Tag Archives: Millard North High School

Chase Thomsen

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A former Dundee-area eyesore is now one of the hottest places in Omaha to scarf down eggs and waffles.

For years, a decaying, vacant service station sat near the roundabout that connects Seward, Happy Hollow, and 50th streets. But this past summer, the building began to undergo a metamorphosis. The exterior got a slick, black lacquer-like paint job. The 5-foot hole inside the building was filled in. And for a final touch, a hot pink neon sign boldly displayed four letters: SCBC.

Today, visitors to the Saddle Creek Breakfast Club can expect at least two things: a sweet or savory breakfast in the $10 range, and about a one-hour wait. The breakfast-themed restaurant is the vision of executive chef Chase Thomsen and his wife, Niki. The restaurant serves up high-end takes on standard greasy spoon fare: biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried pork, as well as sweet offerings such as banana pancakes or a waffle that’s topped with candied macadamia nuts. They also have a vegan menu, which, like their primary menu, is seasonally adjusted.

Chase’s restaurant experience came at an early age. His godfather, Malcolm Thompson, was the former owner of Taxi’s Grille and Bar. Chase took his first job at age 15 at the now-closed Yo Yo Grille, which was located around 120th and Pacific streets. Then he went to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to study graphic design, but dropped out to work full time as a chef.

In 2007, he worked at Taxi’s. In 2009, he was in charge of that restaurant’s back-end kitchen. He later went to work at Plank, then, after returning to Taxi’s for a brief time, he worked at The Market House. While at The Market House, Chase worked with executive chef and fellow Millard North alum Matt Moser, who now co-owns Stirnella.

“Chase is an extremely talented and hard worker,” Moser says. “I can see why he’s getting the press and reviews he is getting.”

Both chefs’ culinary careers took a radical shift on Jan. 9, 2016, when an early afternoon explosion ripped through M’s Pub. Chase had a dinner shift at The Market House, which was adjacent to the beloved Omaha institution. On that frigid afternoon following the fire, he thought they’d be closed for dinner at most.

“We were still thinking that he may have to work the next day,” his wife Niki says. “Obviously, by the next morning, there was another story.”

Sitting at one of the tables at SCBC, Chase ran his fingers down one of the strings in his dark-blue hoodie and recalled the first thing he thought after hearing The Market House was damaged beyond repair. “I have to find a job,” he says with a laugh.

He took a job as a food consultant at a senior living community to pay the bills. During that time, his son, Lennon, was born. Throughout 2016, Chase and Niki began to come up with the concept of a breakfast-themed restaurant. Niki knew contractor Jeff Hubby, who ended up turning the old service station into what is now an eating hot spot on the northeastern edge of Dundee. The entire construction process took less than five months, Chase says.

Niki worked on the interior theme. Some of the inspiration for the design came from stuff she saw on Pinterest. When she heard the tile work for one of the walls would cost more than $20,000, she went to tile stores to get the white, black, and grey diamond-style design she wanted.

“Every decision we made was honestly dictated by budget,” Niki says.

Doing a breakfast-themed restaurant serves two needs for Chase. First, it gives him the opportunity to focus on his favorite meal. Second, it provides the opportunity to be at home in the evening for his family. With half a year into operation, he’s still trying to fulfill that second need. For the first few months after its October opening, he found himself getting home after midnight, even though service stops at 2 p.m.

“Our son is 1 now. I’m thinking, ‘Get this place open, become a morning person, and be able to have evenings at home,’” Chase says. “We’re not quite there yet.”

Saddle Creek Breakfast Club is located at 1540 N. Saddle Creek. Visit @scbcomaha on Facebook for more information.

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

From Paris, with Love

April 11, 2015 by
Photography by Laurie and Charles Photographs

Many little girls like to play dress-up, dreaming of a life on and around the catwalks. Wunderkind designer Kate Walz, the Millard North High School senior who just turned 18, never grew out of her playtime obsession.

Her lines have been featured at Omaha Fashion Week, Kansas City Fashion Week, and in an off-site event in conjunction with New York Fashion Week.

