Tag Archives: urban

Going to the Fair for 140+ Years

July 8, 2018 by
Photography by Douglas County Historical Society
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

4-H played a big part in Tracy Behnken’s youth. The Nebraska Extension educator, who grew up on a dairy farm near Bennington, showed dairy cattle and participated in horticulture and entomology competitions from the age of 8 to 18.

So when the Douglas County Fair rolled around each year, Behnken and her siblings filled with excitement. “I’m the youngest of four, and we all showed [livestock] and looked forward to fair time. We’d spend morning ‘til night there, caring for our animals. My cousins were there, and I got to see many of my classmates. And we’d get to see kids from across the county…reconnect with friends we’d made.” 

Behnken, 54, says a highlight was riding the Zipper carnival ride with friends, over and over again. She’d also go to the open-air auditorium and watch the song competition and fashion review show. “And I remember us girls trying to keep away from the 4-H boys who’d try to throw you in the stock tank,” she says, laughing. “They were an ornery bunch.”

The Douglas County Fair has created great memories like Behnken’s for countless Nebraskans for more than 140 years. And that longevity is no small feat, considering the changing landscape of the county, both geographically and culturally.

Just a couple of years ago, the fair appeared to be near an end. Its events and entertainment had been cut to the bone, attendance was dismal, and fair planners wondered if it could survive. 

1906 Douglas County Fair Ribbons

But today, with a new home and management, the fair is poised to make a comeback. So believes Matt Gunderson, chair of the Douglas County Fair Advisory Committee and president of Friends of Extension Foundation, which took over management this year. The 2018 fair will be held July 10 to 15 at Village Pointe in West Omaha and Chance Ridge Event Center in Elkhorn. Chance Ridge won’t have parking, so visitors will need to take weekend shuttles from lots at Village Pointe or Metropolitan Community College’s Elkhorn campus. 

To say that the fair has weathered many changes is an understatement. The first fair (in the area now known as Douglas County) was during 1858 in Saratoga prior to Nebraska statehood, according to the Douglas County Historical Society. But the official Douglas County Fair got its start on a parcel of land in Waterloo in the mid-1800s. A portion of property taxes paid by Nebraska landowners went to the Douglas County Agricultural Society, which initially funded the fair. 

“County fairs started as a means for the rural population to showcase what they’d done all year,” says Vernon Waldren, executive director of the Friends of Extension Foundation. “The farmers came out to show the quality crops they’d grown, compare the size of their melons, and show off their best livestock.”

“Eventually they added home economics—baking, sewing, and other domestics. Then 4-H started in 1902 and became part of Extension, and joined the fair with the goal of educating people about these things.” 

The fair steadily grew, adding musical acts, carnival games and rides, and other family fun. Held in late summer, the event lasted from five to 10 days. The fair stayed in Waterloo for over a century, until the fairgrounds were sold.

In 1988, the Douglas County Fair relocated to Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, with the Knights of Aksarben taking over management. The tract of land—bounded by 50th to 72nd and Leavenworth to Center streets—seemed a good fit, offering an indoor arena, a racetrack, and stables with plenty of room for exhibits, livestock, rides, and a midway. The location also brought the action closer to the population center, though not all were happy about the fair leaving a small-town setting. Participation by both 4-H and open-class competitors grew, as events were opened to kids from outside counties. The late-July fair was a boon to the city. 

In 2003, following the sale of Ak-Sar-Ben for development, the fair was forced to move again, this time settling at the Qwest Center Omaha in downtown. The fair combined with the River City Rodeo & Stock Show to become a four-day event in late September. The urban venue did not appeal to many traditional fair-goers, as events were moved indoors, and many complained the fair had lost its identity. But there was no denying the high turnout. “There were as many as 100,000 people in attendance during those four days,” Gunderson says.

The first few years at the Qwest Center (eventually renamed the CenturyLink Center), the fair offered carnival rides in the parking lot. “But economics dictated that that end pretty quick,” says Eddie Biwer, another Friends of Extension Foundation board member. “Too expensive.” 

“Also, the 4-H presence at the [Douglas County] fair was dropped,” Waldren says. “[The kids] went to the Sarpy County Fair. There were still open-class persons exhibiting, but not in those numbers.”

To keep the fair relevant in its new city setting, organizers recognized it had to become more diverse, Gunderson says. “We began hosting chess tournaments and robotics competitions. We worked to become more inclusive.” 

