Tag Archives: B2B Omaha Magazine

Let States Deal Individually 
with fuel dependence

February 1, 2014 by

Large, centralized government perpetuates stupidity in a manner that defies reason. The framers of the Constitution understood this well, as reflected in the decentralization of power to the individual states. Each state, with its varied interests, was to individually be an incubator of better ideas. The union was to be a competitive relationship as well as a collective one.

But today, with the very best of intentions and far removed from their constituents, our representatives in Washington enact gigantic solutions. Solutions devoid of reality.

The Renewable Fuel Mandate is one such gigantic solution to the perceived problem of Peak Oil and dependence on imported oil. Now that we know all of our oil needs are well satisfied by crude oil production in the Americas, prudence would dictate that Congress end the mandate (in other words, farm subsidies).

But alas, no.

There is a loud sucking sound in the corn-producing states. Interests big and small depend on the federal mandate, one way or another. From tractor sales, farmland sales, petroleum fertilizer sales, and ethanol distillation, a relatively small number of people profit from the general public thanks to a silly solution to a non-existent problem.

Had the ethanol mandate solution been left to individual states, it would be easier to correct. As it is being answered on a federal level, the bureaucratic momentum 
appears unstoppable.

An illustrative example is the reluctance of even Iowa farming communities to use ethanol-laced gasoline. They know what damage it causes to expensive engines. Then there’s the fertilizer-caused dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the high water consumption, the high energy use to produce ethanol, the willingness of using food for fuel, the early caucus in Iowa, and the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

Even Europeans are waking up to the stupidity of renewable fuels. They see that vast areas of rain forest are being cleared to produce “green” diesel; that ethanol burns dirty in engines designed to burn gasoline, polluting the air; and that the lower energy content in ethanol reduces gas mileage in engines designed to burn gasoline. For all these reasons and more, the E.U. is proposing to limit the renewable content in their diesel and gasoline to 6 percent.

The increasing mandate in the U.S. is forcing gasoline refiners to purchase Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) or ethanol credits because they have hit the 10 percent blend wall. Wall Street gamblers (such as JP Morgan Chase, recently fined $920 million for their business practices) saw this coming and purchased all the federal credits they could get their hands on.

The unattainable mandate paired with the forced purchase of RIN credits has caused the price of the credits to climb 2,000 percent. This huge Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expense will be forced upon the consumer in the form of big gasoline price increases. Yet one more federally mandated wealth transfer from the average guy to the gamblers with the cozy relationships 
with legislators.

But as long as the EPA continues to say, “Who cares about reality,” the Renewable Fuel Mandate will continue. As gasoline consumption continues to decline, the percentage of ethanol will have to increase to meet the increasing mandate. Therefore, our well-intended but dumb solution will get 
even dumber.

What we need to ask is whether the Renewable Fuel Mandate makes sense. Economically? Environmentally? Would each of the corn producing states individually impose the same mandate within their state borders?

The answer to each is a resounding no.

Any views and/or opinions expressed in “The Know-It-All” are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha magazine, or its parent company, and/or 
its affiliates.

Shocking Us
 into Ethics

January 21, 2014 by

If you took a psychology class in high school or college, you studied the Milgram experiments.

In these experiments, a Teacher, the only one who didn’t know the true objective of the study, was told by an Experimenter to progressively shock a Learner with up to 450 volts of electricity when the Learner did not respond with correct answers. The Learner was never really shocked, although the Teacher thought he was because of the Learner’s (faked) cries, pleas, and protests. The Teacher was even led to believe that the Learner had a heart condition that could be exacerbated by the shocks.

The purpose of the Milgram experiments was to evaluate the extent to which someone would harm another person when told to do so by an authority figure. In this case, the authority was the Experimenter who wore a white lab coat and regularly told the Teacher (while the Teacher progressively shocked the Learner with more and more volts), “Once started, the experiment must go on,” or “Don’t worry, I will take 
full responsibility.”

What do you think? How many Teachers shocked the Learner to the fullest extent, even when the Teachers believed that the Learner had passed out from the shocks?

About two-thirds.

Approximately two out of three people continued to do what they were told, even though they believed that they were greatly harming another human being. Why?

