Tag Archives: market

Farmers Market in the Fall

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by Keith Binder

In 1994, Gene Sivard had an oversized garden with veggies to spare. The Old Market was having its first Farmers Market and was “begging for vendors.” Now, Sivard’s Gene’s Green Thumb has 14 acres, and the Old Market Farmers Market is in its 20th season.

Over the years, Sivard has seen it grow from a simple farmers market into a city bazaar of sorts. “Now you have crafts, meat, cheese, all kinds of beef jerky, bread,” he says. “It is a big event with a really big crowd.”

It’s become so popular, in fact, that Omaha Farmers Market added a second location. Now, you can visit the Old Market on Saturdays 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. from the first week in May through mid-October and then hit the newer Aksarben Village market on Sundays from 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

“Every market is different,” says Heidi Walz, operations manager for Omaha Farmers Market. “And that means that every season is different, every week is different. We’re rotating new things in each week as the season progresses.”

You can find a harvest calendar, with general times to expect local produce, under the Local Resources tab of the Market’s website (which, by the way, got a 20th anniversary redesign):
omahafarmersmarket.com.

Worthy of noting in that calendar is that the fall is still a great time to hit the market.

“…at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other.” – Heidi Walz, operations manager of Omaha Farmers Market

“The produce stays strong through the end in this area,” Walz says. “So you’re still going to see tomatoes and potatoes and peppers and the greens, and more of the typical table fruits and vegetables that people think of. But the other cool thing is, being in Nebraska, we definitely have some fall crops. You’re going to see the apples, the pumpkins, and the gourds, as well as some of the decorative things, like Indian corn.”

It’s difficult for Walz to choose a favorite thing about the markets. But “I have two little boys, and to be able to go there and see all the varieties of pumpkins,” she says, is one of them.

“It’s fun to go to the pumpkin patch, and we do that. But at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other. And the boys look at what is the most unique pumpkin, or the biggest pumpkin, and explore so many different options. It’s just really fun to let them come down and pick out a really unique pumpkin, like maybe a green one that’s really tall and slender,” she says. And, because the farmer is right there, “you can find out way more about your selection.”

Sivard also loves the fall markets. For the veggie lovers, Sivard recommends getting winter squash, like acorn squash, which can be stored in a cool basement and eaten all the way in January.

Even when the weather turns, you can still find treasures at the market. According to Sivard, “One season, we had six inches of snow on the ground and still had a lot of apples.”

And although Oct. 19–20 is the last weekend for the season, you can get a taste of the market in December at the WOWT and Physicians Holiday Market. The Holiday Market is hosted under two large, heated tents in Aksarben Village on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7–8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although the Holiday Market doesn’t have produce, you will find a lot of your favorite regular-season Farmers Market vendors, as well as additional gift vendors.

“It’s just so festive and local, which is cool—to get some of your holiday shopping done in a local way. Such an awesome event.” Walz admits, “It’s one of my favorites.”

Youth Priorities

June 20, 2013 by

Back in my day, all the cool kids wore alligators on their shirts.

It was an essential indicator of class status. You simply had to have the little Izod Lacoste symbol. No other animal would do. Every kid knew they needed at least one “alligator shirt” to even be on the fringes of fashion acceptance. I remember kids saving their allowances just to have that one, precious shirt. And scoffing at anyone who wore a fake. Really.

The ’80s were all about wealth and status. What you had, what you owned, where you lived—it all defined pecking order in the Teendom. There was even a popular movie, Wall Street, where the main character’s key line was “Greed is good.”

It was so accepted back then, but I think many teens today would be horrified at how much emphasis society once placed on the accumulation of “stuff.” While there will always be some level of status related to wealth, today’s teens see things much differently than we once did.

For them, it’s all about experiences. Experiences they can talk about and share on their social networks.

Marketers know this. Archrival, based in Lincoln, is a leader in youth marketing. Their clients include Red Bull®, Zappos®, and Adidas®. When they build campaigns geared toward teens and young adults, they know that, to be successful, they need to create an opportunity for an experience—hopefully interactive, fun, and visual. And most importantly? Something the participant can share online.