Douglas County Fair McArdle exhibit, 1910

In 2016, the Knights of Aksarben ended its oversight, and the rodeo/stock show parted ways with the fair. Management was turned over to the Douglas County Fair Foundation. During this uncertain time, the group chose to scale the fair back to three days in late July and sought out an inexpensive venue, choosing Crossroads Mall at 72nd and Dodge streets. Mostly vacant, the mall housed most of the fair events indoors, with a few bounce houses and a small petting zoo in an outside lot. 

The bare-bones fair offered some live music, a magic show, a Disney film screening, and the traditional cake and quilt shows. But without carnival rides and livestock events (rabbits and chickens were showcased indoors), the fair proved lackluster and had disappointing attendance. Fair organizers knew big changes had to come for it to survive.

Last year, the Douglas County Fair Board moved the event to Chance Ridge Event Center in rural Elkhorn. The one-day July event was a trial run to see if the venue would suit the needs of the fair going forward. Its tagline was “Back to the Dirt,” referencing the fair’s return to the country and the basics of a county fair (minus the carnival rides). It had the regulars—quilts, bunnies, a “sugar arts” baking competition, as well as a progress show (a livestock event for youth to practice their showcasing skills for the state fair). Like in past years, all events were open class, meaning anyone could compete. A beer garden and music concert closed the event. Though the fair did not boast big numbers, competition entries were up and it was received well by attendees. 

The Friends of Extension Foundation is hoping to sign a multi-year contract with Chance Ridge to continue hosting the Douglas County Fair, Gunderson says. With the help of new sponsors and additional marketing this year, organizers hope to build on this momentum. 

This year’s event tagline is “Where Urban and Rural Meet,” as the fair focuses on educating fairgoers on how agriculture relates to all of us, as well as pathways to careers in agriculture.

“One-third of all industries in Omaha are tied to agriculture in some way,” Gunderson says. “You can work in IT, as an accountant, a welder, or in transportation, and still play a part in agriculture and food production.”

Adds Waldren: “Even if you don’t want to work in agriculture, there are skills we teach to help in everyday life, like how to pick fresh produce or selection of meat…[teaching] people how to be better consumers.”

Gunderson realizes that building the fair back to the size it once was is unlikely given the more urban nature of Douglas County, not to mention club sports, technology, and summer camps competing for kids’ attention. But he hopes parents will take the time out for the fair to “create those special memories with their kids and grandkids, and spur that fire and interest in agriculture. It’s great family time.” 


For more information, visit douglascountyfair.org and douglascohistory.org.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Morton Meadows

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Keith Binder

The buttery smell of popcorn hits the same time a wave of warm air does. Coaches, players, and spectators shuffle down tiled stairs to the semi-subterranean gym. It’s the same oversized subway tile that lines the wall and floors of most schools built earlier in the last century. A few worn bills are exchanged for entrance into the gym. Pony-tailed girls in (often ill-fitted) basketball uniforms shout and shoot hoops, laughing and screeching to their teammates. Volunteers troll the bleachers selling raffle tickets for the “Shoot for the Loot” halftime free throw contest. Younger siblings hover around the makeshift snack bar, like bees to honey, while Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT” blares over the P.A. system. It’s the annual Holy Cross Girls Basketball Tournament in all its glory—an ongoing tradition steeped in history. Just like its neighborhood.

20130714_kb_2633

Holy Cross Catholic Church and school, along with Mercy High School, Beals Elementary, and Bethel Lutheran Church, are anchors of the Morton Meadows neighborhood. These strong neighborhood institutions, along with its housing stock, are what drew Amy Haase, her husband, Dan, and their two children to the area. Haase, who serves as the neighborhood association’s president, says that Morton Meadows’ tree-lined streets, wide boulevards, and varied architectural styles imbue the area with old-time charm.

The neighborhood was founded in the 1920s as a “western suburb” by Robert Messersmith with development beginning in 1922 and ending in 1945. Thoroughfares 42nd Street and 48th Street serve as its eastern and western borders, respectively, and it extends to Leavenworth Street to the north and Center Street to the south.