Stanley Milgram believed that humans are hard-wired, in a way, to obey authority. Whoever the authority figure—our bosses, our teachers, our religious figures—we are psychologically disposed to obey.

When we apply Milgram’s experiment to the workplace, we gain a better understanding of why business people do bad things. Business people may behave unethically, not because they are greedy or evil, but because they are instructed to do so.

Even more fascinating is that one out of three Teachers refused to shock the Learners with up to 450 volts. Interestingly, there was a point in the study around 150 volts when a cluster of Teachers disobeyed the Experimenter. Why stop there?

The answer (Packer, 2008) is that it was at this point that the Learner would protest not only with cries of pain but with exclamations like, “I won’t be in this experiment anymore!” and “I refuse to go on!” This change in the Learner’s communication, from cries of pain to ones that express the moral concepts of rights, liberty, and freedom, allowed some Teachers to break away from the Experimenter’s authority, disengage from their role in the experiment, and reduce harm.

Let’s apply the previous conclusion to the workplace by making two points.

First, language and conversation affect our decision-making and actions (Werhane et. al., 2013). The language we use with our peers and subordinates can lull them into complacency or shock them into ethical behavior. So let’s be intentional about using moral words at work. And let’s start conversations about ethics every day by talking about current ethical issues and workplace situations.

Second, it is unlikely that the online compliance training that has swept corporate America will create the kinds of good behavior that leaders seek from their employees in the workplace. Granted, these practices are efficient and allow organizations to easily show that every employee has had ethics and compliance training. But without human interaction and discourse, there is no life to the education and we have yet to see proof that they create real behavioral impact.

Let’s continue to develop the strategies that shock us into ethics. Join with other Omaha business leaders who are at the front of a new ethics education model, creating city-level and organizational programs where well-crafted, face-to-face dialogue is positively affecting the minds and ethical behaviors of our workforce.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is Executive Director of Business Ethics Alliance and Chair of Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University’s College of Business.

Sweet Design
 from Sweet Afton Studios

January 15, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not often that a grocery list grabs people’s attention.

But that’s exactly what happened the other day at a restaurant for Krystal Leichliter and her husband Ryan. Krystal and Ryan are the owners of Sweet Afton Studios, a design and letterpress studio. Krystal was using an extra card from a recent project to write her grocery list. A waitress, mesmerized, came up and immediately started feeling the back of the card.

That experience spoke volumes to Krystal, because she says she saw how much letterpress really jumps out to people. As she explains, the paper used for letterpress is made of 100 percent cotton, so it’s very soft and tactile.

While Krystal and Ryan founded Sweet Afton Studios in 2011 after they obtained a letterpress, they have expanded their business to designing business cards, wedding invitations, signs, logos, banners, and more. Their goal is to make brands, gifts, and even everyday products stand out with an exceptional and personalized design.

Krystal is the designer at Sweet Afton, while Ryan runs the press. Krystal had worked in advertising for years, but decided she wanted to leave the corporate setting. She had always loved beautiful paper, and after designing wedding invitations and logos for friends, letterpress and design were disciplines she thought she and Ryan could work at full time.

“It was really just a desire to pursue being creative and doing the things I love,” says Krystal.


But the couple got more than they bargained for when they purchased their first letterpress, an approximately 1,500-pound behemoth that Krystal says “looks kind of like a time machine.”

“It wasn’t attached to electricity, so we couldn’t really see it, and we just kind of bought it in faith that it really was going to work,” Krystal says with a laugh.

Through internet research, assistance from a letterpress studio in Lincoln, and many sleepless nights, Ryan and Krystal had their first creation two weeks after they bought their letterpress: wedding invitations for a friend.

“We were crazy,” Ryan admits.

Now, once a client is set on a design, Krystal and Ryan can turn around a finished product in about two weeks. As they say, letterpress is a very labor-intensive process. Once Krystal and Ryan have a finished design on the computer, they will get to work creating polymer print plates to imprint with different layers of the design. Each color has to have a separate plate, so if a design has three colors, Ryan has to run it through the letterpress three times.

