Tag Archives: Lincoln

One Piece at a Time

September 25, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The address is 201 F St.; but, like the hidden gem it is, one accesses it by driving down D (as in diamond) street. F St. itself is a dead end, a quiet, leafy spot full of little bungalows.

Clint!1

The diamond is owned by Clint! (yes, legally, Clint!) Runge, founder of youth marketing agency Archrival. This square brick building, which Runge refers to as “The Loft,” started as a grocery store run by German-Russian immigrant H.J. Amen in a neighborhood once populated by a group of ethnic Germans who once lived in Russia.

Runge, who studied architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, bought the building from former professor Carl Matthews. Runge has since used it as his ever-evolving playground.

“This place was raw,” Runge says of viewing the building for the first time. “A doorway was a hole. The basement was full of chains and hooks from its days as a butcher shop. For the last 10 years, I have been making it a place to live, one piece at a time.”

This included, as Runge says, “getting the creep out.” He cemented the basement and made it more desirable, even as a storage space. Runge kept true, however, to the building’s origin. A large bone saw sits in the basement, partially due to its heft. In the kitchen is a large cast-iron basin once used for boiling freshly killed chickens alongside the butcher block, now repurposed as a prep island. A smoking room off the kitchen retains its charred walls, and the smell of smoked meat permeates
the room.

Clint!2

The space includes many nods to the graphic side of his business. A walled off area is implanted with Warhol-esque stacks of soap boxes and other consumer products. The double doors leading to the main living space display vintage cigarette advertising.

Another pop art feature is the wall of toilet paper behind the commode. The blue-tile bathroom also features a two-feet-deep tub and a nearly 24-inch-wide industrial-themed showerhead.

Clint!3

It is a funky, fresh space, one to try out for a weekend. Runge himself has not lived there since 2013. He rents it to the curious via Airbnb.

“When I first walked in, my name was on a wall,” says Conjo Studios president Conrad Weaver of the vintage felt signboard Runge uses. “Having that welcome was really cool.”

Clint!5

It is particularly busy during football season. “The first to rent it gets it,” Runge says. “Right after the Fourth of July people tend to start thinking about football, and I start getting calls. It is rented out every football game. This makes someone’s weekend. You can get to downtown without hitting a stoplight, or you can walk it in about 15 minutes.”

The space is so unique it was featured on the HGTV show You Live in What?

“One time I was on a plane, and the person next to me was watching the episode,” Runge says. “She turned to me and says ‘Is that you?’ ”

One thing that won’t happen when staying there—a boisterous, frat-style, all-night kegger. “I do not rent it for parties,” Runge says. “It is limited to four people.”

Each time someone stays there, however, it will look different.

Clint!6

“The beauty of this space is I get to try things. Someone who was here a year and a half ago would see new tin ceilings and other things,” Runge says of the space that he is forever changing…one piece at a time.

Cilnt!6

Clint!4

Circular Logic

December 28, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a good bookroom,” Mark Twain once quipped, “you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

This magnificent example of a “good bookroom” is found in a Lincoln home where the magic of reading is much appreciated.

Forming a turret on one corner of the home is this towering, double-decker circle of learning connected by a spiral staircase. Old World aesthetics merge with machine age materials as stainless steel is juxtaposed against the warm, lush grains of English Burl, forming a vibe that dwells at the intersection of the contemporary and the classic.

The famed architecture firm of Porphyrios and Associates in London designed the
ink-strewn space.

The homeowners estimate that their A-to-Z repository of the printed word houses a mere…oh, 10,000 volumes, give or take.

20140828_bs_7704

Husker (Mom) Fever

September 4, 2014 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

If you’re anything like Stephanie Heibel, you haven’t stopped thinking “Huskers” since the end of last season. It’s my passion,” Heibel says. “Being a Husker fan is what everyone knows me for.”

How big a fan is she? Perhaps the biggest in the history of Husker football? Some supporting evidence:

Heibel took athletic training classes during her time at UNL. Once, back in the fall of 2000, she was helping a trainer tape the ankles of linebacker Carlos Polk. When Polk asked her who her favorite player was, she responded Matt Davison.