Walz was the only American designer invited to participate in the J Autumn Fashion Show, the first-ever fashion event held on the Eiffel Tower. The show took place in October and was an effort of London-based J Model Management.

Linden Estates

December 5, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It originally carried the decidedly blah designation of “SID 353,” but Linden Estates is now among Omaha’s most prestigious neighborhoods. Known for its approximately 120 stunning luxury homes that sit on large, exquisitely landscaped lots, the properties start at 3,000 square feet and more than a few attain the classification of “mansion,” with the largest topping out at 23,000 square feet.

“The beauty of the neighborhood is that you didn’t have one builder going in there with a specific style,” says Deb Cizek, of the Cizek Group with Prudential Ambassador Real Estate. “You had the individual taste of the owners who contracted with these builders. You have some contemporary homes in there, some traditional, you have some Tuscan—just a beautiful mix of architecture.”

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Cizek has been in real estate more than 25 years, and as a realtor who specializes in high-end properties, she knows Linden Estates particularly well. “It will go anywhere from half a million to multi-million, and everything seems to blend just fine,” she says.

The residents themselves also blend well, says Kim Syslo, who’s been in the neighborhood for about a year. There are homes with play structures side-by-side with homes that feature stately courtyards or pristine gardens, and Syslo says her young family has felt at home from the beginning. “We have friendly neighbors who are so kind to my kids,” she says. “Children really are welcome—we’ve been thrilled with the neighborhood.”

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John Belford, president of Linden Estates’ board of directors, agrees that, as the neighborhood enters its third decade, it has become more diverse in recent years. “There’s definitely been a lot of turnover. We’ve had a lot of new kids come into the neighborhood, young kids from 2 to 14. There are also people who are retired with no kids as well. Everyone 
gets along.”

“It’s a pretty good mix,” Cizek agrees, “and that’s what you want in a neighborhood.”

Located in the area of 144th and Dodge, Linden Estates is close to West Omaha business parks, retail developments, and 
other amenities.

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“We used to think 72nd was the heart of the city, and now it’s 132nd,” Cizek says. “Everything is easy to get to. It is a phenomenal location: easy access to downtown, easy access to the interstate.”

“There are a lot of restaurants and grocery stores and amenities that are within 10 minutes,” 15-year resident Nancy 
Hultquist adds.

Linden Estates is in the Millard Public Schools district, so neighborhood children generally attend Ezra Millard Elementary, Kiewit Middle School, and Millard North High School. Catholic schools St. Vincent de Paul and St. Wenceslaus are also nearby. Belford, who is the parent of three high-school students and also has one in college, says, “I’m fortunate to live here. It’s been great for our family, and it’s a great location—between 132nd and 144th and Dodge to Maple, we have everything we need.”

Linden Estates was annexed by the City of Omaha in 2008, Belford says. There is also a Linden Estates Second Addition, but although the two neighborhoods are adjacent, they are independent developments and even managed by separate home-
owners associations.

“Linden Estates is, in my opinion, probably the premier neighborhood in the city,” Cizek says. “It has stood out for twenty years.”

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Not only has the natural maturation of the community’s trees enhanced the look of Linden Estates over the years, the April hailstorms that came through West Omaha this year had an unexpected silver lining—many of the homes now sport new roofs, which has refreshed the neighborhood. “You have homes in there that look like they’re brand-new again,” Cizek explains.

The new roofs will also be a perfect canvas for the elaborate holiday light displays for which Linden Estates has become known.

“It’s always been like that since we’ve been here,” Hultquist says of the collective enthusiasm for holiday decor. “Everyone really puts up a lot of lights and celebrates the holidays. It’s a very festive environment not only for the homeowners, but also for Omahans to enjoy. I think when you go out to look at Christmas lights, this is one of the neighborhoods 
you go through.”

Even the entrance to Linden Estates is welcoming, Belford says. “The homeowners association started putting up lights about 10 years ago at the main entrance at 144th Street and Hamilton. The homeowners were already putting lots of lights up, so we decided to enhance the holiday season by adding lights.”

Linden Estates is an active neighborhood year-round. Even the surrounding areas are pedestrian-friendly, Hultquist says, with plenty of paths, parks, and even a small reservoir near the First National Business Park.

