Tag Archives: Warren Buffett

The Oracle of Omaha’s Edible Investments

April 29, 2018 by
Photography by Provided

Every spring, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from around the globe convene in Omaha to hear the financial wisdom of legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Shareholders also partake of some good grub. The annual Berkshire shareholders meeting’s organizers present attendees with an array of savory bites and tasty treats in the days surrounding the event.

This year, Berkshire subsidiary Borsheims will host a private cocktail reception for shareholders Friday, May 4 (6-9 p.m.), at Regency Court Shopping Center. The big tent will include live music and a complimentary bar and buffet featuring gourmet appetizers and a carving station provided by Abraham Catering. Indoors, guests shopping for designer jewelry and fine gifts will have access to a second buffet and bar. Investors may return for a complimentary brunch Sunday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at Regency Court. Again, there’ll be live music, and guests can play table tennis with a former Olympian or partake in a game of bridge (one of Buffett’s favorite pastimes). Though not promised, Buffett may swing by for a bite and mingle with guests.

Subsidiary Nebraska Furniture Mart will hold a shareholders picnic Saturday (5:30-8 p.m.) at its Omaha and Texas locations. Cost is $5 and will cover food-truck fare and entertainment. Visitors looking to enjoy a good cut of Midwestern beef have another option. Gorat’s Steak House, one of Buffett’s preferred business lunch spots, will host a shareholders’ steak special from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations are required and space is limited, so red-meat lovers should act quickly.

A major tenet of Buffett’s investing strategy is “buy what you know,” and one thing the Oracle of Omaha knows well is America’s much-loved food brands. Here’s a partial list of Berkshire’s food/beverage subsidiaries and holdings.


 Dairy Queen

The soft-serve ice cream and fast-food chain is one of Buffett’s favorite investments, as he regularly frequents his neighborhood store for a treat—typically a sundae loaded with cherry topping and nuts. Berkshire purchased DQ in 1997. Today, the chain boasts more than 6,000 restaurants worldwide and is valued at a cool $585 million. During Berkshire weekend, $1 Dilly, Fudge, and Vanilla Orange Bars and $2 Mini Blizzard Treats will be sold at the meeting, with proceeds benefitting children’s hospitals. Investors can also get “buy one, get one” deals on Blizzards at Omaha DQ stores with their credentials.


 See’s Candies

“See’s Candies became our model for investment in other quality companies,” Buffett wrote in the preface to a book about the company. Berkshire acquired the California-based, family-owned candymaker way back in 1972. Most famous for its chocolates, the retailer brought $410 million in revenue in 2016. The company’s retail website features a “Warren’s Favorites (& More)” page, which includes peanut brittle, chocolate walnut fudge, and bridge mix. During Berkshire weekend, the See’s Candies shop inside Nebraska Furniture Mart will be selling special edition shareholder candy boxes to investors.


 Coca-Cola

Berkshire Hathaway owns just 9 percent of the soft-drink company, but Buffett quipped, “I’m one-quarter Coca-Cola” in a 2015 Fortune magazine interview. He’s a super-fan of the classic carbonated beverage (particularly Cherry Coke) and said he drinks at least five colas every day, oftentimes for breakfast with Utz Potato Stix (another favorite). “I eat like a 6-year-old,” joked Buffett, who defies his 87 years. Berkshire first bought Coke stock in 1988. Today, its shares are worth $16.6 billion, and Coca-Cola has been deemed the world’s third most valuable brand (after Apple and Google). Of course, only Coke soft drinks will be served at Berkshire events throughout the weekend (though CenturyLink Center concessions, ironically, serve Pepsi products).


 Kraft-Heinz

Berkshire partnered with 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, to buy Heinz in 2013. In 2015, it supported Heinz’s merger with Kraft Foods, making it the world’s fifth-largest food and beverage company. Its products range from cheese and dairy foods to convenience items and condiments. (Fun fact: 1 million boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese are sold every day!) Today, as a 27 percent shareholder, Berkshire’s holdings are worth over $28 billion. In April 2016, the food conglomerate produced a Berkshire shareholders’ meeting commemorative Heinz Ketchup bottle featuring caricatures of Buffett and Munger on the label. It’s a collectible, no doubt.


This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

A Timeline of Chinese in Omaha

March 18, 2018 by , and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chinese migration to Omaha began, indirectly, during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. The “Old Gold Mountain” (i.e., the Chinese term for California) attracted a flood of unskilled laborers known as coolies. Nationwide, the Chinese population grew by leaps and bounds: from 758 (in 1850) to 35,565 (in 1860) to 104,468 (in 1880), according to U.S. Census data on the country’s foreign-born population.

Facing open hostility in the goldfields, many went to work in agriculture, mining, fisheries, started laundry or restaurant businesses, or joined construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. The railway industry dispersed Chinese migrants throughout the American interior. With Union Pacific’s headquarters in Omaha, it’s likely that the railroad helped populate Omaha’s own early Chinatown. But documentation of Union Pacific’s role in attracting the city’s earliest Chinese residents remains scarce.

“We don’t have archival records of Union Pacific bringing Chinese labor to Omaha, but we’ve seen this pattern throughout cities and towns of the American West,” says Patricia LaBounty, curator of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs. LaBounty spoke with Omaha Magazine while preparing a research presentation focused on the contribution of Chinese labor to Union Pacific.

Among the earliest documentation is an illustration of Chinese railroad laborers crossing the frozen Missouri River with Omaha’s sparse skyline in the background—including the old territorial capitol, now the site of Central High School (printed in the Jan. 22, 1870, edition of Harper’s Weekly). 