Polk said she only liked Davison because he was cute. “Which made me mad,” Heibel says. Heibel says she simply respected Davison as a player. “I told (Polk) I could prove him wrong.” Heibel asked Polk what sort of information he would expect a male fan to know. Probably some statistics, right? Heibel knew Davison’s first touchdown, where he was from, his total yards for his career. She even knew his stats from high school in Tecumseh, Neb. Polk couldn’t stump her with any question he asked.

After Polk consulted with a fellow player, Erwin Sweeney, Sweeney concluded it wasn’t too difficult to memorize one player’s stats. “So I respond with, ‘I know you are Erwin Sweeney No. 16, cornerback from Lincoln, Nebraska.’ I looked at Carlos and said, “You are Carlos Polk, No. 13, middle linebacker from Rockford, Illinois.” I went on to name the rest of the players along with their number, position, and where they were from, and ended with ‘I can start at No. 1. That’s Thunder Collins, running back from Los Angeles. I told them ‘I could go down the list numerically if you want.’”

Word of the Husker savant spread quickly. At Heibel’s next training session, she had several players approach her asking if she was the fan. “They said that they had heard about this girl who schooled Carlos and they wanted to meet her.”

Being a fanatic actually started when Heibel was young.  Her dad, she says, always told her that she was born a Husker, what with her scarlet hair and cream-colored skin.

Heibel has passed along the fever to her 3-year-old son, Lucas.  He loves when he gets to put his Husker stuff on, Heibel says.  Lucas was born in August, right at the beginning of the Husker football season. As a baby, when Husker games came on, “If he didn’t have his head pointed toward the screen, he would try to move it so he could.” Even his nursery is covered in Husker gear.

And while Heibel usually chooses a favorite player each season, her favorite player of all time is easily Matt Davison.

If you’re a diehard fan, you’ll understand her first reason for liking Davison: The first Husker game she ever attended was Nebraska versus Missouri in 1997. That was the game in which Davison made perhaps the most famous catch in Cornhusker history.

Her favorite number is 3 (Davison’s jersey number). She buys a No. 3 jersey every season for Lucas to wear for game days. She has her ticket from that game with Davison’s signature on it. She has a signed 16 x 20 picture of him from when she met him at fan day as a freshman.

Her collection of Husker memorabilia goes on and on.

“I still even have my pompom that I had at the game,” she says.   

20140626_sl_8100

If Hearing Is Believing

February 6, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Do you hear what Angie and Andrew Norman hear?

If so, that’s the symphony of the Cornhusker state’s stacked arsenal of music makers. And if you don’t hear it now, you will, because they’re working to ensure that everyone recognizes these sweet (or punk, or country, or polka) sounds.

The Normans co-founded Hear Nebraska in 2010 as a “nonprofit cultural organization that cultivates the state’s vibrant, fertile music and arts community.”

Both were longtime students of regional culture; Andrew even worked at local newsweelies. When he needed a master’s project at Michigan State, Angie pitched the idea of a publication covering Omaha and Lincoln’s music scenes as one. The concept stuck and blossomed into an even larger 
project: a nonprofit.

“We realized Omaha and Lincoln’s music scenes were both super strong and great bands in both cities weren’t getting as much attention as they warranted nationally,” says Andrew. “We wanted to include Omaha, Lincoln, and Nebraska in general. It was just all these scattered voices, so we tried to gather them and speak through one confident, strong voice.”

And that voice is being heard, in Nebraska and beyond. A full 40 percent of HN’s website traffic comes from outside of Nebraska and seven percent of traffic is international. “Our mission is to make Nebraska an internationally known cultural destination,” says Andrew, “so I think that statistic really indicates that we’re doing something to reach that goal.”

Angie adds that “HN has received shout-outs from Garrison Keillor and has been featured on Al-Jazeera English.”

20131029_bs_7994

“We want to tie the broader creative to HN, because we want to promote people making cool stuff in Nebraska,” Andrew says. “To support the musicians, the venues, the businesses involved—it all fits and works together. Around here all of these entities support each other.”

Andrew says that’s what makes Nebraska such an attractive location.

“There’s a sense that people want to collaborate. It’s such a good environment to be in when you’re trying to create art,” he says.

HN is known for executing unique, imaginative events that merge music and community. Angie’s favorites were the “An Evening” series of fundraisers, featuring meals from famed vegan chef and Omaha transplant Isa Chandra Moskowitz and music from such local heavies as Simon Joyner and The Mynabirds.

