Tag Archives: George W. Bush

It’s In the Family

November 23, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For Bob Bezousek, Omaha Steaks is a family affair. Bezousek can boast having worked for Omaha Steaks for an impressive 47 years. During that time, Bezousek’s two brothers, sister, and brother-in-law have all worked for Omaha Steaks, as well as a few nieces, nephews, and his son, B.J. Bezousek recalls, when he first started dating his now-wife, having to interrupt a date to stop by the plant. “Our children and grandchildren have all been born during my time here—it’s been a great ride,“ Bezousek says.

Bezousek began working part time at Omaha Steaks in 1969 as a utility worker. Today, he is the vice president of production and oversees three plants, two in Omaha and one in Snyder, Nebraska. He directs close to 500 employees who manufacture products that yield an amazing $450 million in annual sales.

Today the name Omaha Steaks is known around the country and the world, yet when Bezousek began working there, it was still a relatively small family-owned business. Bezousek remembers when Alan Simon, fourth-generation family owner and current chairman of the board, used to help him with his accounting homework after Bezousek would finish his shift at the plant. “He is an amazing mentor,“ Bezousek says.

Between the years of 1995 and 2005, the Bezouseks witnessed the company double in size. “We were experiencing double-digit growth during this time period, so it necessitated being more creative in our production methods. We were adding departments that we had never imagined needing before,“ Bezousek says. B.J., who began working for Omaha Steaks in 1994, contributes much of the company’s growth during this time to their web-based marketing, which began in 1995. Omaha Steaks had been selling products by mail order since the 1950s, however, going online helped to broaden their reach significantly and attract new customers.

B.J. didn’t realize the full scope of the company’s growth until he was asked to provide and cook steaks for George W. Bush and the people aboard Air Force One while he was working the Omaha Steaks booth at the College World Series in 2001. “It was at this time that I found out the Bush family loves Omaha Steaks products and really loved the beef jerky,“ B.J. says. “I will say this, though, it is a new kind of pressure having the Secret Service monitoring you while you prepare food on short notice for the president of the United States.“

What keeps someone working at the same place for almost 50 years? Supplying the nation with delicious steaks, apparently. “I have had life changing moments ever since I started here, such as meeting James Beard, Julia Child, and many other renowned chefs,“ Bezousek says. Other highlights over the past 50 years include the opportunity to meet thousands of wonderful people and working in a challenging yet rewarding environment. “Overall, I’m proud of the fact that my dad and brothers worked in the meat business and that my son and I have continued that tradition—it’s now a family affair,“ Bezousek says.

From left: B.J. and Bob Bezousek

 

Omaha Steaks’ Sizzling Centennial

The Bezousek family has become a legacy in an Omaha business legacy.

Omaha Steaks cuts the meat, ages it, freezes and packages it, then sends it straight to customers’ front doors. This may sound like an odd business model, but is one that continues to yields almost $350 million in annual sales for Omaha Steaks. Mail order meals have become trendy recently, yet Omaha Steaks began their direct meal-to-consumer business in the 1950s.

Omaha Steaks opened in August 1917 as Table Supply Meat Co. after Latvian immigrant J.J. Simon bought an old table supply store to begin his butcher shop. It was named as such because it was more affordable to simply insert the word “Meat” into the building’s original sign than to have a new sign created. They began garnering nationwide attention in the 1940s when Union Pacific Railroad started serving the steaks on their passenger trains from Omaha to the West Coast. In the late 1980s Omaha Steaks products traveled around the world, served for meals on flights and cruise ships. Despite their success, until the 1990s Omaha Steaks remained a family-run business. Between 1995 and 2005 the company grew to four times its size. “We woke up one day and realized we had a really important national brand,” says vice president Todd Simon, “That was when we started thinking big about the business.”

Since then, Omaha Steaks has become a household name around the nation for its novelty, convenience, and deliciousness. “People come together around the dinner table to enjoy their friends and family,” Simon says. “We are very proud of the 100 years in which we have been a part of that important ritual of bringing people together.”

Visit omahasteaks.com for more information.

This article published in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B.

Life as a Maverick

June 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Erin Owen is an enthusiastic supporter of the Mavericks—the academic and athletic symbol of the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she now serves as executive director of the Office of University Communications.

The word “maverick” also means an independent thinker. That description fits Owen.

And she has always worked for mavericks—such as her first boss, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey. She first met him at neighborhood block parties in the Cathedral neighborhood of Omaha where she grew up.

Being hired as a receptionist in Kerrey’s Washington office in 1994 was her big break. During her six years there, she moved up to assistant communications director and creator-producer of the senator’s cable show.

ErinOwen2“Bob Kerrey is a maverick because he is an innovative thinker. He has the ability to be frank,” Owen says. “He had the courage to speak out and be honest with his observations.”

Kerrey says: “Whatever capacity and courage I have to think independently and acquire a reputation of being a maverick was enabled by other mavericks like Erin.”

Owen, while still in high school, entered the political sphere as an unpaid volunteer for Kerrey’s 1988 senate campaign. She has never seen age—or anything, for that matter—as a hurdle that can’t be overcome. “I don’t see barriers when I’m trying to accomplish something; if there is a will, there is a way. And I won’t stop trying.”

Her next boss was Tim Russert, bureau chief of NBC’s Washington bureau and moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press before his death in 2008. She became the show’s producer.   

“Tim was the quintessential maverick,” Owen says. “He didn’t think in a conventional way. He was a lawyer with a critical mind. Tim was able to take the most complicated topic and boil it down so everyone understood.”

Her five years producing Meet the Press, the longest-running news show in television history, came during an exciting time in history. She remembers the presidential election coverage in 2000 when the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush came down to a handful of votes.

“Tim and Tom Brokaw never got up from the anchor desk for 11 hours. It was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life.”

Owen and her husband, Rob, returned to Omaha from Washington, D.C., in 2009 after their daughter, Ava, was born.

She grew up in a family of mavericks. “My dad (writer and journalist Jim Fogarty) has always been an independent thinker, and he has encouraged independent thinking.”

She describes her husband as a “quiet maverick.”  Rob Owen is general counsel for the La Vista laboratory-products company Streck.

Her passion is to share with UNO students what being a Maverick means.

She cites the university’s marketing mantra:  “We are independent thinkers. Explorers. Risk takers. We are willing to go against the grain; ask the hard questions; and look at challenges in a different way. We collaborate. We serve. We represent. We grow. We are doing things that people said would never happen. We are loud. We are proud. We are Mavericks!”

Visit unomaha.edu to learn more.