Mounting opposition to Chinese immigrant labor led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted immigration and banned citizenship. Many American Chinatowns dwindled and disappeared in subsequent years, with Chinese-American communities remaining staunchly Cantonese-speaking due to the early immigration from China’s southern regions. Post-World War II waves of Chinese immigrants predominantly spoke Mandarin, the language of mainland China and Taiwan.

The second wave of Chinese immigrants arriving in Omaha—and the U.S. in general—consisted of Chinese Nationalists and their families coming overseas after civil war split the Republic of China (Taiwan) from the communist People’s Republic of China.

A third wave of immigration followed normalization of U.S. diplomatic ties with Beijing during Richard Nixon’s presidency. This group included highly educated professionals, scientists, doctors, and students from the People’s Republic of China.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the number of students coming to U.S. universities (evident at the University of Nebraska system, Creighton, and Bellevue University) has steadily grown. Meanwhile, what could be considered a fourth wave of Chinese migration to North America has taken the form of wealthy Chinese looking to the U.S. for property and stock market investments.


May 10, 1869

Promontory, Utah—The driving of a ceremonial golden spike signals the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Chinese labor played a critical role in completing the eastbound Central Pacific that met with Union Pacific.

Jan. 22, 1870

Harper’s Weekly prints “Chinese Coolies Crossing the Missouri River” with Omaha pictured in the illustration. The article claims 250 Chinese laborers passed through Omaha to build a railroad in Texas.

Early documentation of Chinese labor passing through Omaha

1872/1873

The 1872/1873 Omaha City Directory lists Chinese laundries for the first time. There are two: “Yingalongjingjohn & Yingyang” between Farnam and Harney on 10th Street, and “Hong Lee” on Harney between 14th and 15th streets.

June 4, 1874

The Omaha Daily Bee reports on the burial of “Ting-a-ling” at Prospect Hill Cemetery, noted as the city’s first Chinese burial. His death is attributed to “too much ironing and ice cream.” The article explains that his remains will be exhumed after two years to be returned to China for final burial in accordance with traditional custom. The article also notes that the local Chinese population consists of 12 men and one woman.

1880

Omaha has 14 Chinese residents.*

1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur.

May 6, 1892

The national Methodist Episcopal Conference is held in Omaha. A speaker condemns the Chinese Exclusion Act for jeopardizing U.S. missionary work in China, denounces the U.S. president and Congress, and argues “that the Chinese had the same right to be here as other foreigners, notably the Irish” (according to the New York Times on May 7, 1892).

1890

Omaha has 91* or 93 Chinese residents.**

Feb. 15, 1893

Dr. Gee Wo Chan goes to the Supreme Court of Nebraska for practicing medicine without a license. He will lose his case, but his traditional Chinese medicine practice continues. At the peak of his business, he operates storefront clinics in Omaha, Milwaukee, and Chicago. The Omaha Daily Bee frequently publishes full-page ads promoting that Dr. C. Gee Wo “the greatest doctor that China ever produced is in your city.” His 1892 marriage to a Caucasian woman in Chicago was reported in the Omaha Daily Bee. His life story will be featured in a free online book, Chinese Medicine in Post-Frontier America: A Tale of Three Chinese-American Doctors (published in 2016).

Dr. C. Gee Woh ad in June 7, 1891 Omaha Daily Bee

Aug. 31, 1894

An article in the Omaha Daily Bee covers a revolutionary meeting of 150 Chinese “from Denver, Cheyenne, Sioux City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and other surrounding towns within a radius of 200 miles,” who meet to discuss overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. Chinese revolutionaries draw support from overseas Chinese communities around the world. Years later, China’s Revolution of 1911 will overturn the country’s last dynasty and set in motion the establishment of the Republic of China.

1895

The 1895 Omaha City Directory lists at least 21 Chinese-owned laundries (featuring names that appear to be Chinese).

Oct. 23, 1898

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 438 men, women, and children—including artists, performers, and cooks—were brought to the United States from China to help with the Chinese village at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. The expo allowed them to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act restrictions. The newspaper alleges human trafficking and claims that women were sold into slavery or prostitution.

1900

Omaha has 94* or 103 residents.**

Aug. 19, 1900

The Illustrated Bee publishes an article titled “Chinese in Omaha—Some Prominent Men,” which claims a Sunday school has offered English language education to Chinese youth since September 1885. Laundry is the chief occupation of local Chinese residents, and cleaners tuck “good luck mottoes” into fresh linens. Opium smoking is on the decline (allegedly the only crime in an otherwise “peaceable, quiet, and law-abiding” community). A sort of Chinese credit union offers loans to the immigrants at exorbitant rates. Joe Wah Lee is named as the community’s best English interpreter, the wealthiest local Chinese person, and the shrewd owner of Bon Ton Restaurant. Leo Mun, head of Quong Wah Co. is named the community’s most educated in Chinese but lacking in English skills.“Henry” Hong Sling is noted as affiliated with the community but based in Chicago where he is a railroad passenger agent.

1910

Omaha has 53 Chinese residents.*

January 1912

Gin Chin opens the Mandarin Cafe at 1409 Douglas St.

Nov. 22, 1916

The Omaha World-Herald reports on the opening of a “new hall” for the Omaha Chinese Merchants Association at the first known site of the On Leong Tong (111 N. 12th St.). Leo Wing is president and Chue Fing Sue is secretary. The report claims there are 150 Chinese living in Omaha.