“It [letterpress] is an art, and it’s a product of time and labor. You can’t just do what you see on the computer on letterpress.”
– Jara Sturdivant-Wilson, customer of Sweet Afton Studios

Krystal mixes the different-colored ink by hand. Finally, once the plates, the ink, and the paper are ready to go through the letterpress, Krystal and Ryan will sometimes print hundreds of extra copies, and handpick the ones to give to clients.  “With letterpress, the thing that makes it so beautiful is that it’s hand-done, and that means that each piece is going to be unique,” says Krystal.

Jara Sturdivant-Wilson, a customer of Sweet Afton and a former neighbor of Krystal’s, agrees. She reached out to the Leichliters when she wanted to give her husband a gift with a more personal touch. Sturdivant-Wilson admitted that she didn’t have many ideas when it came to designing a gift, but that Krystal was very helpful, meeting with her throughout the process at coffee shops.

Eventually, she ended up with a calendar and a set of cards that catered to her husband’s interests. For example, one page of the calendar was designed with her husband’s favorite softball team in mind, while some of the cards featured a line-drawn picture of his dog. “It [letterpress] is an art, and it’s a product of time and labor. You can’t just do what you see on the computer on letterpress,” says Sturdivant-Wilson.

As they have learned the ropes of letterpress, Krystal and Ryan have had the time to expand their design business beyond strictly letterpress projects. One of Sweet Afton’s newest clients is the Seattle Children’s Museum. For the museum’s new displays every month, Krystal will come up with a design concept for the overall exhibit, and then work on designing signs, banners, and buttons for employees to wear. Ryan is also getting his chance to dive into design; he earned a degree in animation last year, and he plans to offer animation services to customers, as well as help Krystal with her dream of designing a children’s book with an animated component.

As their customer base has expanded, mostly through word-of-mouth, Sweet Afton Studios has started doing more business outside of Nebraska, everywhere from California to New York and even Spain. Krystal and Ryan have even had a few companies approach them about carrying some of Sweet Afton’s cards in their stores. But for now, Krystal and Ryan plan to keep all of their business online, on sites such as Etsy, The Knot, and Dribbble. While they were considering opening a storefront, they enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Krystal also wants to be able to devote more time to working on children’s illustrations.

“It’s all about having fun,” says Ryan.

Make First 
Impressions Count

January 13, 2014 by

How a business furnishes its workspace can define the company culture and help employees thrive. A well-planned office creates a good initial impression on guests and draws in potential candidates; it also improves the productivity and attitudes of your employees. With the right interiors and good quality furniture, you can set the tone of your business and impress potential clients from the minute they step into your office. 
Here are a few things to take into consideration when planning your office space:

  • Lobby. Start with a reception station that is warm and inviting. Add guest or lounge seating and occasional tables to complete the welcome area.
  • Conference room. The size of the table you need depends on the number of people you need to fit around it. Allow 30 inches per person to keep meetings comfortable. Conference chairs typically don’t require the advanced functionality of a work chair, so look for low or mid-back chairs that provide basic function and support.
  • Private office. Executives and managers typically need desks and an executive chair. Consider appearance as well as functionality to strike the right mix of prestige, professionalism, and personality.
  • Seating. Over one third of an average employee’s day is spent in the office. If the office furniture causes discomfort or pain, it may create serious dangers to your health. It’s necessary that office furniture, particularly office chairs, be ergonomically designed. An ergonomic workplace promotes better work management and organization among staff and also makes the environment more relaxed and pleasant.
  • Filing area/copy center. A good mix of shared and private storage helps keep common areas better organized and employees more productive.

Visit the All Makes showroom at 25th and Farnam streets in Omaha to see the latest office furniture and design trends on display. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style, and your budget.


January 10, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“He does everything I don’t want to do and vice versa,” says Andy Robinson of his business partner, Brad Richling.

Maybe that’s what has given RetroShirtz such momentum. In rapid succession, the business launched in January, opened its first storefront in May, and opened its second location in Westroads Mall in early November.

Their first storefront (OmahaShirtz), at 464 S. 84th St., is like many shirt-printing shops: It’s tucked on the back side of a small shopping center, and Robinson will give you directions over the phone. RetroShirtz, on the other hand, can be found on the first floor of Westroads, between DSW and Journeys.