20130721_kb_2934

Morton Meadows was fashioned according to the garden city movement of urban development. Originating in Great Britain in 1898, garden city developments were communities incorporating “greenbelts,” or tracks of land designated as wilderness areas. These tended to be linear in nature and essentially served as mini-wildlife sanctuaries in otherwise urban areas. Following the heels of the Industrial Revolution, disciples of the garden city movement sought to infuse a little bucolic bliss into the lives of city dwellers, improving air quality in urban areas and affording residents access to nature.

That was Messersmith’s intent nearly 100 years ago. Flash-forward to today, and the greenbelts are still one of Morton Meadows’ most attractive features. Three separate gardens areas add color and charm along Twinridge Boulevard. Barb Wilson, a Morton Meadows resident since 1982, volunteers with the neighborhood association’s beautification committee. The committee maintains these Twinridge gardens. Volunteers plant annuals every spring at the Identity Garden at 44th and Woolworth Avenue. Several years ago, grant monies funded the planter containing perennials situated at Twinridge and Pine. Neighbors wishing to spruce up the island at 45th and Center donated several bushes, perennials, and grasses.

20130714_kb_2623

This level of involvement is typical of Morton Meadows residents, says Wilson. “We know our neighbors and watch out for each other. Whenever there is a storm that leaves tree debris in our streets and yards, everyone comes out to help with the cleanup. The same with large snowstorms. Neighbors help neighbors get the driveways and sidewalks cleared,” Wilson attests.

Morton Meadows is “small-town” living in the city, or as Haase puts it, Morton Meadows has “a Norman Rockwell sense to it.” New neighbors are greeted with plates of chocolate chip cookies and loaves of pumpkin bread. Buckets of tomatoes and zucchini from kitchen gardens are shared during the summer months. Retired neighbors are surrogate grandparents to children across the street, offering baskets of goodies at Easter and specially reserved treats at Halloween.

20130714_kb_2581

“I think a good descriptor of our neighborhood is its friendliness,” and sense of community, says Haase. Individually, blocks host their own parties, closing off streets and stoking up grills for a night of barbeque. Residents along Morton Avenue host a small 4th of July parade. But Morton Meadows’ big blowout is its annual picnic. Originally held in the summer, last year the Boulevard Bash was moved to the more temperate September to accommodate older neighbors who remained at home because of the heat. It featured live music along with picnic fare and family-friendly fun.

Morton Meadows’ prime midtown location is attractive to home buyers, says Suzan Downing, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate. And so are the homes’ architectural styles, which range from Tudor Revival, bungalow, and Colonial Revival. Home values have remained strong in the recently depreciated market. The average square footage of Morton Meadows homes is 1,850 square feet. Twenty-nine homes have sold in the neighborhood since January of this year, with the average price at $152,010 (as of mid-July).

20130714_kb_2619

“In Morton Meadows, you can really appreciate the scenery, especially from the half-story window as you look out over the multitude of age-old trees rustling in the wind,” adds Downing.

Morton Meadows’ beauty caught Patrick and Megan Falke’s attention when they were looking for a home in Midtown a year ago. “We weren’t terribly familiar with the neighborhood but immediately appreciated the personal feel of the area, punctuated by green space, active neighbors, and lots of small touches like the classic-style street lights,” states Patrick Falke. This “personal feel” stems from committed neighbors. “They are actively involved in making the neighborhood glow,” Falke has observed. “When you have actively engaged members of a community neighborhood, it becomes contagious.”

Roger duRand

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha designer Roger duRand didn’t invent the Old Market, but he played a key role shaping the former wholesale produce and jobbing center into a lively arts-culture district.

His imprint on this historic urban residential-commercial environment is everywhere. He’s designed everything from Old Market business logos to chic condos over the French Café and Vivace to shop interiors. He’s served as an “aesthetic consultant” to property and business owners.

He’s been a business owner there, himself. He once directed the Gallery at the Market. For decades, he made his home and office in the Old Market.

The Omaha native goes back to the very start when the Old Market lacked a name and identity. It consisted of old, abandoned warehouses full of broken windows and pigeon and bat droppings. City leaders saw no future for the buildings and planned to tear them down. Only a few visionaries like duRand saw their potential.

 “I had in mind kind of an arts neighborhood with lots of galleries and artist lofts.”

He had apprenticed under his engineer-architect father, the late William Durand (Roger amended the family name years ago), a Renaissance Man who also designed and flew experimental aircraft. The son had resettled in Omaha after cross-country road trips to connect with the burgeoning counter-culture movement, working odd jobs to support himself, from fry cook to folk singer to sign painter to construction worker. He even shot pool for money.