The former home of the On Leong Tong, photographed in 2018

1920

Omaha has 126 Chinese residents.*

Sept. 16, 1920

Gin Chin opens the King Fong Cafe near 16th and Harney streets.

Photo from the September/October 2007 edition of Encounter Magazine

1930

Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.*

1931

Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a city directory is not printed in 1930. The 1931 Omaha City Directory lists at least eight Chinese laundromats remaining in Omaha (six are included under a “Chinese Laundry” category, two are listed as hand-laundries). Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.* “When the Depression came in, there was no more business,” says Jeanette Chin, wife of Carl Chin (Gin Chin’s son). “If families could save some money, they could go back (to China) and live like royalty.” She came to Omaha in 1942 from a prominent family in New York City’s Chinatown. Local Omaha papers claimed her 1942 marriage to Carl was the city’s “last arranged marriage.”

July 16, 1938

The Omaha World-Herald reports on firecrackers and festivities involved in the dedication of the relocated On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St. The article notes that the tong is raising funds for China’s fight against Japan in the war effort.

1940

Omaha has 69 Chinese residents (44 native-born and 25 foreign-born).***

1944

The year after the Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed (1943) during World War II, Gen. Albert Wedemeyer takes command of U.S. forces in China, relieving Joseph Stillwell. Wedemeyer was born in Omaha in 1897. He was likely familiar with Omaha’s ethnic Chinese community as he attended Creighton Preparatory School (when the school was located near downtown on the Creighton University). In 1919 he went to West Point Academy. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Tientsin, China, where he learned to speak Mandarin and gained a deeper understanding of China’s turbulent political climate with the consolidation efforts by the Nationalists and the rise of the Communist movement.

1946

The 1946 Omaha City Directory lists one business under the category “Laundries—Chinese” (Louie Chas at 209 S. 13th St.), and the name disappears in the next year’s directory. The Chinese laundry category vanishes from record in subsequent city directories.

1950

Omaha has 106 Chinese residents.*

1960

Omaha has 130 Chinese residents.****

1970

Omaha has 186 Chinese residents.****

1978

Joe Kuo and his wife, Alice, open the Great Wall Restaurant at 72nd and Farnam streets. The restaurant’s success will spawn other Great Wall restaurants downtown (at 11th and Farnam streets), near 84th and Center streets, at Oak View Mall, and in Council Bluffs. Kuo had graduated from Fort Hays State University in Kansas with a mathematics degree in 1972, but with a new family decided against doctoral studies to enter business as a restaurateur in New York City and Chicago before coming to Omaha. The Kuos were founding members of a Christian fellowship of Omaha Chinese (established in 1977), which started as a bible study group (officially renamed the “Omaha Christian Chinese Fellowship” in 1980, and again renamed as “Omaha Chinese Christian Church” in 1986). Kuo’s restaurants host bible study gatherings. The church’s founding minister, Pastor Job Lee, is married to Joe’s elder sister (Grace). The church fellowship serves as a center for Chinese language and culture education. The Kuo family will sponsor local Chinese cultural events, leading to the creation of the Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association.

1980

Omaha has 374 Chinese residents.****

The Omaha Chinese Christian Fellowship rents space at First Presbyterian Church. A few years later, in 1983, the fellowship will relocate to First Christian Church on 66th and Dodge streets.

Mid-1980s

The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association forms with the goal of bringing all Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese together, regardless of regional origins or political affiliation. The organization’s board includes Dennis Chin (a Bellevue Public School educator and Gin Chin’s grandson), his wife Betty Chin (a research organizer at Creighton and UNMC), and UNL engineering professor Bing Chen, among others. The association will eventually discontinue as political tensions mount and the community shifts to a predominantly mainland Chinese orientation.

From left: Dennis Chin, Betty Chin, and Bing Chen (at the Nebraska Chinese Association in 2018)

1985

The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association’s Chinese New Year celebration moves to UNO’s Milo Bail Student Center for a Chinese meal cooked by UNO chefs under the watchful eye of Joe Kuo followed by music, acrobatics, and dance performances at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. During its years of operation, the group also participates in the Omaha Ethnic Festival at the Civic Auditorium and hosts Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Dragon Boat Festival gatherings.

1990

The Omaha Chinese Christian Church purchases its own building at 81st and Blondo streets.
Omaha has 553 Chinese residents.****

1990s-2000s

Mainland Chinese in Omaha are believed to organize local community events, including Lunar New Year gatherings. (Individuals known to be involved did not respond to Omaha Magazine’s request for comment.)

2000

Omaha has 1,155 Chinese residents.****
In 2000, UNMC begins a formal faculty exchange program with Shanghai University. It is the first time the Chinese government has “awarded and funded a faculty exchange program between a Chinese medical school and [a] U.S. medical school.” In subsequent years, UNMC’s exchange programs with Chinese medical institutions continue to develop. By the year 2018, UNMC’s Asia Pacific Rim Development Program will have established partnerships with more than a dozen Chinese medical schools.

2005

Creighton philosophy professor Jinmei Yuan begins annual student trips to China, supported by the Rev. John Schlegel (president of the university) and Soong Ching-Ling Foundation in China.  

2007

Omaha-born filmmaker Alexander Payne is part of a group that buys King Fong Cafe from the Huey family that has managed the restaurant in the years following Gin Chin’s passing. Also in 2007, the Confucius Institute (which operates around the world teaching Chinese as a second language) opens at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the institute will become a key sponsor for holiday celebrations with the UNL chapter of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, Lincoln Chinese Cultural Association, the Asian Community Center in Lincoln, and the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association/Nebraska Chinese Association.