“In the morning, you see children walking to school, and after school, you see more people walking their dogs, children riding bikes,” she says. “There’s just more activity with more families and younger children in the neighborhood.”

The Road Home

October 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A loaf of bread. A tank of gas. Pick up the dry cleaning. There are myriad detours one may take in the drive home on any 
given evening.

But the road home for David Hayes almost never varies. On most nights, he drives his car in a trance-like state, methodically wending his way through the streets of Omaha. The vehicle comes to rest after ascending what starts out as an almost imperceptible hill. The scenery never changes. The vehicle once again deposits its driver at his final destination—Evergreen Cemetery.

That’s where he goes to visit his son, Dillon.

A toxicology report listed the cause of Dillon’s 2010 death as due to a mix of cold medication and oxycodone. The medicine was an innocuous, over-the-counter purchase, a $6.99 solution to a case of the sniffles. The oxycodone was a much less innocent acquisition, a $40 score the then 15-year-old sophomore made in the halls of Millard North High School.

Hayes is now a member of the saddest of fraternities—fathers who have lost their sons to prescription drug abuse. “It’s a crappy club I belong to,” says Hayes, who has since dedicated his life to serving Dillon’s memory by talking about the dangers of a problem that will claim nearly 15,000 lives in America this year. And he’ll talk to anyone who will listen.

“If I can stop one kid from going down the wrong road, if I can help one parent, it will be worth all the pain. It would be…priceless.” —David Hayes

Hayes has spoken before over 7,500 school kids in the second half of 2013 alone, along with hundreds of adults at service clubs, churches, and other settings. “It’s hard for me to speak. Really hard,” Hayes says. “But seeing the results is worth it. If I can stop one kid from going down the wrong road, if I can help one parent, it will be worth all the pain. It would be…priceless.”

Oxycodone, most often available under the trade name of OxyContin, is a semi-synthetic opioid made from poppy-derived thebaine. It is a narcotic analgesic generally prescribed for relief of severe pain. Its connection to the poppy has earned it the street handle of “hillbilly heroin,” just one entry in a lexicon that includes such slang as 80s (as in 80 mg), kickers, killers, blues, and most commonly, oxy.

Alcohol, along with many cold medications, shares the opiate affect of suppressing breathing, which is why mixing it with OxyContin is so dangerous. A person who takes a swig of cough syrup or a single drink before ingesting oxy will likely notice no adverse affects. Later during sleep, however, the combined effect of the continuous-release oxy (thus the “Contin” half of OxyContin name) may cause the lungs to simply shut down and cease functioning.

That’s what happened to Dillon.

Hayes, perhaps most widely known as owner of the acclaimed V. Mertz and other popular restaurants, turned to counseling and clergy after Dillon’s death, but an abyss of sorrow still haunted him. To borrow from the lingo of 12 Step programs, he got better when he got busy.

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So Hayes and longtime family friend Carey Pomykata launched Dillon’s House, a nonprofit that operates under the auspices of Youth for Christ. A basement playhouse that was the scene of many of Dillon’s greatest childhood adventures inspired the name. In his playhouse, the young boy could take the guise of astronaut, spy, or action hero, lost in all manner of valiant reveries. They were roles that Dillon would never have a chance to play in real, adult life. A reimagined though much grander version of the playhouse, a gift from Hayes to the children of Sonshine Christian Preschool, now stands on the grounds of Harvey Oaks Baptist Church, where he is a member.

“The kids here are, of course, too young to understand,” says Mollie Logan, director of the preschool, “but one day they will come to learn the full meaning of 
Dillon’s House.”

Hayes’ speaking gigs are aimed at the older siblings of the tykes who romp in Dillon’s House, as was the case during his presentation at Millard Public Schools’ Andersen Middle School.

Some motions—like riding a bike or the graceful swing of a professional golfer—are unthinking ones. They are acts of all but unconscious muscle memory. Hayes has his own. Not one minute into his school chat, he was reaching for a tissue. It is a gesture that defines the gentle, soft-spoken man. He first demonstrated it over coffee in an initial interview. He repeated it at the school and then again in a photo session. Even at an otherwise festive social function, talk of Dillon soon had Hayes fumbling through his pockets.