He and a business partner, Wade Wright, ran the head shop The Farthest Outpost in midtown. A friend, Percy Roche, who had a British import store nearby, told them about the Old Market buildings owned by the Mercer family. Nicholas Bonham Carter, a nephew of Mercer family patriarch Samuel Mercer, led a tour.

“We trudged through all the empty buildings, and I was really charmed by how coherent the neighborhood was,” says duRand. “It was really intact. The buildings all had a relationship with each other. They were all of the same general age. They were all designed in a very unselfconsciously commercial style.

“They were such an asset.”

Remnants and rituals of the once-bustling marketplace remained.20121119_bs_4319 copy

“When I first came down here, the space where M’s Pub is now was Subby Sortino’s potato warehouse, and there were potatoes to the ceiling,” recalls duRand. “Across the street was his brother, John Sortino, an onion broker. There were produce brokerage offices in some of the upper floors. There were a couple cafes that catered to the truck drivers and railroad guys. There was a lot of jobbing with suppliers of all kinds of mechanical stuff—heating and cooling, plumbing and industrial supplies. The railroad cars would go up and down the alleys at night for freight to be loaded and unloaded.

“A really interesting urban environment.” He thought this gritty, rich-in-character built domain could be transformed into Omaha’s Greenwich Village. “I had in mind kind of an arts neighborhood with lots of galleries and artist lofts.”

That eventually happened, thanks to Ree (Schonlau) Kaneko and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

duRand and Wright’s head shop at 1106 Jackson St. was joined by more entrepreneurs and artists doing their thing. The early Market scene became an underground haven. “In 1968, it was really artsy, edgy, political, kind of druggy,” says duRand.

Experimental art, film, theatre, and alternative newspapers flourished there. City officials looked with suspicion on the young, long-haired vendors and customers.

“We had all kinds of trouble with building inspectors,” who he says resisted attempts to repurpose the structures. “The idea of a hippie neighborhood really troubled a lot of people. This was going to be the end of civilization as they knew it if they allowed hippies to get a foothold. It was quite a struggle the first few years. We really had a lot of obstacles thrown in our path, but we persevered. It succeeded in spite of the obstructionists.

“I do have a sense of accomplishment in making something out of nothing. That was really the fun part.”

“And then it became more fashionable with the little clothing stores, bars, and gift shops. Adventuresome, young professionals would come down to have cocktails and to shop.”

The French Café helped establish the Old Market as viable and respectable.

The social experiment of the Old Market thrived, he says, “because it was genuine, it wasn’t really contrived, it evolved authentically,” which jives with his philosophy of “authentic design” that’s unobtrusive and rooted in the personality of the client or space. “Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all. The main criterion wasn’t profit…It was for interesting things to happen. We made it very easy for interesting people to get a foothold here.”

Having a hand in its transformation, he says, “was interesting, exciting, even exhilarating because it was all new and it was a creative process. The whole venture was kind of an artwork really. I do have a sense of accomplishment in making something out of nothing. That was really the fun part.”

He fears as the Market has become gentrified—“really almost beyond recognition”—it’s lost some of its edge, though he concedes it remains a hipster hub. “I’m a little awed by the juggernaut it’s become. It’s taken on a much bigger life than I imagined it would. I never imagined I would be designing million-dollar condos in the Old Market or that a Hyatt hotel would go in.”

duRand and his wife, Jody, don’t live in the Market anymore, but he still does work for clients there, and it’s where he still prefers hanging out. Besides, all pathways seem to take this Old Market pioneer back to where it all began anyway.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

The Troy Davis Story

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Leading Omaha hairdresser Troy Davis long ago showed an educational and entrepreneurial knack for his craft and for building the Edgeworthy brand at Fringes Salon & Spa in the Old Market. Now that his mentor and longtime business partner, Fringes founder Carol Cole, has sold her interest in the location, he has a new partner and a new focus on managing costs. The result is record profitability.

“Fringes of the Old Market is the busiest and healthiest it’s ever been,” says Davis, who’s made Fringes an Omaha Fashion Week fixture.

“Troy and Fringes have been a very important part of Omaha Fashion Week, as they style many of our veteran designers and constantly impress with their ability to interpret the latest hair and makeup trends on our runway,” says OFW producer Brook Hudson.