2008

In 2008, Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions establishes a three-month Rehabilitation International Summer Program. By 2014, the university will establish the China Honors Interprofessional Program for medical students and health care professionals in China. Partner schools will include 10 universities across China (along with universities in five other countries).

May 2008

The Omaha Chinese Culture Association establishes in the wake of China’s tragic 2008 Sichuan earthquakes. In China, more than 69,000 are confirmed dead and 5 million people are displaced. Bellevue University’s director of global partnerships in Asia, Julie Verebely, was born in the area devastated by the quake. Verebely knew her home was affected, but she didn’t know how badly. She couldn’t contact any friends or family in the province. “She called me up and said, ‘We need to do something. It’s my hometown,’” recalls Linda Steele, who works with Verebely at Bellevue. With a core group of more than 30 Chinese-Americans and Chinese expats, they arrange several fundraisers that accumulate more than $30,000. During their fundraising efforts, Ping Ye (a systems analyst at HDR) suggests to fellow volunteers that they organize as a continuing Chinese association. Ye is the Omaha Chinese Culture Association’s first president, followed by Mae Keith, and then Steele. John Zhang is the association’s first chairman of the board, followed by Hong Zheng.

Linda Steele

2009

The Omaha Chinese Christian Church moves to its current location at 4618 S. 139th St.

2010

Omaha has 1,437 Chinese residents.****

Feb. 3, 2009

The first Lunar New Year Gala is hosted by the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association at Christ Community Church. Locations will change in later years: Millard North High School in 2010, Burke High School in 2011-2012, Westside High School in 2013, Westside Middle School in 2015-2017, and Burke again in 2018.

April 2009

In April, an Omaha delegation visits Yantai (in Shandong province) at the invitation of the mayor of the northeastern Chinese city. In October, Yantai officials will visit Omaha to sign a letter of intent to become “sister cities.” In June 2010, Omaha’s Mayor Jim Suttle will visit Yantai, China, in a trip to establish Omaha and Yantai as “sister cities.”

Oct. 3, 2009

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts the first annual Mid-Autumn Chinese Cultural Festival at Zorinsky Lake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

June 4, 2011

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts its first annual Dragon Boat Festival on a Missouri River cruise.

2012

Bellevue University establishes a partnership with Guangzhou College of Commerce in 2012. The first group of Chinese students will arrive in 2015. Also in 2012, the UNO College of Business Administration begins annual study trips to China.

August 2012

During a visit to China, Nebraska’s Gov. Dave Heineman announces the state will open a trade office in China.

2013

The UNO College of Business Administration hosts a China Conference focused on US-China economic relations and business partnerships. The conference continues for a second year in 2014.

March 18, 2013

Ceremonies in Nebraska and Shanghai are held to announce the opening of the Nebraska Center China in Shanghai. Upon taking office in 2015, Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to foster China-Nebraska trade relations with trade trips in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The Omaha Chamber also participates in overseas trips to China on an annual basis.

May 2014

An estimated 1,000 Chinese investors visit Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. In China, the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett is known as “the God of Stock Investing.” The number of Chinese visitors to Omaha during the shareholder meeting will continue to grow every year. An estimated 2,000-3,000 Chinese investors will visit Omaha for the shareholder meeting in 2016.

2015

The Nebraska Chinese Association replaces the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association under the leadership of local Omaha businessman Hong Zheng (owner of the Asian Market) and its president Linda Steele (an adjunct professor Bellevue University).

Hong Zheng

April 2016

Lion Dancers help the Nebraska Chinese Association celebrate the grand opening of the Nebraska Chinese Center in the site of a former church at 8206 Blondo St. The center offers language classes, cooking classes, a farmers’ market, tai chi exercise programs, and other cultural events.

2016

King Fong Cafe closes “temporarily.”

May 2017

The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting continues to draw more Chinese visitors every year. Buses take Chinese tour groups to Warren Buffett’s home in Dundee for photographs. In 2017, Linda Steele estimates that there are 3,000-4,000 Chinese visitors. A gala dinner hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association introduces overseas investors and local businesses. Steele expects 5,000 Chinese visitors for the Berkshire meeting in 2018.

June 14, 2017

Forty boxes of beef arrive in China from Greater Omaha Packing Co. The Omaha-headquartered business has emerged as an industry leader in reopening U.S. beef exports to China. It is the first shipment of U.S. beef to China since 2003 (following a mad cow scare that halted imports).

November 2017

The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the historic status of the On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St.

2018

In the 2017/2018 academic year, Bellevue University has 258 overseas Chinese students; UNMC has 96 students from mainland China; UNO has 124 overseas Chinese students; Creighton has 36.

March 3, 2018

The 10th anniversary of the Lunar New Year Gala hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association/Omaha Chinese Cultural Association takes place at Burke High School. Of the approximately 200 volunteers organizing the gala, 100 are overseas Chinese students. The association’s members include close to 800 people.

Nebraska Chinese Association board members from left: Grant Wu, Hong Zheng, May Yap, Jun White, Linda Steele, Li Li, Sarah Luo, Qiuming Zhu, Ping Ye, Jenny McAtee

*Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society

**Source: An Almanac of Nebraska: Nationality, Ethnic, and Racial Groups (published in 1975)

***Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska Library Commission

****Source: U.S. Census data provided by University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Public Affairs Research


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

See other Omaha-Chinese content from the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine:

Lunch With Buffett

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With food-inspired songs such as “Charleston’s,” “Medium Rare,” and the album’s title track, the duo displays a penchant for sweet-sounding beats and aspirations to dine with Omaha’s most affluent resident, Warren Buffett.