A presence in a mall, among the foot traffic and the food court, makes more sense for their nuanced approach to the printing business—custom-ordered shirts printed while the customer waits.

“We can print a shirt in four minutes,” says Richling. “We make, right then and there, their product, exactly as they want it—their size, their style, their color.”

Customers can choose from hundreds of designs already made or provide their own photo, image, or quote. And then they can choose from a wide stock of shirts—or even bring in their own.

“We’re in a mall,” says Richling. “You want to print on something different? Go buy it, and, as long as it’s 100 percent cotton, we can print on it.” He adds, “Today, for example, somebody came in with a maternity shirt”—a market that doesn’t seem to have much selection in quirky t-shirts.


Their designs will include retro cartoons and throwback references, as well as pop-culture references and parodies. Customers can create their own ideas or bring in their smart phone and get a photo printed on a shirt—or a canvas, another major offering from RetroShirtz.

What makes their rapid service possible is a new technology that connects the fabric printer directly to a computer. Everything is digital.

This isn’t a traditional screen-printing process, where screens have to be burned for each order, which takes some time. The cost of a screen is often placed on the customer, or at least there’s a minimum number of items you have to print. Nor is it an iron-on process, where the image has a separate field from the fabric and a plastic feel.

Their process, according to Richling, is “somewhere between tattooing and airbrushing 
the fabric.”

“The shirt will wear away before the image wears away,” adds Robinson.

This quality is a chief priority for the pair. “We want people to see our shirts and say, ‘Whoa! Cool shirt! Where did you get that?’” 
Richling says.

They’re confident that their level of quality will keep people coming back, especially coupled with their emphasis on customer service.

“We always ask each other when a customer leaves, ‘Did that person leave happy?’” Richling says. “We know that returns and referrals are going to drive the business.”

They’ve already started developing a return clientele, which has fueled their rapid growth. Looking on to the holidays, they do anticipate sometimes getting behind on orders, even with their four-minute print time.

“If we do get backed up, we’ll be able to say, ‘Come back in 45 minutes. Go shopping or go get lunch in the food court, and it will be ready by the time you come back,’” Robinson says.

They are happy to make arrangements for later pick-ups, particularly with larger orders, and they do have shipping options.

Mostly, they’re just really excited. Both are first-time entrepreneurs and have loved creating a new avenue for a beloved tradition. Richling says, “We live in a culture of people that want it now, so we’re going to try to provide for that.”


January 8, 2014 by

Thanks to Saturday Night Live’s runaway hit sketch “#Hashtag” last September, even people living under rocks have heard of hashtags. If you’re in charge of your business’ social media, however, you may not be any more confident as to how to make the humble pound sign work for you.

But it’s not difficult, promise. Maren Hogan, CEO of Red Branch Media, makes it simple: “It’s just a quicker way to search.” A social media post (usually in Twitter, though Facebook is playing along) that’s tagged with #BigOmaha or #HRTechChat is instantly added to an entire conversation that other social media users can follow. “If you want your content to stand out,” Hogan says, “or if you’re trying to reach a niche audience, you can use [the hashtag] in skill-specific chats.”

What if you’re not ready to jump into a real-time chat on Twitter just yet? Hogan says blog it, tweet the link, and tag it with the chat’s hashtag. But don’t be afraid to chime in eventually. “You can chat with real professionals all over the world,” Hogan says. “You can establish yourself as a thought leader.”

Even if you’re not adding to a Twitter conversation about your industry or laughing with other tweeting conference-goers about the latest keynote, you can search hashtags for some basic lead generation. “Even by following something simple like #omaha,” says Ben Pankonin, founder and CEO of Social Assurance, “I can start to follow what people in Omaha are saying about a given topic.”

Third-party applications like Hootsuite allow users to create “streams”—feeds that contain only tweets pertaining to certain topics. One of the ways to filter a stream is, of course, by following a particular hashtag. “In health care, you may want to know what nurses are looking for,” Pankonin says. “So you might follow #RNChat. If you’re looking for people who are in finance, you might follow #finserv.”

Hogan relates one innovative lead-generation technique she’s seen: “Someone wasn’t able to attend a conference for her industry, but she followed the hashtag and took note of people who were tweeting from it.” Ta-da! A target market list based on hashtag users.