“Remember that old, old American Express travelers checks commercial with Karl Malden?” Hayes asks as an index finger darts to a cheek to intercept a salty intruder. “That’s me, but with Kleenex. I never leave home without them.”

“My dad didn’t want to wake after that, after Dillon died,” adds Hayes’ other son, Noah, now a 17-year-old junior at Elkhorn South High School. “Every morning was the same. He’d wake up, and it would take a moment or two for things to sink in, even months later. Was that real? Did that really happen? Then the pain would come again.”

“Kids my age think they’re invincible. Nothing can stop them. It’s an ego thing…But what kids don’t understand is not only that drugs can take control; they can take your life. That’s what happened to my brother.” —Noah Hayes

His struggle is different. While Hayes is bewitched by the specter of one lone oxy, Noah must witness firsthand the ongoing ravages of prescription drug abuse among his teens.

“Kids my age think they’re invincible,” Noah explains. “Nothing can stop them. It’s an ego thing. Drugs can’t possibly have negative consequences, they think. They could see this story and not even blink. They just don’t think that way. But what kids don’t understand is not only that drugs can take control, they can take your life. That’s what happened to my brother. He went to bed one night and never woke up.” Close your eyes, Noah says, and Monday morning locker chatter can be indistinguishable from that of the scholarly banter found in a lecture hall for third-year pharmacy students. “It’s really prevalent in our school and must be in others. It’s like a dirty little secret.”

Omaha Magazine invited three different area school districts to participate in a variety of ways in compiling this story. Some of those media requests were decidedly weighty and challenging. None accepted the invitation.

Pomykata, who acts as the director of Dillon’s House, has also had the soul-crushing experience of facing the persistence of dirty little secrets. She once happened to bump into thirteen of Dillon’s friends on a pilgrimage to Evergreen Cemetery. “It was the sweetest scene,” she says, “crying and laughing and then crying some more as we remembered Dillon.” But the conversation took a grim, darker turn as time wore on and the teens opened up about life after Dillon. “Twelve of the 13 admitted to using prescription drugs again since Dillon’s death.”

When it comes to the volatile power of a narcotic like oxy, there is no such thing as innocent, youthful experimentation, and repeated use can easily lead to addiction.

“I stole money from my mom,” says Jason (not his real name) on how he funded an insidious oxy addiction. “I stole a TV from my grandma, even though it was a lame piece of junk that I sold for only $30.” Jason dropped out of school at 16 before hitting bottom and landing in rehab under court-ordered supervision. Now 19, Jason is in recovery and back in school, studying computer programming while working a steady job, both ideas that were once entirely foreign to him. “Recovery has been a long road to travel. My family expected to get the old Jason back, but the new Jason is still pretty okay with them. The first thing I did when I had any money was to buy grandma a new TV, nicer than the one I took. She had already replaced the TV and laughed about it, but it was something I had to do for myself as much as for her.”

“Recovery has been a long road to travel. My family expected to get the old Jason back, but the new Jason is still pretty okay with them.” —”Jason,” a recovering addict

All addictions are family diseases. Often beginning as the elephant in the room, addiction acts like a malicious virus, infecting those closest to the user.

“I went to Al-Anon because I thought those people could tell me how to get my daughter to stop [prescription drugs],” says Sarah, who also requested anonymity for this story. “I was wrong about that but in a good way. What I found there really surprised me. Al-Anon helps me answer questions about me. I learned how to live again. It’s about sharing experience, strength, and hope. My daughter ended up getting better even before I did,” Sarah adds with a chuckle. “She still goes to NA [Narcotics Anonymous], I go to Al-Anon, and sometimes we go to each others’ meetings together.”

Reed Campbell, Clinical Director of NOVA Treatment Community in Omaha, has worked with scores of “Jasons” and “Sarahs” on what can be shared roads to recovery between parent and child. “In the stage between late childhood and early adulthood, curiosity runs rampant,” he says. “Anything that can get youth out of a place that is uncomfortable by providing some sense of security is a thing that kids might easily cling to. The grip of drugs like oxycodone and other heavy-duty pharmaceuticals is powerful but teens don’t think of the consequences.”