They speculate that arranging lunch with the local billionaire would be easier than getting airplay on local radio stations.

“We want to be heard,” Big Tate says. “The radio DJ abides by guidelines that [forbid] touching the streets. They are afraid to challenge the norm.”

“Radio is stagnant,” Absolut-P adds. “It isn’t as influential as it once was. If we want to make an impact, we’d be better off putting together a lunch with Warren Buffett and creating a buzz from that.”

Or maybe just make up a song about having lunch with Buffett.

Big Tate

That sort of creative thinking would be the driving force behind Absolut-P (aka Stevin Taylor) and Big Tate (aka James Buckley) collaborating on the album.

The idea came from another friend’s fateful encounter with Buffett at a now-closed Omaha steakhouse known to be one of Buffett’s favorite local restaurants.

“A friend of mine happened to be eating at Piccolo Pete’s when she called to tell me that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were sitting across from her,” Big Tate recalls. “I told her that I needed her to get a picture of them by any means. I’m always thinking of ways to promote our music with imagery and catchy choruses. I was sure that I could come up with a song for that image.”

Big Tate was familiar with Buffett’s history of auctioning off a “power lunch” for charity. In 2016, an anonymous bidder paid $3,456,789 for the experience, with the money going to benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and underprivileged residents.

For months, Big Tate continued to stew over his idea. Later in 2016, he partnered with local producer Absolut-P (the P stands for “Perfection”), and they were able to create an infectious melody.

The song’s music video even featured a faux cameo by Buffett (thanks to a cut-out photograph of the billionaire’s face pasted over one of their friends).

They consider it an homage to the wealthy hometown hero.

“We’re from the north side of Omaha, and you don’t see those types of people on the north side,” Big Tate explains. “Other than Bud Crawford, it’s hard to relate to anyone on such a big stage. It’s good to look up to self-made men.”

Absolut-P

“As independent artists, Warren Buffett’s entrepreneurial spirit gives us a sense of self-pride,” Absolut-P says. “He shows us that by investing in ourselves we can reap big rewards.” 

One such investment involved professional mastering for the album by Rick Carson at Make Believe Studios. Absolut-P and Big Tate hope the song resonates with fans of hip-hop, Omaha, and Buffett alike. They released the album Dec. 31, 2016 (with a parental advisory warning for explicit content).

“The album-making process was so organic,” says Big Tate, explaining that hip-hop works best when pursued in a natural, fun way. “We just made songs about what we like; everyone likes to eat at a nice restaurant and order a good prime rib. That made us think of Charleston’s; they have some of the best steaks in Omaha. I like my steak well-done, but I’ve heard that they are very good medium-rare.”

When asked where they would like to take Buffett for lunch, both agree that Time Out Foods or The Taste’s of Soul Cafe would be a good place to accommodate them.

“I’m sure Warren Buffett is used to eating at the finest establishments,” Absolut-P says. “I’d want to give him a taste of our roots with some good food for the soul.”

Find Big Tate on Twitter at @BigTate402 and Absolut-P at @IAmAbsolutP. Both musicians frequently release new songs on social media. Their respective Soundcloud accounts are soundcloud.com/big-tate and soundcloud.com/absolut-p. Lunch with Buffett is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Spinrilla, Google Play, and YouTube. Copies are sold at Homer’s in downtown Omaha.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

*Editor’s note: The printed edition misspelled Taylor’s first name as Steven.

The Origins of the Nebraska National Guard

May 15, 2017 by
Photography by contributed by Nebraska National Guard

Wanderings of a lame cow set in motion forces that led to the establishment of the Nebraska National Guard.

“It started when President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, creating the Nebraska Territory and opening the frontier to settlers. That summer, an ill-fated bovine wandered from a Utah-bound Mormon wagon train into a large Sioux camp southeast of Fort Laramie (at the time located within Nebraska Territory, now Wyoming), where it was subsequently killed and eaten by young tribesmen. Demanding the arrest of those responsible, the Mormons reported the incident to Lt. John Grattan, the inexperienced leader of Fort Laramie’s U.S. infantry regiment.

Chief Conquering Bear (Brulé Lakota) refused to surrender the young men who had killed the cow, explaining they had done nothing wrong; the cow had voluntarily entered their camp, and, besides, the supposedly guilty men were visitors belonging to another band of Lakota, the Miniconjou. Grattan’s regiment opened fire and mortally wounded Conquering Bear; however, the infantry proved no match for the Brulé warriors, who completely annihilated the military detachment, killing Grattan and his 29 men. Author Douglas Hartman explains the anecdote in his book, Nebraska’s Militia: The History of the Army and Air National Guard.

The “Grattan Massacre” (aka “the Mormon Cow War”)—and the federal government’s failure to fulfill treaty promises—incited bands of Sioux to continue terrorizing settlers on the Mormon and Oregon trails. To augment federal troops, on Dec. 23, 1854, acting Gov. Thomas Cuming issued a proclamation creating the Nebraska Territorial Militia, which later became the National Guard.

The proclamation recommended “the citizens of the territory organize, in their respective neighborhoods, into volunteer companies,” which were grouped into two regiments: one north of the Platte River and one south. Cuming further instructed, “Companies are not to use force in invading or pursuing hostile tribes, but only in self-defense, and then no longer than necessary.”