Davis is glad to share in the success. He’s lately seen members of the Fringes team represent well in a recent competition and awards show. Never content to stay put, his Clear Salon Services business is a new generation, grassroots distributorship for independent hair-care brands.20121130_bs_6230 copy

These professional triumphs have been happening as Davis addresses personal problems that “came to a head” last August but that have their roots in the past. Growing up in Blair, Neb., he began drinking and using drugs to mask the sexual identity issues he confronted as a gay teen in an environment devoid of alternative lifestyles.

“I felt so completely isolated. I lived in fear so badly that I hid it with drinking and weed,” he says.

A healthier form of self-expression he excelled in, speech and drama, seemed a likely direction to pursue out of high school. But first he moved to Omaha to experience the diversity he craved back home. He briefly attended Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, even landing the lead in the school’s fall production, before dropping out to attend beauty school in Omaha.

From their first meeting, Davis and Cole knew they’d found a new best friend they could grow in their chosen field alongside. She says she immediately responded to his “passion and energy and drive,” adding, “Troy Davis has definitely made me a better person and stylist and leader.”

Within four years, he’d proven to be such a trusted asset that Cole partnered with him in opening the Old Market shop.

“I’ve always been a very honest and open person. I’ve actually shared publicly via Facebook some of my bottoms and what I’ve learned.”

“He earned that,” she says. “He just really wanted to be downtown. His heart was there. I finally said, ‘Look, if you want to be a partner, I’ll do it, but you’re going to have to step it up and find a location.’ And he did. I have to give him a lot of credit because he put a lot of grunt work into it to get it started.”

The rest is history, as Fringes became a presence in the Old Market for its ultra-contemporary, urban styles and high-end hair care and beauty services. Cole let him run things there so she could concentrate on Fringes’ West Dodge site.

For Davis, Cole’s been more than just a business partner.

“Carol and I are so close. We just absolutely click,” he says. “She’s a very intelligent, very professional business woman. There’s not a lot of partnerships that make it. In a lot of ways, our relationship is like a marriage, only platonic. I think it’s healthier or better than most marriages I know of. We are able to communicate in a way that most people are not. We can say anything to each other, and even if it’s something that ends up hurting each other, we know that’s not our intention. Usually, it’s one of us misunderstanding something, and we’re always able to go back and clean it up.”20121130_bs_6095 copy

Davis has moved fast within the industry. While still in his 20s, he became one of 10 international creative team members for Rusk, a role that saw him flown all over the world to teach other hairdressers the use of the international distributor’s haircare products. He worked in the Omaha salon during the week and jetted around on weekends. It gave him the stage, the lights, the theatrics he felt called to. It also meant lots of money and partying.

All the while, his addictions progressed.

He was prepping for the always-stressful Omaha Fashion Week last summer when he and his life partner split for good. Amidst the breakup, the all-nighters, running his businesses, and leading an online advocacy campaign for a Fringes team that showed well in the national Battle of the Strands competition, Davis crashed.

“By the time I hit bottom, I was drinking every day and drinking to black out three days a week and, you know, it just had to end. I finally realized I am an alcoholic. It was a real wake-up call.”

He’s now actively working a 12-step program. “It’s definitely helped me get sober. I definitely thank my Higher Power for the strength I’ve had to get where I am today.”

He’s not shy sharing his ups and downs. “I’ve always been a very honest and open person. I’ve actually shared publicly via Facebook some of my bottoms and what I’ve learned in my treatment. In order to achieve something you need support in your life, and there is a connection through Facebook with family and friends that I think is very useful. I see it as an opportunity to share with them what I’m going through and the choices I’m making for myself.”20121130_bs_6028 copy

He calls his 12-step group “a new addition to my family,” adding, “They’re great people.” Like many addicts, he’s replaced his former addictions for a couple new, blessedly benign ones—Twitter and tattoos.

As his recovery’s progressed, he’s grown in other ways, too, including taking charge of his Fringes store’s finances. “It’s absolutely the best thing that could have happened for this business. It’s given me a whole new level of accountability. I see things more clearly and because of that, we’ve broken through a plateau we were never able to get past.”

