Tag Archives: Westroads Mall

Lisa Roskens

January 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A group of horses first caught Lisa Yanney Roskens’ attention from a picturesque pasture beside her childhood home in Bloomfield Hills, a subdivision near Westroads Mall. Ever since, she has been enamored with horses.

By the time she was 5 years old, her parents, Gail and Michael Yanney, bought her a pony named Taffy. A year later, Roskens began taking Western riding lessons, and by her preteens, she joined Jan Mactier at Ponca Hills Farm and began learning English riding. She rode and competed in equitation (the art of riding) through high school, through her college years at Stanford University, and eventually sold her horse upon returning to Omaha in the early 1990s.

At that point, she began running instead of riding. But her former riding master knew where Roskens’ heart lay.

“Jan called me up one day and said, ‘let’s go for a ride’ and I’ve never gone back,” Roskens says.

Roskens began training again, in earnest, eventually getting back to competition. She rekindled her passion for horses, and in 2009, began looking at bringing the sport to Omaha when she attended the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the world’s top equestrian event.

afterhours2“I was a junkie, and I went to see my heroes, and I wanted to see what this top level competition was like,” Roskens says. “I was overwhelmed at the level of horsemen, but I was underwhelmed with the facility, the layout, and how everything was set up, from both a spectator’s perspective and a horseman’s perspective.”

She began to work towards bringing the event to Omaha.

“I found some friends. What does a girl do but get all of her friends together and say, ‘let’s figure out how to solve this problem,’ ” Roskens says lightheartedly.

The friends she brought together included businesspeople, horse people, and marketing and promotions people. She brought onboard Harold Cliff of the Omaha Sports Commission, whom Roskens says was “incredibly helpful.” By 2013, she and her friends watched their sport in their hometown (at the International Omaha), and last year, they won their bid to secure the 2017 World Cup. Omaha’s bid beat out London, Hong Kong, and ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

“To be honest, I thought the bid was kind of a trial run,” Roskens says. “We threw everything we had at it, but I really thought they’d get to know us, and we’d win for 2018. The entire equestrian community was surprised, and pleased.”

Roskens, who trains on two horses six days a week, frequently rides in the mornings before getting ready for her day job as chairman and CEO of Burlington Capital. While she pondered riding professionally in the past, she appreciates that her business acumen can bring knowledge to this sport.

“It’s easy to get caught up in how things are done and not look at them with innovation and a fresh set of eyes,” Roskens says. “That’s what I can bring to my sport.”

Roskens also credits some advice given to her by her parents for allowing her to keep her hobby as a hobby.

“Back when I was in high school, and I was considering becoming a professional rider, they said, ‘remember, when your hobby becomes your career, it’s no longer voluntary, and it changes the nature of your hobby fundamentally,’” she remembers. 

So while it may seem as though Roskens has two careers, she is happy to continue pursuing riding as a hobby.

“[People who turn hobbies into careers] go at it with this joy, this sense of fun, which is great, but if you don’t know how to balance your books, and you don’t know how to negotiate a lease, you either need to find someone who does, or you need to learn how,” she says.

Roskens and her friends have learned how, and that has enabled them to bring a world-class event to Omaha. When the FEI World Cup rolls into town in April, visitors will find an event that has been set up by a team of disciplined and passionate horsemen ready to welcome (and take on) the world.

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

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Flagship Commons

June 10, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When I am trying to pick a place to go for a quick casual meal, the mall is not usually one of my top choices. That changed when Flagship Commons opened at Westroads Mall in January 2016. Now I find myself going to the mall to eat all the time. Judging by the crowds, it appears I’m not alone.

MysteryReview1Flagship Commons is an innovative new concept by the Flagship Restaurant Group. These are the same people that brought to Omaha Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Roja Mexican Grill, Blatt Beer & Table, Plank Seafood Provisions, and Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob.

In the comfortable and open Flagship Commons area, you will find eight different fast casual or full service dining concepts, plus a bar, in one food hall. The list includes: Weirdough Pizza Company, Yum Roll Sushi, Yoshi-Ya Ramen, Clever Greens, Juan Taco, Aromas Coffee House, Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob, and Blatt Beer & Table. As you might guess the hardest part about eating at Flagship Commons is deciding which concept to go to. Well, I have tried all of them and I can tell you that they are all good. It just depends what you like and what you are in the mood for.