Funding did not exist, however, so the early militiamen were expected to provide their own arms and equipment. By spring 1855, the state’s first organized units were formed: the Fontanelle Rifles in the town of Fontanelle, some 40 miles north of Omaha, and the Otoe Rifles in Nebraska City. Nebraska Gov. Mark Izard ordered the Rifles to protect Fontanelle, Elkhorn City, and Tekamah after “the Sioux” killed two area settlers. The Indians were nowhere to be found when the militia arrived, so troops spent the summer catching large-channel catfish from the Elkhorn River while “protecting” settlers. This became known as the “Catfish War,” writes Hartman.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Nebraska militias became more involved in fighting against tribes, since most of the nation’s federal military was consumed by the war, says Jerry Meyer, historian for the Nebraska National Guard. Additionally, two Nebraska volunteer militia units fought for the Union in the Southeast.

When Nebraska achieved statehood March 1, 1867, it joined a nation in transition. With the war over, potential recruits had little interest in joining formal militia units, which the new state couldn’t afford to equip anyway.

Nebraska relied on loosely organized, independent militias until 1881, when legislation reorganized them into the Nebraska National Guard, increasing its role as a peacekeeper during times of civil unrest, settling conflicts with Native American tribes, and deploying the first Nebraska troops internationally for the Spanish-American War.

The Nebraska Militia of 1854-1867 wrote the opening chapters of an ongoing legacy of service to the nation, state, and communities. The tradition continues with today’s modern Nebraska Army and Air National Guard, says Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, spokesman for the Guard’s Public Affairs office.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 10,000 Nebraska National guardsmen and airmen have supported missions overseas and within the United States. When not on federal active duty, the service members remain in Nebraska, available to local authorities during emergency situations.

The Guard was instrumental in protecting Omaha and other Nebraska communities, for example, during the 2011 Missouri River flood, which threatened Eppley Airfield and OPPD power plants. The summer-long flood closed numerous traffic bridges, making it impossible to cross the river for more than 100 miles between Sioux City and Omaha, and between Omaha and Kansas City. Hynes says guardsmen provided surveillance and bolstered levees, and they also provided security for evacuated homeowners.

Currently, the Nebraska Army National Guard is undergoing its largest force restructuring in 20 years. Affecting about 1,100 Nebraska soldiers–or roughly one in three–the changes are bringing in new military occupational specialties, such as engineering and military police.

The realignment will provide current soldiers and those interested in joining with better opportunities for personal and professional growth, from the time they enlist until the time they retire, without having to travel extensively from their hometown communities.

The Nebraska National Guard Museum, located in Seward, Nebraska, is a prime resource for National Guard history, research, and local entertainment. Visit nengm.org for more information about the museum.

Famous Omaha Guardsmen

Warren Buffett

Long before becoming the “Oracle of Omaha,” he was simply Corporal Buffett, enlisting with the Nebraska Army National Guard in 1951 after graduating from Columbia University. The future Berkshire Hathaway founder served six years as a pay specialist, telling the Prairie Soldier newspaper that his financial background probably had something to do with the assignment. One of about 70 members of the Omaha-based 34th Infantry Division Headquarters Company, Buffett told the newspaper of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard that his fellow guardsmen were “as good of a group of guys that you could’ve found.”

Andrew Jackson Higgins

Expelled his senior year from Omaha’s Creighton Prep for brawling in the early 1900s, Higgins later was praised by President Dwight Eisenhower as the man who won World War II. He designed and built the “Higgins Boat,” a landing craft that unloaded troops across open beaches instead of at heavily guarded ports. This Allied attack strategy was pivotal to the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Higgins served in the Nebraska Army National Guard, attaining the rank of first lieutenant, and learned about boat building and moving troops over water during militia maneuvers on the Platte River. A historical marker honors him in Columbus, Nebraska.

Visit ne.ng.mil to learn more about the Nebraska National Guard.

This article printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Local Champions Bring Millions Home

April 29, 2016 by

It’s one thing to love a city, it’s quite another to try and convince national associations, sporting organizations, and groups to plan a meeting, convention or event in your city. If it was easy cities wouldn’t need Convention & Visitors Bureaus, but the unsung champion in the whole process is you.

More than 25 local Omaha residents, from the powerful to the average Joe, have helped bring convention, meeting and event business to our city this year.

With Harold Cliff’s leadership the Omaha Sports Commission (local community leaders who volunteer their time) worked to have Omaha selected to host the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for a third time. It didn’t hurt that the 2012 Omaha event broke attendance records for any swimming event ever held in the U.S. including the Olympics in Atlanta and Los Angeles.

President and Founder of TotalWellness, Alan Kohll, proves that persistence pays off when Omaha was chosen as the location for the 2016 USA Triathlon. Omaha Zoo CEO, Dennis Pate helped convince the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums to meet in Omaha, the event will bring in 900 attendees from all over the world and more than $1 million in visitor spending.  Omaha City Clerk Buster Brown, having gone to conventions in other cities for years, convinced the International Institute of Municipal Clerks to look at Omaha; they did and will be holding their annual conference here in May. UNO’s Deepak Khazanchi , Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, is constantly putting Omaha’s name in the mix, and this year helped Omaha bring the World Intelligence Congress meeting to Omaha. Following in Warren Buffett’s footsteps, Lori and Paul Hogan, who own Home Instead Senior Care, hold their companies international convention in Omaha every year – they could go anywhere, they choose to bring the meeting business home.

This is just a small sampling of the convention and sporting business coming to Omaha in 2016, yet it means more than $53 million in economic impact for the city.

From the Omaha Lions Club to the local Cat Clubs, Omaha residents are making a real impact. And it’s simple for you to do the same. If you are a member of an organization, association or sporting group think about bringing your organization’s meeting or event to Omaha.  We’ll do all the heavy lifting; we just need a local boost from you.

