fox, brainstormed some unique Omaha Valentine’s Day activities.

“I guess we’ve always been old souls with old styles, and that’s one great thing about Omaha: There’s just so much history here,” says Francis.

Together, Francis and Jones came up with a Valentine’s Day “tour of Omaha.” Pick and choose from different activities to show loved ones a small portion of all the intimacy, history, and romance that Omaha has to offer.

Get your heart rate up in the morning with a walk or run with your loved one through the Field Club neighborhood. Located along an old railroad bend, the Field Club trail offers visitors a brief glimpse into a bygone era. Although you’ll have to bundle up, the sights of this secluded area include gorgeous ravines, snow-capped trees, and abandoned railroad tracks.

If your partner is a history buff, make a quick stop by the Gerald R. Ford Preservation Center near Hanscomb Park. An exhibition on Ford, the only president to have lived in Omaha, is open by appointment by calling the center’s main phone line at 402-595-1180. The exhibit is available for private viewing Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. The exhibit features photos of his birthplace, family memorabilia, and gifts given to Ford by world leaders and well-wishing locals.

For lunch, hop on over to Dundee, home to both casual and higher-end fare in an all-accessible setting. Stop by the French Bulldog for something on the trendier side or try Dundee Dell for classic comfort food from an Omaha staple. Both spaces offer comfortable opportunities to spend some time watching the eclectic crowd of Dundee.

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If you’re looking for an afternoon activity once the kids come home from school, Valentine’s Day crafts are an easy way to get the whole family involved. Francis and Jones suggest making homemade cards.

“We’re big fans of sending things through the mail. It’s just always a fun thing, and it’s something that we don’t do a lot in this day and age,” says Francis.

“Send them to your grandma, your single aunt, veterans at the VA hospital, whoever,” adds Jones.

For crafting supplies, head out to South-Central Omaha. David M. Mangelsen’s has been stocking Omaha’s crafting closets since 1961, and is an easy stop to find any Valentine’s Day-related arts and crafts supplies you could think of. A few hours coloring, gluing, and bedazzling might expose some hidden creativity among the family.

If you want to end your night with a more traditional Valentine’s Day celebration, spend the night in the Old Market, which is home to a host of restaurants that offer the quintessential romantic dinners by candlelight. Francis and Jones’ personal favorite is La Buvette, a French-style café and grocer.

For some after-dinner entertainment, look to the Omaha art scene. Many of the Old Market’s art galleries, including the Passageway Gallery and Anderson O’Brien Fine Art, are open until 9 p.m. on Fridays for some late-night shopping.

Although, after a whirlwind day around Omaha, you might want to hit the sack early.