My 2019 Best of Omaha Winners

Legitimate List of Winners

Every summer I’m bombarded with pleas to vote this business or that as the Best of Omaha in their category. This lobbying is not unique to Omaha. It was the same deal when we lived in Sioux Falls, Charleston and Atlanta.

I’m not naive. I know this is a way to raise advertising dollars for publications. Businesses run ads begging for reader’s votes and then run another ad congratulating themselves as winners.

It’s all a bit narcissistic and self-serving.

I give little credibility to businesses topping the categories.

At best, they have a more sophisticated marketing/lobbying staff and perhaps more advertising dollars too.

Rarely do they convince me to vote for them simply because of their marketing prowess.

What Makes a Winner?

What defines best of any business category for me has remained constant for decades:

  • Exceeding customer expectations
  • Prompt and satisfactory response to customer inquiry
  • Community involvement.

Maybe I’m an odd duck—one not influenced by marketing noise, but

I Always Vote & Buy From Businesses That

  • Buy an ad on the back of a church bulletin
  • Manage a customer complaint with tact and peaceful resolution. [This doesn’t mean the customer is always right. It means they listened and offered agreeable solutions.]
  • Are led by those who hire, reward and retain outstanding staff
  • Have entrepreneurial spirit
  • Are involved in the community-sponsoring youth teams, supporting Rotary and other civic organizations and showing other ways of ownership in their hometown
  • Treat me both like a lady and a valued customer with a brain

My 2019 Best of Omaha Winners

Appliance Sales: Scott Saalfeld at Lowe’s 3333 N 147th Street Omaha NE 68116

I visited every appliance retail outlet in Omaha.

By miles, Scott knows and understands his products and his customers better than any other sales person I encountered. I felt heard and guided to the best appliances for my needs.

He is well trained on products and customer service. Scott listens. He follows through. He appears well respected by his team members and managers.

Appliance Installer: Precision Appliances (Nick) 402.680.2828

Nick does installation and repair of microwave ovens, dishwashers, ranges, dryers and washing machines.

He arrives on time. He is respectful of one’s home. He’s competent and quick. He’s self-employed and understands customer service & satisfaction.

Auto Body Repair: Dave’s Auto Body 9630 Redick Avenue Omaha, NE 68122 https://davesautobodyco.com/

I had zero auto body repair experience when entering this business. I left feeling confident in the consultation, price and process. Since our relocation to the Midwest, I have never felt more appreciated as a customer than at this Omaha business.

It’s the simple things: the owner shaking my hand and thanking me for my business while a staff member started my car and cooled it down for my exit.

Best New Product: Damp Rid Moisture Absorber-Genius of an idea; Works wonders in our basement https://damprid.com/

Carpet Cleaners: Top Gun Carpet Care Specialists 402.332.3778 http://www.topguncarpetcare.com/

This family owned business has been serving the Omaha area since 1982. They know the business and they know how to keep their customers happy, including us.

Drywaller: Alberto Salcebo 402.598.5945 20+ years in the industry (2019) Responsive, Competitive pricing, Polite.

Manicurist: Ly at Blondo Nails 2085 N 120th Street Suite D1 Omaha, NE 68164 402.452.7172 (mobile #)

Simply the best. Call her directly to schedule your appointment.

Plumber: AP Plumbing (Tony) 402.669.7249

Clogged water lines are like calculus equations to me. Foreign. Tony sent Curt to replace pipes in our home. In very lay terms, I described what I saw as the problem and his experience led him to a simple, affordable solution. Curt respected our property and cleaned up perfectly after himself. AP Plumbing is always welcome in our home.

Real Estate Agent: Megan Owens, Owens Real Estate Group at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services 402.689.4984  http://owensregroup.com/

Megan has now worked with 3 generations of my family. She connects with and guides each buyer to homes ideal for their needs.

She’s simply outstanding with customer service and deserves your business.

Strangers Paying for Our Meal at AJs Café 5146 North 90th Street Omaha, NE 68134

We’d heard about this Café from many Omaha residents. Imagine our surprise when our server told us another patron had paid for our meal after hearing it was our first time there.

People are good everywhere. This is just another example of human kindness.

Pay it forward, always.  

Tree Service: Eden Tree Pros http://edentreepros.com/

Contact them for a free consultation and estimate. We’re sure glad we did. Their response time and automated systems are built for busy family lives. And, our birch tree stood up to the Japanese beetles, again.

What does a business have to do to earn your loyalty?

SHARE your answer below.

The most important thing you can do for any business is REFER them.

And, if you’re a business that received the referral, be sure to say, “thank you” to the referring source.

Is there a business I should add to my list? Let me know.

LIKE & SHARE this post. It’s a great way to REFER a business doing good work for both customers and their community.

©August 2019. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Who Wouldn’t Want to Do This in Southeast Nebraska?