Some of my personal favorites come from Blatt Beer & Table, which has an abbreviated menu of what you will find at the other locations that share its name. Here you will find the best-ever mall burger ($11.50), and some very tasty mac and cheese ($9), as well as a great assortment of craft beers ($5.50 each). Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob is kind of fun in that you first chose a style—flatbread, salad, or plate. Next choose a protein—falafel ($6.25), beef ($7.99), lamb ($7.99) or chicken ($7.50). Then you can doctor it up with assorted sauces and veggies. Juan Taco has a great assortment of authentic tacos ($2-$4.50) as well as some very yummy quesadillas ($2.50-$4.25).

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Over at Clever Greens everything is bursting with freshness. They have some specialty entree salads ($7.50-$13), or you can build your own creation, specifying every single ingredient. The build-your-own option starts at $7.50. As you might have guessed Yoshi-ya Ramen serves up authentic ramen noodles. My favorite is the Tonkotsu Deluxe ($11.50). This ramen soup has chicken and pork broth, chashu, ajitama egg, menma, moyashi, negi, corn, pork belly, and rayu chili oil. Yum Roll Sushi has some excellent bowls ($7-$9), sashimi ($5-$7), nigiri ($4.50-$6.50) and of course sushi rolls ($4-$11.50). Weirdough Pizza Company is known for its Roman-style, square-cut pizza, made by hand to order in their custom oven. You can get whole-sized pies ($18-$23) or a large slice ($3.75-$4.50).

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Many of the concepts serve beer and wine and there is also a full bar at the appropriately named “The Bar.” I should also mention that there is a reverse happy hour Sunday-Thursday from 7:30 p.m. to close. I really like this concept and think that it has some great growth potential. If you have not been over to check it out yet, you really need to do so soon.

Cheers!

Fires, Ghosts, and Alligators

April 15, 2015 by

Originally published in March/April 2015 Encounter.

Dick Mueller decided to open his new dinner theater in the Old Market in 1972 after considering a site at the Westroads Mall. He named it the Firehouse Dinner Theater, inspired by the building’s history as an early Omaha fire station.

“We put in restrooms and a back kitchen where they stabled the horses,” says Mueller. Horses powered fire engines in the early 1900s. “Harnesses were hung from the ceiling so they could drop them down onto the horses.”

The dim basement was turned into a warm and charming wine cellar. “An old fireman told me that the zoo used to house their alligators in the cellar during the winter,“ Mueller says.

He doesn’t know if the alligator story is true, but the basement did have a murky ambiance in 1971 when he bought the building at 12th and Jackson streets from an automotive parts company. His theater opened in 1972.

The building has changed over its 112-year history. A fire on April 9, 1917, destroyed the gabled top floor, which held the hayloft for the horses. The firemen almost didn’t make it to their own two-alarm fire.

As the story goes, the firemen were sitting outside enjoying a sunny day when somebody ran by and said, “Hey, do you know your hayloft is on fire?”

“There was no concrete technology when it was built,“ says Brian Magee of Upstream Brewing Co., which now inhabits the historical building. “Everything was wood. Those days, they couldn’t prevent a fire from spreading.”

The building was renovated after the 1917 fire and functioned as a fire station until 1944 when lack of manpower during World War II forced it to close.

The 1917 fire wasn’t the only one to scorch the building. In 1975, an arsonist set the theater’s stage on fire. “Everything in the theater melted. We were closed for two or three months,” Mueller remembers.

Spaghetti Works purchased the building that also included Harrigan’s, a comedy club/restaurant on the lower level.

The Firehouse Dinner Theater closed for good in 1991. Upstream Brewing Co. bought the building in 1995 from Spaghetti Works and opened its microbrewery/restaurant the following year after renovation.

On the south wall, cinder blocks had replaced the doors through which firemen and their horses once dashed off to fires. The opaque blocks were replaced with large, light-filled windows. Another piece of history—the original 1903 firehouse cornerstone sits above the brewery inside the Upstream.

And then there’s the ghost. When the Upstream first opened, Magee felt he was not alone late at night as he closed the restaurant. “I haven’t seen the ghost but a number of people have.”

Some local ghostbusters once spent a night there and reported they sensed the ghost’s presence. “In our bar upstairs one night, martini glasses all of a sudden flew off and landed on the other side of the bar,” says Magee.

Legend has it that the ghost appears as a young boy holding a red ball and wearing an early 20th century suit and cap. And apparently, he really, really doesn’t like martinis.

Omaha-Firehouse

Juggernaut Interactive

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The office space for Juggernaut Interactive mimics characteristics of the company itself. You couldn’t find it if you weren’t looking very, very hard. Even when you reach the business park it hides in just west of Westroads Mall in Miracle Hills, you’d never guess what’s really behind the corporate-looking oak door.