He credits new business partner Sarah Pithan, a former assistant, for helping increase business by more than $4,000 a week. He also credits the “amazing team” he and Pithan have cultivated, including Omar Rodriguez, Kristina Lee, and Teresa Chaffin, for taking Fringes and Clear Salon Services to new levels.

For more information about Fringes Salon & Spa, visit www.fringessalon.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Urban Living in Style

October 20, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Twelve years ago, Billy Coburn moved to Omaha and settled in the Old Market near 15th and Jones streets. He would often look across the street at two sturdy long-lived buildings being used as warehouses and think how perfect they would be if renovated into lofts.

“I had my eye on them for almost seven years,” said Coburn. He was one of the first in line to buy when renovation began on combining the two buildings into 31 new lofts.

Coburn in his loft.

Coburn in his loft.

Coburn is now not only a resident in Kimball Lofts—he also handles the project for Prudential Real Estate. The man who calls himself an urban and eco-modern specialist has sold more than 65,000 square feet of living space in Downtown Omaha, the equivalent of almost 1.5 acres.

The two buildings combined to create Kimball Lofts each have a story. The Graham Ice Cream building built in the 1890s holds a place in national history. The Eskimo Pie was created there. After Russell Stover saw chocolate-dipped ice cream at the Iowa State Fair, he brought the idea to Omaha. Stover later went on to become a well-known candy maker. The second building is the Kimball Laundry that was constructed in the late 1920s.

Coburn and Boris, his easy-going English bulldog, live in a 1,100-square-foot airy loft that has one large bedroom and two baths. Exposed concrete walls give the loft an “urban grit” feel. You can’t tell it from his mournful face, but Boris is one happy pooch. Sculptor John Lajba has invited loft residents to use a fenced-in area near his studio across the street as a dog park. It’s the only dog park in the Old Market, added Coburn.

20120928_bs_4098-copy_2

A 360-degree view from the rooftop terrace awaits tenants for informal gatherings. On the first level, a community room with a kitchenette is often used for cook-offs called “downtown throw-downs.” Homeowner meetings are also held there. Underground and outdoor parking is available.

Coburn said neighbors in his building have a great communal spirit. “Tenants argue over who will watch my dog when I’m gone. One woman who lives here had a stroke. The tenants rallied around her.”

A compact kitchen provides ample storage space in Coburn’s loft. Counters are marble; granite also is available. The kitchen is open to the living space and shares a view through large windows.

20120928_bs_4115-copy_2

A small deck has room for two chairs for contemplating the Old Market view. “But I rarely sit there,” he said. “I live downtown to be downtown. Sitting isolated isn’t as appealing as the rooftop or Starbucks. Urban living is about the street scene and the community of like-minded people sharing sports, arts, theatre, concerts, coffee and drinks, food, and life experiences in a way that cannot happen in a suburban setting. The beauty for urban commuters is that once you’re home for the weekend, you never have to get in your car again.”

An exercise room sits ready for tenants. An enthusiastic bicyclist, Coburn rarely has time to ride outdoors. Instead, he teaches indoor cycling at Prairie Life Fitness at Midtown six times a week.

20120928_bs_4136-copy_2

Boris hangs out in the small guest bath. The master bath has two sinks, a granite countertop, and a walk-in shower with glass doors. A large walk-in closet goes well with the spacious bedroom.

Removing an old elevator shaft and moving the new shaft created room for a three-story atrium with skylights, which provide light for windows in all the lofts. In fact, the light is so bright that Coburn installed shades for the bedroom window so he can sleep.

Originally from Guthrie, Okla., Coburn has lived in Denver and Phoenix. He uses his creative talents to help some of his Prudential customers design the interiors of their homes. Coburn’s interest in art has resulted in a colorful and interesting collection in his loft. “One of Omaha’s great assets is its art community. I try to support that,” he said.

20120928_bs_4129-copy_2

He describes his style as Mid-Century modern, “shades of the ’50s and ’60s,” and the décor of his loft as Mid-Century, urban reflected in the pottery, chairs, bubble lamps, and bar stools.

Coburn noted that many people in the Old Market have second homes there. “They come from Hebron, Norfolk, Fremont, and Kansas City. They come to the city for weekend events or on business.

“I make it my mission to help introduce people to people and people to places throughout the downtown area,” he said. “One of my clients lovingly referred to me as the ‘friend-cupid’ because of the significant relationships she and her husband built through introductions of like-minded friends.”