Okay, but how does one find these hashtags in the first place? “To find hashtags already in use, you have to be paying attention,” Pankonin says. “Listening. Trying out keywords. You have to look around. It takes a bit of discovery to get you there.”

The hashtag is nothing if not versatile. Other uses aside from search include cross-posting. Simply adding #fb or #in can send your tweet flying to Facebook or LinkedIn if you’ve linked your accounts.

And let’s not leave out the faux hashtag. Tagging a photo of an employee’s dog in the office with #newrecruit isn’t so much beneficial for search or lead generation as it is for, well, a light laugh. “They can be a great way to be relevant and human and funny,” Hogan says.

“People are social,” Pankonin points out. “Companies recognize that we see people face to face less frequently than we used to. In social media, humor translates very well.”

“Just recognize when a trend is happening, when it’s cresting, and when it’s over,” Hogan cautions. “The only one who’s going to hashtag YOLO these days is someone who’s desperately out of touch.”

Unless part of your online presence is you cheerfully being 15 minutes behind the times, she adds. Then, yeah. Go for it.

Powering Across the Finish Line

January 6, 2014 by

It was man versus machine. An epic competition of tug-o-war. A true test of physical and mental strength. An all-out battle to the finish line where everyone who competed was a winner.

On May 18, Performance Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram of Bellevue hosted a truck pull for charity. Six local teams pulled heavyweight Ram trucks, competing to raise money for their favorite charities. The dealership gave away more than $4,000 in cash prizes at its first annual Performance Community Truck Pull. The grand prize of $1,500 went to the wrestling team from Bellevue East High School. The team raised money to support the costly medical treatments for their fellow East graduating senior, Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last year.

Tyrone Williams, president and general manager of Performance, says the concept for the truck pull was devised by his managers and Carroll Communications. “We are having discussions about this being an annual event. I was looking for an event to introduce the dealership to the Bellevue community as well support the community,” he says. In a family-friendly atmosphere that boasted food, fun, and face painting, the dealership encouraged the community to not only support their favorite competing team but also to simply take a look around the new facility.

The team from Bellevue East High School pulls a 2500 Ram truck at the Performance Bellevue dealership to raise money for graduating senior Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma last year. East Principal Brad Stueve runs alongside the team cheering them on.

The team from Bellevue East High School pulls a 2500 Ram truck at the Performance Bellevue dealership to raise money for graduating senior Jake Pannell, who was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma last year. East Principal Brad Stueve runs alongside the team cheering them on.

Performance ensured that none of the six competing teams walked away empty handed. Teams included Bellevue University, Bellevue East High School, Bellevue West High School, Bellevue Community Foundation, Offutt Police, and Bellevue Fire and Police. “The turnout was excellent, and the store donated over $4,200 to the charities. Carroll Communications, the Bellevue Chamber, and Mayor Rita Sanders were very instrumental in helping us pull the event off,” Williams says.

Matt Briggs, head coach of men’s soccer at Bellevue University, says he was grateful that his team competed in such a charitable cause. “We raised money for the Wounded Warrior Family Support group and raised $750,” he shares.

The Bellevue Community Foundation also competed, winning $250 to support the city of Bellevue. Mayor Sanders says she was thrilled with the funds raised and equally excited that they would be going toward the newly created Bellevue Community Foundation. “It came about through the City of Bellevue strategic plan,” she says. “I was tasked to start a community foundation so we can help the community raise money individually or privately. The Community Foundation can help aid with some of the support systems through the city.”

Welcome to the Weekend

January 3, 2014 by
Illustration by U.S. Travel Association

“Welcome to the weekend.” It’s a phrase that inspires feelings of relaxation, fun, and the freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. It’s also a phrase that’s stimulating tourism revenue for Omaha.

The Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Welcome to the Weekend advertising campaign promotes Omaha as a Midwest destination for memorable weekends and plays up our strength as a quick getaway for people living in cities such as Kansas City, Des Moines, and Sioux Falls. The campaign is different from your typical tourism advertising, focusing on building an emotional connection with the audience by capturing authentic visitor experiences on video. The commercials aired regionally from late April through early October, on network and cable television, in movie theaters and online on websites such as Hulu, TripAdvisor, and VacationFun.com. In addition, the Omaha CVB partnered with Radio Disney to promote Omaha during Disney-produced community events in Kansas City and also purchased regional radio advertising to promote its Welcome to the Weekend savings card.