Pomykata agrees. “Kids see this stuff in their parents’ medicine cabinet and think ‘A doctor says this is good for my mom’s back. This must be safe or a doctor wouldn’t have given it to her.’”

Hayes reached for a tissue when Pomykata painted the picture of Dillon’s friends at the cemetery but prefers to point to happier, more encouraging brushes with those touched by prescription drug abuse. “A young man stopped me in the grocery store recently. He started crying as he introduced himself, saying that he had heard me talk at Millard South High School and had struggled with a drug problem, including prescription drug abuse. Then, he said something that reminds me of why I get out of bed in the morning. ‘That could be me,’ he said, ‘I could have been Dillon.’”

“What I found there really surprised me. Al-Anon helps me answer questions about me. I learned how to live again. It’s about sharing experience, strength and hope.” —”Sarah,” Al-Anon member

The tireless advocate has recently broadened the reach of Dillon’s House, taking its message on tour to five school districts in New York, where he says officials use the word “epidemic” to describe their prescription drug problem. Never one to rest, he loaded the evenings of his itinerary fulfilling invitations from universities and church groups.

Back in Omaha, Hayes dashes off to another school and then another and then another. He consults maps in planning his next national road trip. On many days, he is in danger of forgetting what’s next on his dizzying calendar.

But there will always be Evergreen Cemetery. And there will always be the shadow cast by a little blue pill. Hayes’ road home is always the same.

Allie Baxter

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by Allie Baxter, The Salvation Army, and Prudential

Since she was a little girl, Alexandra ‘Allie’ Baxter could be heard ringing bells next to The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles during the holiday season, taking donations for those in need. Now, her relationship with the signature red kettle takes on new meaning as the founder of the Red Kettle 5K Run.

Baxter, a recent graduate of Millard North High School who will be attending Northwestern University in the fall, started the fall charity event in 2010. Assigned to come up with a project for school, Baxter turned an idea for a charity event into a full-fledged business proposal, which she pitched to The Salvation Army. The inception of a run as a charity event, however, happened earlier that year while partaking in her favorite hobby.

“I was running another 5K charity event, and I noticed there were tons and tons of people there. And I thought to myself with that many people, you can really spread a message to lots of different people but also bring in lots of money and food,” Baxter says.

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The 5K run takes place at Lake Zorinsky and asks that participants pay a $10 or 10-food-item entrance fee. This year’s run will take place on Oct. 12. While the format of the run has not changed in its three years, fund- and food-raising efforts have skyrocketed. The first year brought in 16,000 food items for The Salvation Army, while last year garnered 45,000 items.

“Since we do a low-cost, high-benefit event, where we put in as little as we can to get the most out of it, whatever we bring in goes straight to the pantries and is immediately helpful,” Baxter says. “There seems to be an increasing need every year with the financial situations as they are. More people need the help and they all need it at the same time, especially going into the winter season.”

Omaha is not the only city where Baxter’s influence runs deep. The Salvation Army has started Red Kettle 5K Runs in major cities like Chicago and St. Louis.

“We’re trying to maintain a blueprint for the event. In Des Moines, they don’t need food because someone else helps them, so they bring in toiletry items. It adapts to what you need, and that’s what’s great about it,” she says.

For her efforts, Baxter received The Prudential Spirit of Community Award this past spring. The award, created in 1995, recognizes young people for their outstanding volunteer service. Baxter traveled to Washington, D.C., to receive her award, meeting Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey along the way.

Allie Baxter meeting actor Kevin Spacey at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in May.

Allie Baxter meeting actor Kevin Spacey at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in May.

“[The recipients] were put into groups, and we all were able to present our projects and hear what other people thought of them. I like hearing feedback from other people and learning how I can improve what I’ve started,” Baxter says.

Baxter is uncertain what her future holds for her at Northwestern, but she admits that through working with The Salvation Army, the business world has piqued her interest. Whatever she decides to do, she wants to continue working with The Salvation Army in Chicago and help combat hunger.