Stranger in a Strange Land

December 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up in London, Stuart Chittenden found himself a bit obsessed with America: its historical complexities, its social turmoil, its pioneering spirit, its glitz and glamor. He read tons of American authors, luxuriating in the majesty of the open road as portrayed in works like John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. He watched Taxi and Mash.

Eventually, Chittenden moved to Omaha, married an American woman (fashion writer Amy Chittenden), and landed probably the most interesting job title ever: chief curiosity officer for David Day Associates. He’s a perennial TEDxOmaha presenter and something of a conversation artist. His consultancy, Squishtalks, offers conversation-based workshops for businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Chittenden’s recent project, “a couple of 830 mile long conversations,” marks his most significant offering to the cultural fabric of our state (so far).

“a couple of 830 mile long conversations” traverses the state’s vast geography to explore the ways in which landscape—physical, historical—informs a sense of community. The effort, one that received funding from Humanities Nebraska/Nebraska Cultural Endowment, Omaha Creative Institute, and several individuals, is part field recording, part personal quest to understand an unfamiliar place.

Last summer, Chittenden packed some pricey mobile audio-recording equipment—on loan from Clete Baker of Studio B—into an aging R.V. and rambled west down highways and gravel roads seeking to capture a representative sample of the voice of Nebraska as it exists in the moment.

By recording unscripted, spontaneous conversations in public (libraries, cafes, sidewalks) he began to discover the feeling of life in Gordon, Chadron, Norfolk, Alliance, Broken Bow, and other places formerly alien to him.    

“I had a sense of what Nebraska could be,” he says. “I’d seen photographs. I’d heard people describe their experiences growing up in smaller towns. I expected to be surprised by some of the beauty in different places, and maybe to find some places to be a little drab—this idea of rural communities sort of collapsing in on themselves.”

That’s pretty much what happened. Some communities emanated vibrancy; others seemed bleak. The prairie’s “very quiet but intimidating beauty” struck him as sublime, most evidently in the lakes and waterways. The Sand Hills, greatly exaggerated by friends and colleagues over the years, did not blow his mind.

“Overwhelmingly, I was warmly received,” he notes. “I was really impressed with the courage of many people to engage with someone who was obviously a stranger. Even those people that didn’t choose to join in the conversation, they were warm.”

Happily, the conversations he recorded dug deeper than weather and the Huskers. “I remember one gentleman, he was in a mobile electric wheelchair. I literally sat on the curb for 90 minutes and chatted with him.”

As for how landscape shapes a community’s self-perception, Chittenden noticed a marked shift the further west he went. The primary difference between eastern and western Nebraska, he contends, has to do with geography’s time-compression effect. The buttes, vast skies, and wagon ruts of western Nebraska seem to shrink the years, creating a visceral connection to history.

That’s not to say the pioneering spirit is dead in Omaha. It simply takes a different form here: the entrepreneurial mindset.

“In Omaha,” Chittenden says, “they don’t look for wagons. They look for Warren.”

Visit 830nebraska.com to listen to stories from the project.

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Nostalgia: Ain’t What it Used to Be

April 17, 2015 by

Originally published in May/June 2015 edition of 60-Plus in Omaha.

Peony Park was where you danced indoors in the Royal Terrace Ballroom and under the stars in the Royal Grove.

Remember meeting the amusement park’s mascot, Peony the Skunk? (Some people called her “Stinky.”) Or playing Dodgem? Or KOIL Radio’s dance party in the Royal Grove? Or splashing in the Peony Park swimming pool?

You have been around at least 50 years if you remember never seeing women on the Omaha City Council. Betty Abbott blazed the way in 1965. Of course, Omaha finally has its first woman mayor. And it only took 160 years after the city’s founding.

Your first escalator ride was at the downtown Brandeis store on what was the city’s first escalator.

Come to think of it, you remember when there was an actual Brandeis store, a place where shopping became a social event.

Younkers’ stores were called Kilpatrick’s.

Your “health club” was a YWCA or YMCA.

And the YWCA was actually called the YWCA, not the Women’s Center for Advancement.

Horses, not college students, were housed in the Ak-Sar-Ben area. The college students are only slightly less messy than the horses were.

Ak-Sar-Ben horse racing was a live video game you played before there were video games.

Warren Buffett was yet to make his first billion. Remember when you could afford to buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway?

The idea of “Omaha” extended only about as far as 90th Street. Today, that’s more like midtown.

The Henry Doorly Zoo was called Riverview Park. There was a lone, forlorn bear and two moose.

The sprawling University of Nebraska-Omaha was then the smaller University of Omaha, called disparagingly by some “West Dodge High.”

Remember when Elkhorn was a city? Oh, wait…that wasn’t so very long ago!

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Saying Yes to Omaha

March 12, 2015 by
Photography by Fox Business Network

Originally published in March/April/May 2015 B2B Magazine

The Omaha billionaire gave Fox Business Network Anchor Liz Claman two of them. But the market maven still got the deal she was after—what eventually became the hour-long 2006 CNBC report, “Warren Buffett: The Billionaire Next Door.”

“He rejected the first couple of pitches,” Claman says.

Initially, Claman proposed talking about upcoming mid-term elections. “He summarily said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in politics.’” Claman countered, suggesting they talk about what might happen a bit closer to Buffett’s wheelhouse—the markets. Again, Claman got a “no.”

“He said, ‘I don’t know where the market’s going.’ Now I’ve struck out twice.”

She got a hit on her third swing, suggesting she come to Omaha and ask Buffett how he values a business. “That’s all he cares about—finding great, appropriately valued businesses.