“It combines food, music, and community in an intimate setting,” says Angie. “The environment is amazing, and they are just such special shows.”

Andrew’s favorite was the NET-televised “HN Live at the 1200 Club” with Digital Leather, Big Harp, and Kill County.

“It was amazing,” Andrew says. “The state of the art [Holland Performing Arts Center] room, three amazing bands on stage, teaming with Omaha Performing Arts and NET, two absolute top-tier organizations in the state who represent what we strive to become…it was extremely flattering, encouraging, 
and motivating.”

Andrew described watching the sound check and imagined a kid from rural Nebraska watching the program and thinking, “This is possible. You can go for it and make your own sound.”

The Normans want HN to “grow smart.” They’re working to “focus on the foundation to make sure that we continue to grow and last,” says Andrew.

Five years from now the Normans hope HN will host regular showcases across the state featuring Nebraska music. Other goals include a physical space, more paid contributors, residencies, being one of the premier music websites in the country, and, as Andrew puts it, for everyone in the state to have a favorite Nebraska band “in the same way they love Husker football.”

In December HN released its second compilation on vinyl accompanied by a digital download. Such notables as Tim Kasher, McCarthy Trenching, Simon Joyner, Universe Contest, and Conchance are a few of the artists highlighting the eclectic collection.

They’re relaunching the HN site in 2014 and are at work on HN Radio, a web app/music player to feature Nebraska music, interviews, reviews, and other content. The effort is funded in part by the Nebraska Arts Council and Omaha Venture Group.

As Omaha invests in the young nonprofit, the Normans continue to invest in Omaha.

“We want to be an example of people who enjoy living here and cultivate a beautiful life here,” says Angie. “We hope that more people will look here and see opportunities.”

“We moved back and bought a house here,” says Andrew of the Benson home the couple shares with their adorable pup, Polly. “A large goal of Hear Nebraska is to stop the brain drain. I think Omaha, and Nebraska, in general, is just a really great place to start something.”

And on the topic of “starting something,” the couple is now awaiting their most ambitious of projects: a baby Norman due in 
early 2014.

Gridiron Hero Becomes Mentor and Coach

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Eric Francis Photography and Ted Kirk

What former Nebraska Cornhusker Steven Warren remembers most from his days playing football is not a particular game or plays, but rather the camaraderie among his teammates—along with key tenants such as persistence, integrity, and trustworthiness. These were experiences and traits that would serve Warren well later in life.

Recruited out of Springfield, Mo., he recalls Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne paying Warren and his family a visit in their living room the same week Big Red won the 1995 national championship. Warren accepted a UNL football scholarship and packed his bags for Lincoln.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

Warren (96) delivers a bone-crushing hit back in his playing days for Big Red.

“Nebraska football was No. 1; it was everywhere,” Warren recalls. “And being a part of it was like being a part of The Beatles.”

Freshman year was both a culture shock and an athletic shock for Warren: rigorous practices alongside the fame of being a Cornhusker. “There was so much temptation because of what you were part of. But you also had to learn time management,” he adds.

While playing for Nebraska, Warren found himself developing close friendships with other players and families in and around Lincoln. Oftentimes, parents would seek Warren out to speak with their children about setting goals, planning for the future, and living one’s dream.

Warren left Nebraska as a 3rd round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2000 NFL Draft. Thirteen weeks into his rookie year, Warren was sidelined with an injury and told he would miss the remainder of the season. He stayed in Green Bay, undergoing rigorous rehabilitation and training. He returned to the Packers for one more season before moving to the AFL, first playing for the San Jose Sabercats and, later, the Arizona Rattlers. At each of his AFL stints, Warren suffered separate injuries. “That’s when I realized my body was trying to tell me something,” he recalls.

130309_CU_-45

Warren returned to University of Nebraska-Lincoln and finished his sociology degree in 2004. After graduation, he had a decision to make. His wife, Heidi, is from Columbus, so staying in Nebraska certainly seemed like an option. And being a Nebraska alumni opened many doors for Warren. Former Huskers often pursued successful careers after leaving the field.

But a sales job or related opportunities just didn’t feel right.

“I always liked helping others, and I worked with mentors while at Nebraska,” Warren shares. At his Lincoln home near 30th and Y streets, some of Warren’s fondest memories were sitting on his porch and talking with children and teens who lived in the neighborhood.