Since advertising began, VisitOmaha.com, the city’s tourism website, has seen a 46 percent increase in website visits from the regional markets targeted by advertising. The VisitOmaha social media audience has grown 20 percent to more than 94,000, and more than 6,000 people from 48 states have requested the Welcome to the Weekend savings card.

What’s really exciting to see is since the beginning of the year, there have been more than 35,000 additional weekend hotel room nights booked in Douglas County over last year. Multiply those additional room nights by the average dollar amount a traveler spends in Omaha and it comes to, conservatively speaking, an additional $4.8 million spent in our city. Investing in promoting our city is paying off, and that’s welcome news any day of the week.

Questions or comments? E-mail us at info@visitomaha.com.

Dana Markel is Executive Director of Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau.


Oil and Vinegar
 Boom in Omaha

December 18, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Move over cupcakes, there’s a new specialty food trend in Omaha: oil and vinegar stores.

Filled with stainless steel vats brimming with exotic flavors such as green apple balsamic vinegar or rosemary olive oils, these stores look to provide customers with high-end 
kitchen staples.

But with four oil and vinegar specialty stores opening in the Omaha area within less than a year of each other, how much luxury in the kitchen is too much?

“When we found out all these other stores were opening, I’m like, oh my gosh, we’re the next cupcake place,” jokes Tish Rasmussen, co-owner of Vine + Branch.

Many of the owners and managers of these stores tell a similar tale: After enjoying high-quality oils and vinegars elsewhere, they were unable to find comparable products in Omaha. After months of preparation, all were excited to jump into what they thought was an untapped industry in Omaha.

Mother and daughter pair Linda Cummings and Rasmussen were the first to dip their toes into the oil and vinegar market in the spring of 2012. After visiting stores up and down the West Coast, Cummings and Rasmussen introduced their own line of bottled oils and vinegars into Hy-Vee and several Nebraska wineries. Encouraged by their success, they decided to open their own storefront, Vine + Branch.

But before Rasmussen and Cummings could break ground on Vine + Branch, one store already opened its doors. Mark Leichtle, along with his wife Jan, launched the first retail oil and vinegar store in Omaha, Old World Oil and Vinegar, in November 2012.

Suddenly, there was a different kind of oil boom in Omaha. Vine + Branch officially opened the first week of May, while two more stores, Chef2 (Chef Squared) and Oliverde, popped up on June 15 and August 17, respectively.

These store owners admitted they were in for a bit of a surprise when they found out about their competition, but none of them seemed 
too shocked.

“A city as large as Omaha certainly has competition,” says Rob Baker, manager of 
Oliverde Omaha.

Chef2 co-owner Michael Combs

Chef2 co-owner Michael Combs

Leichtle echoed Baker’s belief that this is a naturally occurring trend in a large market.

“All of these stores are opening, but maybe that means that it was time for that market to expand in Omaha,” says Leichtle.

Entering into a new market in Omaha can be daunting, but the owners of these four stores all had previous experience in the food and 
business industry.

Leichtle previously owned a restaurant in Oshkosh, Wis., and Rasmussen ran an Omaha coffee shop for several years. Oliverde is actually the third in a chain of stores from Colorado-based couple Kathy and Terry Kulsea. Baker helped the couple open both their Lincoln location in November 2012, as well as the 
Omaha Oliverde.

Meanwhile, the owners of Chef2 have used their personal backgrounds to try to set themselves apart from the crowd. Co-owners Michael Combs and Jim Trebbien are both professional chefs and have used their experience to merge their culinary knowledge with the convenience of retail in their store.

“When you go to Chef2, hopefully you get an experience, like, ‘wow, I’ve never tried that before, I’ve never done that, I didn’t know you could do this,’ or whatever,” says Combs.