“I finally got it right. I remember it so crystal clearly. It really was a pivotal moment in my career. Journalists get a lot of ‘nos.’ The really good ones don’t take no for an answer.”

Make no mistake, Claman’s one of the good ones. She made a national name for herself with CNBC then, in October 2007, jumped to Fox Business Network where today she anchors “Countdown to the Closing Bell.” Her debut with Fox? An exclusive with Buffett, of course.

Claman has made it to Omaha more than a dozen times, mostly to report on the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting. And she’s still getting her one-on-one with Buffett, as well as time with his sidekicks, Berkshire VP Charlie Munger and fellow billionaire buddy Bill Gates.

Claman knew precious little about Buffett’s hometown before her first visit. “My mother was a huge fan of Willa Cather and had us read all her books,” she says. “That’s what I knew.”

But it’s become a welcome spring break. “I never, never roll my eyes thinking I ‘have’ to go to Omaha,” she says. “I love the restaurants. I have my favorite people, favorite places. Omaha has a vibe to it.”

Especially the food. She mentions Twisted Fork, M.’s Pub, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, and V. Mertz (“As good as any high-end New York restaurant,” she says). Last year, she held a meet-and-greet at 801 Chophouse. And at Buffett’s request she ran a 5k charity run sponsored by a Berkshire holding company. Then again. And again. The Fox Business crew joins her.

She’ll cover her ninth Berkshire annual meeting when it convenes May 2. It never gets old.

“There’s nothing like it in corporate America or the business world,” says Claman, who’s covered the meeting from recession to recovery. “I think Warren and Charlie work very hard to keep it fresh every single time, and every year they really stay on the news of what’s happening and also pointing forward to where they think it’s going.”

Claman has to continually reinvent her reporting of Buffett, too. She’s interviewed him 31 times, but often with a different twist. It’s a must given the copycat nature of news reporting. One year there was an hour-long sit-down with Buffett, Munger and Gates as the markets opened. Then came the Monday sit-downs. Then questions with Buffett on the Thursday preceding the meeting—right before a bridge game. Then an interview at the Hilton—“Berkshire Central,” Claman calls it—as shareholders were checking in.

CNBC and Bloomberg News have followed suit. But Claman, like Buffett, seems to always stay one step ahead of the competition.

“Each time we do something different,” she says. “I always have something up my sleeve. It’s really on us to keep it fresh and different.”

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Eclectic Ladyland

January 19, 2015 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Girls Inc. of Omaha Executive Director Roberta Wilhelm is known for growing the nonprofit and inspiring girls to be “strong, smart, and bold” with excellent programs and luminous Lunch for the Girls speakers, like President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Warren Buffett, all three Clintons—Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea—and, most recently, the Bush twins.

“The speakers have had great messages,” says Wilhelm, “but [attendees] always say, ‘Your girls are as impressive as the speakers.’ They’re a very important part of the luncheon,” says Wilhelm.

While the amazing roster is ubiquitous, what you might not know about Wilhelm is she’s a lifelong theater lover, former military kid, and owner of a very eclectic iPod.

“I’m a creative person; in my background, the way I operate, approach life, and think about human beings,” she says. “I’m sure that influences my work.”

Wilhelm’s background and degrees are in theater. Before her 11 years at Girls Inc., she spent 20 at The Emmy Gifford Children’s Theatre (later The Rose).

“I did a little bit of everything there,” says Wilhelm. She got her foot in the door as assistant to the receptionist, later being promoted to receptionist. “I was a very bad receptionist,” says Wilhelm, smiling though clearly not joking. She continued there, in bookkeeping, performing, artistic staff, directing, and eventually Executive Director.

Wilhelm’s love of theater began at age 6, when her mother took her to The Miracle Worker, continuing with excursions to Broadway and her own performances. Wilhelm recalls auditioning for a 4th-grade production of The Emperor and the Nightingale. “I raised my hand and said, ‘Is there any reason it couldn’t be The Empress?’” The teacher couldn’t see why not and, with that, Wilhelm had herself a starring role.

Her parents are from New Jersey, but with a military father Wilhelm grew up “all over,” meaning: Jersey, New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, and Tehran, Iran.

Wilhelm has five grown children and stepchildren. She and husband, Vic Gutman, are guardian to three boys, ages 14, 12, and 7.

“I’m almost never off the clock,” she adds, “but I like to spend time with my [Girls Inc.] mentee and my kids. I like Film Streams…watching documentaries. I’m an avid reader, and I love to have coffee with friends.”

She and Gutman enjoy taking their three dogs to the park and share a passion for travel. While she does go see theater occasionally, she prefers being involved in productions
to spectating.

Whether on or off the clock, Wilhelm always makes time for tunes. “I love music,” she says, “I have it on in the car, at work, everywhere.” Her iPod features everything from her 20-year-old musician son’s music to Motown, disco, rock, pop, and hip-hop.

“I like the Neville Brothers, The Blind Boys of Alabama, U2,” says Wilhelm, getting out her iPod for reference. “Adele, Aerosmith, Al Green—I love Al Green—Beach Boys, Beatles, Ben Harper…and that truncated lists didn’t even go beyond the second letter of the alphabet. “I also have some punk stuff on here from my college days.”

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Liz Claman

May 2, 2014 by

Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman will host a meet-and-greet today at 801 Chophouse from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.

Claman, who hosts the network’s Countdown to the Closing Bell With Liz Claman, is making her ninth visit to Omaha to cover the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. She will do a live shoot from the restaurant as part of a daylong series of Fox Business Network segments.

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