That feeling never left him, which is why today he is president and founder of D.R.E.A.M. (Developing Relationships through Education, Athletics, Mentoring). It’s an Omaha-based nonprofit mentoring organization that reaches out to young men enrolled in middle school.

8K4A5611

“Seven years ago, everything for D.R.E.A.M. just fell into place: the pieces, the people. It was meant to be,” Warren says.

D.R.E.A.M. began in 2006 as an after-school program at Walnut Hill Elementary School at 43rd and Charles streets. Five volunteers met regularly with 20 at-risk students. Today, the program has expanded to several Omaha schools and added a chapter in Springfield, Mo., Warren’s hometown. In all, the program serves about 300 boys.

D.R.E.A.M. finds its success from 40 volunteers who spend three to five hours each week at an assigned school throughout the academic year. The theme is simple: becoming a man.

110723_WarrenAcademy_0054

“Our volunteers work with seventh- and eighth-grade students each school year teaching them the positive attributes of being a man: respect, responsibility, relationship building, establishing rapport,” Warren says. “All of these lessons I learned from football at Nebraska and our peer counseling.”

D.R.E.A.M. teaches young men that it’s okay (even encouraged) to be successful in school. College-age mentors serve as living, breathing examples of the success that comes with hard work, dedication, and diligence.

Teena Foster, an Omaha Public Schools site director at McMillan Magnet Center Middle School, has worked alongside Warren and his college-age volunteers since last fall. Foster says she continues to see growth in the seventh- and eighth-grade students who participate in D.R.E.A.M. each week. And she knows Warren is the driving force.

110723_WarrenAcademy_0065

“Steve is dedicated to mentoring these young students,” Foster explains. “He’s always smiling, is always pleasant. So are his volunteers. They build great relationships with our students. Mentors are extremely important in these young lives.”

Warren’s belief in mentorship yielded a second program that also occupies much of his time. From his experiences as a student athlete, Warren launched Warren Academy in 2010. It’s designed to provide students (from elementary and middle school to high school and college) with leadership skills and character-building through athletics.

Warren Academy, however, isn’t just for students. Coaches and other leaders also participate to improve and refine a variety of leadership skills, both on and off of the field. Warren Academy programs include training sessions, camps, coaching clinics, nutritional counseling, education assistance, and mentoring. The athletic training component features speed, strength, and agility training programs. Warren says that once the organization has its own facility, Warren Academy’s offerings will expand to include fitness for adults and children of all ages.

_EF25056

“Our goal is to become the primary training resource for field sports,” Warren adds. “That includes baseball, football, track, soccer, and lacrosse.”

Seems Warren’s best playing position is that of teacher. And he’s loving every minute of it.

Caption Throw Down

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all started Christmas 2011. Ten siblings each brought a few old photographs to the Carta family holiday party upon the urging of sister Kathy Peters. Sibling Susan Kruse wasn’t sure what they would use the photos for, but she knew her family could make a game out of them—she just didn’t know it would soon spark a business plan.

“There are 11 kids in our family, and we grew up playing games. I’m sure it kept our parents happy…we were out of their hair,” Kruse says with a smile, then glances at brother Mike Carta as she recounts how her company came into being.

A week after their family Christmas, Kruse invited her brother over for dinner and presented him with an idea. She wanted to turn the game that their family invented with those photos into something that everyone could play.

“Are you out of your mind? You want to start a company to do this?” laughs Carta as he recalls his initial reaction.

“Sure, it’ll be fun!” Kruse had responded.

On New Year’s Eve 2011, Dixie Moo Games, LLC, was born, along with their flagship game, Caption Throw Down. The game is a version of the entertainment that the Carta family had created just the week prior. Carta suggested they name the company in honor of their mother, lovingly nicknamed Dixie Moo. Kruse chose the game’s moniker.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules.” – Susan Kruse

Now in its second edition, Caption Throw Down is well on its way to becoming a game cupboard staple. To play, one player chooses a photograph from the stack provided, then displays it for all players to see. Each player then submits a funny, witty, or insightful caption for the photo. Finally, the individual who chose the photo selects their favorite submission. Winners of each round are awarded points, and the game continues as long as players remain engaged.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules,” Kruse says. For that reason, Caption Throw Down contains limited instructions and guarantees that no one has to be eliminated. “I didn’t like games where everyone [continues] playing while you had to sit out. It was no fun,” Kruse shares.