Southeast Nebraska is a land of plenty with something for everyone. This area-one hour south of Omaha-is filled with history, unique festivals and events, and picturesque landscapes.

Here’s an overview of 4 communities we recently visited.

Website links are provided to help you plan your own adventure.

Brownville

Brownville (pop. 132)-a quaint village on the Missouri River-is on the National Register of Historic Places. Put on your walking shoes and check out the museums, the riverfront, the theatre and the concert series. Take a dinner cruise. Shop Memorial Day weekend and each fall at the Annual Brownville Flea Market. Stay overnight-perhaps at the River Inn Resort.

There’s plenty to see and explore.

60th Annual Flea Market

Helpful Hint: Call ahead if there’s a particular business or museum you’d like to visit. Most weren’t open during website-posted store hours on our Easter weekend visit. Brownville is an event-based community. Plan ahead if you are visiting during an event. Lodging sells out.

Sweetwater Brooms & Engraving- Broom Maker

Brooms made by hand-last a lifetime.

Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery

Every once in a while one encounters someone who leaves a forever positive impression. Matthew Heskett did just that. Matt is a sixth-generation farmer and son of proprietors, Ron and Sherry. He’s a 20-something entrepreneur with some of the savviest customer service skills we’ve encountered in Nebraska. He knew his community and his industry like a seasoned pro. Matt is an outstanding ambassador for both his business and Southeast Nebraska. Go meet him at the winery.

We toured the historic 1866 cave (year-round 55 degree temperature) and the 100-year old barn. Inside we sampled wines, checked out the gift shop and viewed the event location upstairs. Matt even showed us the production facility and explained the construction where a distillery is being added. We will return for more award-winning wine and old-fashioned hospitality.

Helpful Hint: Friday nights May through August they host live musical performances. Weddings can be held on location by the gazebo and waterfall.

Auburn

We drove a short distance on Highway 36 west to Auburn for lunch since none of Brownville’s restaurants were open. Two restaurants were consistently recommended: Hickory Road BBQ and El-Portal Mexican Restaurant.

We chose the former. The food quality and service were both outstanding.

Peru

This town of just over 800 is home to Nebraska’s first college (1867). Back then it was known as the teacher’s training school. Today Peru State College has around 2400 students.

Walk the historic, picturesque campus. Be sure to see the Little Red Schoolhouse

Drive to the Mt. Vernon Cemetery and see the historical grave markers. This hilltop location is also a Tri-State Observation Area (Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri).

Pack the bicycles and ride the Steamboat Trace Trail (found at north end of 5th street) between Brownville and Nebraska City. You can also hike it and enjoy birding along the way.

Stop in for a meal, a cool drink and a game of pool while in Peru.

Peru boasts a number of attractive city parks, including Sid Brown Memorial Park. Young children enjoy the splash pad during warm summer months.

A boat ramp to the Missouri River is accessible at 5th and Olive Street. The Peru Bottoms Wildlife Management Area (The Bottoms) is along the route, and beyond, and is available for hunting, fishing and birding.

Lied Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City

Nebraska is the proud home of Arbor Day. Founded in 1972 by J. Sterling Morton (whose son founded Morton Salt Company), Arbor Day encourages citizens worldwide to plant trees.

The 140-room, award-winning Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City is a sought-after gathering place for those who care deeply about the natural world and its future. It features the Timber Dining Room, a spa, sauna, exercise room, Olympic-sized pool, bar and conference center.

Like most lodging facilities, it is only as good as the guests staying there. During our rainy, holiday weekend stay, families crammed the pool with over-sized floats, leaving little room to enjoy the facilities in the naturally peaceful setting. Floors outside the pool area were wet and slippery. Under-aged, unsupervised guests occupied the sauna. (Safety concerns were reported to front desk staff.)

Helpful Hint: Stay mid-week or on a non-holiday weekend if you are seeking a peaceful retreat.

Visit the Arbor Day Farm website for things to do and trails to walk.

Get a ticket to the Tree Adventure. Educational and fun for all ages.

 

Walk the trails; listen to the forest

Include Indian Cave State Park on your list of things to do in Southeast Nebraska. The park has 3000+ acres and is southeast of Nemaha, along the Missouri River. Check out the large sandstone cave in the park.

Get out and explore Southeast Nebraska. visitsoutheastnebraska.org

Create your own family memories and enjoy all that Nebraska offers.

 

Linda Leier Thomason is the founder and former CEO of  a Charleston, SC based event production and publication corporation. Today, she resides in Omaha, NE  where she writes about her undercover visits to towns and communities, among other things. To learn more about Linda, click on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact me to have your town or community featured.

©Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss These 5 Sites in Downtown Omaha

Downtown Omaha is an ideal location to explore on a Sunday afternoon.

There’s

  • Plentiful parking (free)
  • Great signage-attraction name and distance by # of blocks
  • Free public art, including dancing fountains
  • Low volume traffic
  • Sidewalk musicians in the Old Market
  • Excellent brunch and lunch spots

Park. Walk. Explore these 5 locations.