This generation grew up with the entire world at their fingertips. In just a few clicks, they see what all of their friends are doing, but they also learn about the needs in their communities. They can download an app that lets them donate $5 to help hungry children in another part of the world. You will not find a more hard-working group of volunteers than a group of young adults passionate about a cause. Many are introduced to volunteer work through community service requirements, where they can develop a lifelong interest in philanthropy—in time, talent, and finances.

Many young people want to do things that make a difference, especially in helping others. They want to be part of the solution. They want to share pictures and talk about it on their social networks. And, quite frankly, it benefits their online identity, which is extremely important to this group—especially those aware that college recruiters and employers will be looking at their profiles.

It’s easy for parents to forget how committed their children can be. But it can change how we connect with our teens. My own teen expert, my 15-year-old son, agrees. “People want to have interesting stuff to share online,” he says. “That’s what they want to spend their money on, too.” Yeah, it’s nice to have the branded shirt, but it’s also okay to shop at the thrift store if it means more money to spend toward a great trip or even just a fun night out with friends.

Good parenting information to have tucked away if you are trying to “market” something to your teen. Sell them on the experience and the great photos they can share on their Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit accounts. And hey, maybe they’ll let you come along, too.

Here Comes the Bride

March 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Just as April marks the arrival of springtime, so, too, does it signal the beginning of wedding season—typically viewed as mid-April through mid-October—and the onset of “wedding fever” for many excited soon-to-be and wanna-be brides.

Regardless of whether your nuptials are a year away or far off in the distance, wedding season is a great time to attend Omaha bridal fairs and visit bridal boutiques, floral shops, and other wedding businesses in the metro and start making a list of all your must-haves for your special day. After all, creating your dream wedding takes time and planning—why not get started now?

To celebrate wedding season, we’re spotlighting three metro businesses that provide distinctive products and services for Omaha brides: gown boutique, Rhylan Lang; accessories vendor, Inez Gill; and floral service, Flowers for Special Occasions. All three are owned by local, young women who are not only on top of national trends, but in fact are leading the way in the Midwest with unique, high-end wedding fashions and accessories.

Rhylan Lang

The goal of upscale bridal boutique, Rhylan Lang, is simple—to make sure that each bride leaves with a dress that is as amazing as the memories created. “Every dress in the store is made from silk fabrics,” says owner Tracy Ponec, 29, of her unique collection. “If there is beading, it is Swarovski. If there is lace, it has intricate details. I want brides to be able to tell the difference in quality.”

Ponec, who has a joint degree in textiles and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been working in the wedding gown industry for nine years. “In college, I [did] bridal alterations,” she says. “I never thought I was going to make a career out of it.”

After graduating, she moved to Kansas City. “I had done a few internships that were more in-line with fashion-related public relations, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for that in the Midwest.” But with years of bridal alterations experience on her résumé, she took a shot and applied to the highest-end bridal salon in Kansas City, even though they weren’t hiring. Of course, she got hired. She even had the opportunity to do some professional training in New York with bridal design teams for Vera Wang and Reem Acra. “The owner [of the salon] and I made a great team. I learned so much from him. A few months in, he told me he thought I was born to do this.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

When Ponec returned to Nebraska, she saw the bridal market with new eyes. “Knowing how many of my brides in Kansas City were from Omaha, it was pretty obvious there was something missing for these brides in the Nebraska market.” She worked a bridal position for a short time but then decided it was time to bring her vision to life. A few years later with a business plan in hand, Ponec opened Rhylan Lang.

The name “Rhylan Lang” is actually a play on Ponec’s maiden name, Rhylander. “There is part of me in the name, but [the brand] isn’t about me. It’s about the brides,” she says. Because she cares about her brides, Ponec wanted her gown collection—which starts at a range of $1,600 to $6,000—to be exclusive in the state. From there, it was important to that the dresses were the highest quality fabrics and finishes available at each price point.

“During an appointment, a professional stylist will help select gowns from our inventory based on what a bride is looking for and their budget. The experience here is more intimate and far less chaotic than brides are used to. It’s a pleasant change for those that have been shopping a lot.”