“There is this divide where people don’t realize there is a need, that there are people going hungry, there are people without homes. There’s a nonattachment between teens and what’s actually happening,” Baxter explains. “Hunger and homelessness are issues that are tough to fix. And when they are hard to fix, it makes people give up trying.”

Allie Baxter is one person who refuses to give up.

Q&A: Jason Decker

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Elite Landscaping

As a kid, Omahan Jason Decker was known as the neighborhood yard boy. Today, as owner of Elite Landscaping, he still spends most of his days working outdoors, creating and installing beautiful landscapes and outdoor entertaining spaces for homeowners. “I can’t picture myself doing anything other than this.”

Q: When did you first discover your love for working in the outdoors? How did you get your start in landscaping?

A: Growing up in Armbrust Acres, I mowed 15 yards a week all through grade school and made good money for a young kid. At 15, I started working for a local lawn and landscape contractor. While I worked for my old boss, I read many books on landscaping and learned trial by fire. My parents were always my guinea pigs. They were my first pond, patio, landscape design, fire pit, lighting job, etc. School was never my thing. I just loved being outside, the hard work, seeing the fruits of my labor, and interacting with people.7_BackyardFirepit_Web

Q: What education and training do you have in landscape design? Who were your mentors?

A: I graduated from Millard North High School in 2001 and then attended Metro Community College for one-and-a-half years, taking classes in advanced landscape design and plant knowledge. For the most part, I am self-taught. My mentors were definitely my father, Bob, and mother, Rose, who instilled in me great ethics and morals and taught me at a young age that hard work pays off. My mom continues to support me in my business as the company’s office manager.

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Q: What kind of projects does Elite Landscaping take on? Who are your customers?

A: Our main area of work is in outdoor patio and pool projects. We are the main installer for Lumbermen’s high-end clients, and Bell Pools and New Wave Pools are great companies we work well with, referring business to each other. I do all my own landscape project work—meeting with each client, designing and bidding each job, then watching over the job site through completion. We only do around 15-20 projects a summer, and we continually keep in touch with clients, keeping their properties in peak shape with maintenance annuals, potting, and service work, etc. My customers are generally very hard-working professionals—small business owners, doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, executives for local businesses. They love their homes and yards and want them to be one-of-a-kind retreats where they can spend time relaxing and getting away from the rigors of work and enjoying family time. Ninety percent of my work is referral-based, while a few jobs are generated by my website and my exhibit at the Omaha Home Show.IMG_8731_DxO_Web

Q: What part of landscaping do you enjoy the most? What inspires your designs?

A: The most creative and enjoyable part is the design process—I’ve come up with some very unique and challenging designs, and I have a great team of guys who are very skilled and able to execute our designs well. Traveling is what inspires me! I travel about every six weeks, and at least once a year out of the country—Rio de Janeiro, Thailand, Mexico, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Miami, Las Vegas…It gives me something to look forward to, and it refreshes the mind and body.

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Q: How do you enjoy your spare time?

Spending it with my girlfriend, Christie. She is the first woman who’s ever been able to get me away from work in the summer, our busiest time of year. We enjoy going to movies, sitting on the outdoor patio with friends for drinks, and dining out at Pitch Pizzeria, J’s on Jackson, M’s Pub, Roja, among others. We also like going downtown, and the Benson area is always fun. I also like to golf or just hang out with my bulldog, Diesel, and watch sporting events.

For a photo gallery of past projects or more info on Elite Landscaping, visit elitelandscapingomaha.com.

Kate Walz

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kate Walz’s laid-back attitude serves her well in her line of work. At 16, she’s the youngest fashion designer to show at Omaha Fashion Week (a title she’s held since she was 13, as a point of interest). This past spring, she showed 27 dresses during New York Fashion Week as well. She’s also doing an independent studies course in textiles and design as a sophomore at Millard North. So. No pressure.

“She’s very chill,” says her mother, Jackie Walz. She recounts a moment from New York Fashion Week when their show was running late. “She was supposed to be the very last one, then they gave you, what, 30 minutes of warning?” Walz nods. “They were like, ‘Kate, you’re on next!’” Jackie recalls.