The tasting experience is something that oil and vinegar stores rely heavily on, since not many customers have been exposed to the wide spectrum of sweet and savory that each product can fall under. All of these stores offer bread to use for tasting, sample recipes, cooking demonstrations, and other events to educate customers on using real olive oils and vinegars.

Leichtle admits he actually didn’t know much about oils and vinegars when he first started, but over time, he learned that they were easy to use. He describes balsamic vinegars as “upscale ketchup,” to convince customers that yes, these products really are simple.

When discussing how his competitors have affected his business, Leichtle says, “We’ve actually seemed to benefit from any kind of advertising our competitors do. There’s an increased awareness of the product now.”

He also feels that all four stores are spread out far enough geographically that they don’t draw from the same customer base: Old World Oil and Vinegar is located in Rockbrook Village, Vine + Branch in the Old Market, Chef2 in Midtown Crossing, and Oliverde in Village Pointe 
Shopping Center.

“They’ve all found their own little niches,” says Leichtle.

Rasmussen and Cummings had to alter their store vision of selling primarily oils and vinegars when they found a growing customer demand for wine tastings. Ten days after they opened their store, they decided to capitalize on that and immediately contacted a wine distributor.

As far as running her business, Rasmussen says, “I would say I fell back a lot on what I know about building a business and customer service, and building relationships and 
retaining customers.”

Baker emphasizes that Oliverde also prides itself on customer service, using its larger size and proven marketing techniques from two previous stores to its advantage. He will find a way to host cooking classes, private events, cater weddings, and pretty much any event a customer wants, to keep getting Oliverde’s name out.

“You’ve got to go right out to the customer,” says Baker. “We’ve got to give folks when they come in a reason to spend their money.”

For Combs’ store, smaller is better. He wants Chef2 to focus on maintaining a high-quality product line and stick to its original purpose: educating customers on fresh products, particularly oils and vinegars.

“We just believe that everyone should be able to taste what they want, and that fresh products and education are really big with us,” 
says Combs.

While the products may be fresh, the idea of oil and vinegar stores is becoming less unique, at least in Omaha. Of the four storeowners and one manager interviewed, only one thought that Omaha could support another specialty oil and vinegar store.

However all say they are happy with where their stores are right now, and all believe that they can survive even with competition. At least for the moment, don’t look for Oil & Vinegar Wars to be hitting The Food Network just yet.

Polishing a Legacy

December 10, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

America’s long love affair with the automobile is perhaps best told in stories of fathers and sons. The 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet convertible featured in this installment of “How I Roll’ has for a half century been at the center of one such father/son vignette.

“My dad collected and restored many, many cars,” says Mark Chickinelli, “but he always said that this would be the very last car he would ever do. It was that special to him. He was willing to wait for decades to fulfill that promise. Sadly, he was only half right on his prediction.”


A debilitating stroke three years ago ended the hands-on stage of Val Chickinelli’s restoration hobby. Known for leading Omaha Plating Co. for 50 years on the corner of 24th and Leavenworth streets, Val had purchased the vehicle known as a “Baby Cadillac” in the early ’60s. Punctuating the point that he was a patient man, restoration began only in 1999. A fire later destroyed many of the car’s key components as fate did its best to thwart what would become a son’s race against time in fulfilling a father’s wish.

After his dad’s stroke, Mark stepped in and also enlisted his father’s longtime collaborator, Bob Chalek, perhaps the area’s foremost authority when it comes to work on classic Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles. Chalek had more than a craftsman’s love for the iconic car for he had once, oddly enough, owned this very same beauty back in the 1950s.


“I grew up in my dad’s businesses,” says Mark. “Ever since I was 8, he had me doing odd jobs, and that often meant moving any number of his 100 vintage cars. We moved this car more times than I can remember. It was disassembled and in boxes, and we moved it from storage place to storage place, but it was like it was always there waiting for us.”

Restoring automobiles, to the Chickinelli family, is an endeavor elevated to high art, something that is second nature to Mark. He is a fine art painter who has done work for such clients as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Val passed away in August, only shortly after the restoration was complete.

“He only got to see it in pictures before he died,” Mark says, caressing the graceful curve of the car’s fender. “My dad will never ride in this car, but I think he’d be very pleased. It’s everything he ever dreamed it could be. It’s now a part of his legacy.”