For more information, visit rhylanlang.com or call 402-933-3510.

Inez Gill

Courtney Zurcher, 24, got the itch to start her own accessories business after making scarves for her family and friends. Today, she is the owner and designer at her accessories business, Inez Gill. Since starting Inez Gill, Zurcher’s accessories have been featured in Omaha’s Wedding Essentials and on Daily Candy, an e-mail newsletter and website devoted to what’s new and hot. She’s even designing accessories for the Daily Candy editor’s wedding.

“Inez Gill actually came from a combination of family names,” she explains of her business’ name. “My grandfather’s mom, Inez, was the kind of woman who just painted everything. She even painted the fridge once. She was very eccentric. Gill was my grandmother’s last name. She was a traditional mom and did needlework to make clothing.” Zurcher likes the combination of Inez and Gill because “one was artsy and one was practical,” which is how she’d like to approach her business.

When it comes to weddings, more brides are willing to pay for high-end products that are unique. That’s where Inez Gill accessories come in. “Accessories have a lot of life because you can put it on and it will change an outfit completely,” says Zurcher, who recently displayed her work at Omaha Fashion Week. Most of Zurcher’s bridal accessories are for the brides who want really fun, colorful looks. “I want [my pieces] to feel like accessories from a 1920s hat shop down the street—things that tailors and seamstresses would custom-make.”20130227_bs_7349 copy

While most designers and bridal vendors ship in their accessories, Zurcher creates and designs each piece. “Some designers draw sketches, but I just think of what I have, and then I put it together. I do have to put a lot more thought into how I design an accessory though because I take so many different pieces and put them together. I have my own system, and I don’t buy anything pre-made, unless it’s like a vintage leaf or something.”

With suppliers coming from everywhere (even some out of England), Zurcher has a lot of unique pieces to work with in creating each accessory. Natural stemming, vintage leaves, rhinestones—she finds all kinds of items from her suppliers and antique shops. “I don’t really follow a particular style,” she says of her mix-and-match work.

But just because Zurcher makes her accessories by hand doesn’t mean they look handmade. In fact, she prefers to spend more time making each accessory have a high-end look, even if it takes her more than the usual three to five hours. “I just like making things that make people feel good.”

For more information, visit inezgill.com.

Flowers for Special Occasions

“We have a strong passion for floral design,” says Jessica Pitt, 29, owner and designer at Flowers for Special Occasions. “We are always reinventing our work to stay fresh and in touch with the ever-changing fashion of the [wedding] industry.”

Although Pitt studied Fine Arts at College of Saint Mary and Behavioral Sciences at Bellevue University, she says that the floral business is in her blood. With four generations of her family having been involved in florals, it was only natural for Pitt to take up the business. “I grew up in my mother’s flower shop, spending afternoons as a child playing in the shop and eventually working there from the time I was 15 through college.”

A customer actually gave the business its name. “We were trying to establish ourselves as a vendor who worked exclusively with weddings and other special events. The name just sort of stuck,” Pitt says. But the business is also known as the Flower Design Studio, which Pitt explains comes from their days as a co-op with two other businesses.20130227_bs_7197 copy

Pitt says Flowers for Special Occasions is unique because they custom-make floral arrangements. “None of our work is based on cookie-cutter bouquets,” she adds. “We work with the client to develop a special feel for the event, and we create our pieces based on our collaborations.” Budgets of all sizes are welcomed by the Flowers for Special Occasions team. It doesn’t matter if a couple is working on a small or large budget—Pitt says the floral arrangements will look beautiful.

“We have built a very loyal following through the years. We work primarily through word of mouth. I believe [that] our happy clients and their referrals are what has built and sustained our company, making it the success it is today.

“Since we are a family business, we all have a personal stake in wanting our business to succeed. We never cut corners,” she says. “We have one chance to get it right, so we always strive to give each wedding something very special.”

For more information, visit flowersforspecialoccasions.webs.com or call 402-891-1602.