If Brian Daniel, owner of the two-year-old interactive web-experience company, is in the office, Zeke might be, too. The six-year-old toy poodle will happily chase a laser pointer around the small office’s common room, which is lime green. The one white wall displays a projection of comic sketches instead of typical office artwork. A visitor could almost mistake the place for a trendy frozen yogurt shop, except that Sharpies fill the glass apothecary jars instead of coconut flakes and candy.20130419_bs_1310_Web

“When we moved in, this space was really dark,” Daniel says of the 1,850-square-foot office. “The wainscoting, the trim pieces were all black.” Within the last two years of Juggernaut Interactive inhabiting the small suite, black has been relegated to tasteful accents only, giving bright colors the stage.

Cindy Ostronic, an interior designer with The Designing Edge, helped Daniel pull colors from the company’s own brand to fill the area with lime green, maraschino red, and what really should be called Orangesicle. From the multicolored couch pillows to the red iPad cover on a black sideboard, pops of the signature hues are everywhere. Ostronic was also the one who realized that a traditional reception desk/receiving area shouldn’t be a part of Juggernaut Interactive’s space. “That’s not really how they work,” she points out. “They needed more of a collaboration area out in the open where people can do their thing.”20130419_bs_1353_Web

Each room is named: The Grotto, the Hotbox, the Dojo, the Darkroom (oddly enough, as a corner office, it’s the brightest room), the Rabbithole (“You go in there, and things get lost”), and the Boiler Room (“It gets so darn hot in there”). The break room is called Red Mango after, yes, the yogurt shop, which is a Juggernaut Interactive client. The fridge is stocked with a variety of beers, the cabinets contain salty snacks, and lunches are up for grabs in the freezer. The office as a whole is nicknamed Gotham.

“We voted on all the names,” Daniel says, referring to his 10 or so employees. “What’s the personality of the room, why are we meeting in there, you know.” In the interactive branding business, he states, the more comfortable and relaxed you can be, the better.20130419_bs_1357_Web

What’s more relaxing than a little personalized mood music? “We have three Sonos systems running through here,” Daniel says, each of which enables employees to play different music zones on one of Juggernaut Interactive’s three networks. When guests come in, Daniel tends to ask what their three favorite songs are. “Everybody can control their own music, which is kind of nice,” he says. George Strait gets carried away in the Dojo, for example, while Adele sets fire to the rain in the Darkroom. The Sonos systems and two independent Apple TVs run off the office’s main network. The other two networks are for guests and voice over IP. Two Epson projectors work with the Apple TVs to showcase everything from a client’s desktop to late-night YouTube videos.

A huge part of the office’s aesthetic is obviously its tech. Juggernaut Interactive employees are drowning in it. Everyone has either a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, an iPad 2 (some also have an iPad mini), as well as a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display monitor, “which is complete overkill,” Daniel admits, “but they all have them.” Except, that is, for Daniel, who doesn’t use a monitor or really even a particular office. His workspace is his iPad mini, a projector, and whatever dry-erase surface happens to be nearby. A phone call to the office rings three times before it goes to Daniel’s cell, making sure that the state-hopping owner doesn’t miss a call.20130419_bs_1327_Web

“I’m creating a business for the lifestyle I want,” he says, which does not include an office full of people he has to babysit. “I want this to be a creative space where people come in, get their work done, get out.” The office attitude is indeed come and go. Daniel says his employees have been around the block enough with their careers that they work very efficiently. The office space reflects that attitude: informal but professional. Sharp and tidy, but colorful and creative.

Deb’s-tique

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Located in Clocktower Village just east of Westroads Mall, Deb’s-tique offers an array of jewelry, antiques, home accents, clothing, and gifts at price points its customers appreciate. The store also carries a line of Made in the U.S.A. food items. Owner Deb Schneider describes Deb’s-tique as “accommodating” and “a place that gives customers a warm shopping experience.” Guests are offered coffee and tea and can shop for themselves or their loved ones in a relaxing, personal atmosphere.

Schneider is no stranger to owning a business, as she and her husband also run a construction company. Her inspiration for opening her store last September came from her family life and 20+ years as a mother. “Mothers need some time to themselves—to take time and let it be about you,” she says. The boutique provides a space for women to shop for unique gifts and caters to anyone from late teens to late 70s. Deb’s-tique also sees many husbands and fathers shopping for the women in their lives.

“We wanted a broad clientele,” Schneider says. When asked why she chose the location, she says, “It is a central point for many different people…a place anyone can come to.”

Deb’s-tique
617 N. 98th St.
402-934-3770
debstique.com