In addition to many of Kruse’s personal family photos that have made the cut, Caption Throw Down includes photos picked up at local antique stores and estate sales. “We can tell if we start laughing right away, it’s a keeper,” Carta adds. Dixie Moo Games also encourages home players to submit their own family photographs via the Dixie Moo website, granting permission for the photos to be used in future editions of the game.

While the family comes together to assemble the individual boxes, all game parts are printed separately around the Midwest. Their picture printer is in Lincoln, their labeler in Omaha, and their boxes are created in Ohio.

Company sales have been driven mostly by word of mouth, says Kruse, the sole owner of the company. She has arranged several Caption Throw Down game nights through local bars and churches, which have been a huge success. Additionally, she created a Facebook page (facebook.com/captionthrowdown), where she uploads pictures for anyone to caption.

Asked whether there are more games in the future of Dixie Moo, Kruse smiles and admits that while she does have ideas, she won’t be sharing them—one of the most difficult parts of having such a creative business, she says.

Caption Throw Down is available for sale online at dixiemoogames.com. The game can also be purchased at retail locations listed on the website. 

Secret Penguin’s Dave Nelson

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Seven years of touring full-time as a sponsored skateboarder leaves you with A) a lot of skateboarding product from your sponsors and B) a definite magnetism for skater kids looking to channel their energy.

“Skateboarders have an addictive personality,” confesses Dave Nelson, a former skateboarder for Untitled Skateboards and the owner of Downtown Omaha brand strategy and design firm Secret Penguin. “That’s all they think about…skating. They’re consuming, passionate people.” So when fellow skateboarder Mike Smith asked if he’d like to be on the board of a new nonprofit called Skate For Change, “I was like, yes, instantly. Completely excited about it.”

In his TEDxOmaha presentation last October, Smith explained that a closing skate park had offered him its ramps while he was working with homeless teenagers in Lincoln (TEDxOmaha is a local conference inspired by world-renowned TED events, dedicated to spreading world-changing ideas). Taking the opportunity and running with it, Smith started Bay 198, an indoor skate park in a Lincoln mall. “It answered a missing point,” Nelson says. “The kids needed a place that was genuine and safe.”

In the meantime, Smith had been skating through Lincoln on his lunch break, handing out socks and bottled water to the downtown homeless. Friends started joining him, then kids, then energy-drink maker Red Bull even stepped in with a launch party for the park and effort. “I’m just watching all of these skate kids pour their lives and their hearts and their souls into helping people,” Smith said at TEDxOmaha. “Feeding people.”

“He said when I gave him that board and took time to talk and skate with him, it made him realize that there are good people out there that do care about others.”

Secret Penguin handled the branding of the new incarnation of the skate park (now simply called The Bay) at 20th and Y streets in Lincoln. The Bay’s new park is made out of cement and bricks, “so it would feel more like the street,” Nelson explains. Most indoor skate parks are made of wood.

An indoor skate park for Omaha similar to Lincoln’s The Bay isn’t far from Nelson’s thoughts, but for now his typical haunt is Roberts Skate Park at 78th and Cass streets. He’s there about three times a week, meeting new people and trying new tricks.

“A few months ago,” he recalls, “I ran into this kid that I’d met at Roberts maybe 10 years ago.” The young man told Nelson that on that day, his parents were gone on yet another bender. His friends knew no one was home, so they broke into his house and stole all his stuff. The boy decided he was going to kill himself but first, one last skate at Roberts Park. He met Nelson there, who gave him one of the boards from his sponsors and talked with him. “He said when I gave him that board and took time to talk and skate with him, it made him realize that there are good people out there that do care about others,” Nelson remembers. “He said that was the first time he can remember feeling like someone cared. And that skateboard was a representation of hope to him throughout the years.”

On Saturdays, Nelson meets interested skaters at either the Mastercraft building, 13th & Nicholas, or in front of The Slowdown for Omaha’s own version of Skate For Change. “We’ll go hand the stuff out to whomever,” he says, referring to the donations of bottled water or socks received at the Secret Penguin office or purchased with donations forwarded from Smith. “Kids just get behind something like this.”

“We don’t need money,” he says, “just supplies.” Anyone wanting to donate water, socks, canned tuna, or hygiene kits can drop them off at the Secret Penguin office in the Mastercraft building.