Tomato Tomäto

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Tomato Tomäto, a year-round, indoor farmers market whose name plays off the debate over how to pronounce the name of the versatile fruit (Yes, it’s a fruit, not a vegetable), is a must-stop-shop for many in the Omaha area who enjoy fresh produce, eggs, nuts, many organic goods, and more.

Tucked back from street view near 156th and Bob Booser Drive (just north of West Center Road) in West Omaha, the store carries products from dozens of vendors, all of them local. However you say it, it’s a win-win for the entire Omaha community.

Jody Fritz and her husband, Jeremy, were no strangers to the local farmers markets. As regular weekend representatives of Jody’s father-in-law’s O’Neill, Neb., farm, Garden Fresh Vegetables, the couple got to know the other vendors pretty well.20120904_bs_9299 copy

As the weather grew cooler and the outdoor markets closed up shop, the couple realized they and their fellow vendors still had plenty to offer would-be consumers. “There still is a lot out there when the markets end, so we kind of came up with this idea,” says Fritz. That idea was to utilize the front portion of the Garden Fresh Vegetables’ Omaha warehouse as a year-round farmers market. Vendors bring their products into the shop and set their own prices, and Tomato Tomäto receives a commission off of everything that sells.

“We didn’t really have any capital to start, so that’s where the consignment idea came from, and it’s worked out well,” explains Fritz. “Consumers pay a little less than they would at Whole Foods…and the producers make more money than they do selling wholesale, so it’s kind of a nice middle place for everybody.”

“We’ll have winter squashes and greens that grow in greenhouses—lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, some peppers, those kinds of things—all year round.” – Jody Fritz, co-owner

Since the store opened nearly five years ago, the number of vendors has grown from five to 100. “As more vendors come in, each kind of has their own following, so then all their customers come in and they become customers of a lot of the other vendors,” says Fritz.

Products range from-fresh produce, eggs, milk, and meats (farm fresh chicken, beef, fish, ostrich, and more) to local wines, salsas, soup starters, breads, and pastas, just to name few. “There are always a lot of things going on.” All inventory is fresh and local; organic, as well as gluten-free, options are available.20120904_bs_9295 copy

Regarding the year-round produce selection, Fritz says that, understandably, there is an ebb and flow throughout the year. “We’ll have winter squashes and greens that grow in greenhouses—lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, some peppers, those kinds of things—all year round.”

But Fritz concedes that because Tomato Tomäto specializes in locally produced foods, there are certain items that her store will never be able to offer her customers. “We won’t ever have bananas in Nebraska,” she says through a chuckle. “I get that there are limitations to the place, but I’m just going to embrace those rather than trying to be something we aren’t. I can’t compromise…there are so many foods you can eat in season.”

The colder months bring with them opportunities for customers to order free-range, organic turkeys for Thanksgiving, as well as buy homemade holiday pies and find locally produced spirits to ring in the New Year and celebrate Valentine’s Day. “There’s always a season for everything, it seems,” says Fritz.

Alyssa LeGrand has been a customer of Tomato Tomäto since the market opened and says the quality of the produce is fantastic. “I like to support local farmers and anybody with their own business,” she says. Appreciating the competitive prices, LeGrand says she often stops in on a weekly basis.20120904_bs_9291 copy

On the supplier side, Ryan Pekarek, owner of Pekarek Produce in Dwight, Neb., has been bringing his produce to Tomato Tomäto for three years and says he looks forward to continuing to work with Fritz in the future. “[Tomato Tomäto] is nice because you come back with an empty truck every time.”

In addition to the market side of the business, Tomato Tomäto also runs a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program in which customers can become members of the CSA by purchasing shares in the program and, every week, receive fresh produce and local products. “I just didn’t have enough room for everything people wanted to bring in, so we were trying to find a way for the farmers to bring their food here and to get it into the hands of people quickly.”

For some, this indoor farmers market may just be the best-kept secret in Omaha. For others, specifically the approximately 100 vendors that supply a wide variety of products to Tomato Tomäto’s devoted customers, it’s the answer to their prayers.

Tomato Tomäto
2634 S. 156th Cir.
402-933-0893
tomatotomato.org