“I was fine with it, I guess,” Walz says. “I’m more likely to freak out if I don’t have a lot going on.”

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At New York Fashion Week, Walz showed selections from her three most recent collections: fall 2012, spring 2013, and fall 2013. She favors red and black but incorporated gray and champagne into her most recent pieces.

“I think people can go, oh yeah, that’s by Kate Walz,” Jackie says. “It’s all vintage-inspired, and the colors are so cohesive.”

Walz does always seem to turn to the 1960s for inspiration. “My last collection was inspired by New York in the ’60s,” she says. The key word here is “inspired.” “It’s not like I’m taking an exact dress from the ’60s and making it again. It’s inspired by it, more like little details and styling. Big bows on the neckline.” Her next collection is already brewing in her head, and her muses are famous ballerinas of the 1960s, such as Martha Graham and Natalie Makarova. Understandable, since Walz has studied tap, ballet, and pointe herself since she was 3.20130329_bs_9613_Web_2

You won’t find her making her own clothes, however. Really, who has time between receiving the Rotary Club of Omaha Student Excellence Award (only eight 10th graders receive it in the city) and being accepted into Millard North’s entrepreneurship program? Her own style is a mix of vintage and girly prep. “My favorite store is The Flying Worm downtown,” Walz says. “I’ve found a few cool vintage dresses there.” For her bag, she carries a Polaroid camera case from Back in Time. Given her dislike for pants and her fondness for red lipstick, Walz considers her personal style to lie somewhere between the 1950s and ’60s.

Designing collections may fall by the wayside after graduation. Walz has her eyes on either Parsons or the Fashion Institute of Technology, both in New York City. In the meantime, she’ll be continuing her trips to the Big Apple, this summer as spokesdesigner for Fashion Camp New York City.

A summer of mentoring young, future designers? It’s probably to Walz’s advantage that she’s so unflappable.

Mattie Knihal

January 25, 2013 by

Mattie Knihal, 30, says she always loved to play with hair when she was little. “I’ve known since I was 7 years old that I would do hair,” she says. “Whenever anyone came over to our house, they would get a ‘Mattie Hair-Do.’”

Knihal, the oldest of three children, was born and raised in Omaha. She graduated from Millard North High School in 2001 and immediately went to Capitol School of Hairstyling, from which she graduated in 2002. Shortly thereafter, she started with Gloss Salon & Day Spa where she has been for ten years.

During her time as a stylist, Knihal has become a Redken Certified Colorist, which means she has been recognized for her expertise and commitment in Redken hair color and hair care products. She has also been recognized in both the 2012 and 2013 Best of Omaha™ contests in the Hair Colorist category.

“I want clients to look at me and think, ‘She cares about her appearance, and I want her to make me look good.’”

She believes her clientele—which includes KETV’s Brandi Petersen—keep her on her toes. “[They] all like to look and feel their best when they leave my chair,” she says. “Some like to change up what we do every time to keep it new and exciting. Some like to stay with what works best for them.” She adds that she prefers to be upfront with her clientele and tell them what will and won’t work for them based on their face shape, lifestyle, and time they want to spend on their hair.

Knihal, who has two daughters, Emma and Elaina, with husband Ryan, describes her own personal style as clean and professional. “I want clients to look at me and think, ‘She cares about her appearance, and I want her to make me look good’…I’m simple in the fact that I think black is the best color. It goes with anything and looks great when paired with the right accessories.”

Her favorite styling products and tools include:

  • Redken’s Color Extend Shampoo and Conditioner—“The shampoo provides color retention and anti-fade protection while maximizing color vibrancy and strength. The conditioner allows for great detangling and smooth conditioning without weighing the hair down.”
  • Redken’s Guts 10 Volume Spray—“It lifts up the roots of your hair to provide all-over volume. It allows for a lasting flexible feel and look.”
  • Redken’s Align 12 Protective Strengthening Lotion—“It has anti-frizz technology and heat protection. It allows for a naturally straight look.”