We did recently, in this order, stopping for a beverage in the Capitol District while watching several innings of the Big 10 College Baseball Playoff. We can testify to the delicious ice cream cones from Dolci in the Old Market.

Pioneer Courage Park

Address: 1601 Dodge Street

Pioneer Courage Park, in combination with Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness, consists of over 100 individual bronze pieces and covers six city blocks in downtown Omaha.

This Omaha attraction is the combination of two sculpture parks which have come together to form the LARGEST bronze sculpture in the world.

Pioneer Courage Park: Tribute to settlers

More Information

https://www.firstnationalcampus.com/fnc/html/en/sculpture_park/pioneer.html

Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness

Address: 1400 Capitol Avenue

Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Sculpture

More Information

https://www.visitomaha.com/listings/first-nationals-spirit-of-nebraskas-wilderness-and-pioneer-courage-park/57322/

Capitol District

Address: 225 North 12th Street

Restaurants, Bars, Entertainment, Lodging + Living in the Capitol District

More Information

Old Market

Address: 1100 Howard Street

More Information

https://oldmarket.com/

Fairmont Mercantile

Address: 1209 Jackson Street

Filled with nostalgic, vintage treasures, including candy, music, pinball machines and so much more.

SHARE this post with your walking partner.

Plan a trip to downtown Omaha.

©Copyright. May 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected. Images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Nominate a location for a feature story.

Reuben Sandwiches & Art Shops in Omaha

Omaha has plenty to offer even when the weather turns foul in late April.

We trekked to the https://www.blackstonedistrict.com/ Blackstone District of Omaha to enjoy a legendary Reuben Sandwich at Crescent Moon before attending the Spring Open House at the Hot Shops Art Center.

Legend of the Reuben Sandwich

Legend has it the Reuben sandwich was created in the 1920s in Omaha, Nebraska. It was there that Bernard Schimmel ran the kitchen at the Blackstone Hotel (today known as Blackstone Center), which his father owned and where he would also enjoy a weekly poker game with friends.

As this legend goes, one of the players—local grocery store owner Reuben Kulafofsky—requested a sandwich with corned beef and sauerkraut. Schimmel, who was a European-trained chef, put his own spin on it by draining the sauerkraut, mixing it with Thousand Island dressing, then layering it with Swiss and homemade corned beef on dark rye bread. He then grilled it.

Crescent Moon Restaurant

3578 Farnam Street. Founded in 1996, Crescent Moon names its Reuben for the Blackstone Hotel which is just a few steps away and is credited with the creation of the Reuben sandwich. The Crescent Reuben was awarded Omaha’s Best Reuben by the Omaha World Herald-Omaha’s newspaper.

Man v. Food

On April 25, 2019 the TV show Man v Food (The Travel Channel) a reality TV series about America’s iconic dishes and food challenges filmed an episode there, featuring all items Reuben.

Staff expects the episode to air in late 2019.

Craft beers are generously featured on the menu. The restaurant also offers Sunday brunch.

Hot Shops Art Center

Information

  • 1301 Nicholas Street (near TD Ameritrade Baseball Park)
  • Hosts Spring + Fall Open Houses for the Public.
  • See 80+ artists in 54 studio spaces.
  • www.hotshopsartcenter.com
  • Check website for demonstration schedules, artist studio locations, parking instructions, etc.
  • Shops are open at other times (9AM-6PM and 11AM-5PM) but all artists may not be in their studios.
  • Restrooms are on each floor.
  • Refreshments can be purchased during the Open House.
  • Classes are available.
  • Not necessarily kid-friendly. Lots of breakables and stairs to climb.

Recommend Something

Do you have an activity, place or event I should visit?

Nominate it here.

Share this post. Visit these locations.

No services or fees were provided by either location for this post.

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

What to Do in Omaha on a Saturday Morning

Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art Museum

Helpful Facts

  • Address: 2200 Dodge Street
  • 402.342.3300
  • www.joslyn.org–Check Calendar of Events for docent guided tours & special exhibits, classes and performances ($)
  • Opens 10 AM
  • Closed Monday
  • FREE General Admission
  • Café Durham located in the Museum’s Atrium
  • Hitchcock Museum Shop on main floor
  • Sculpture Garden & Discovery Garden: exterior of Museum
  • Free parking in lot northeast of the Museum
  • Well-marked drop-off location for those with limited mobility

NOTES

  • The docent-guided building tour (check calendar of events for dates and times) is well worth a visitor’s time. It lasts about an hour. One learns the history of the building’s art deco design while special features, often missed by visitors, are pointed out.
  • Arts Works-A Place for Curiosity-on the lower level isn’t just for children. It’s a hands-on art studio for all ages. It will delight you and perhaps introduce you to more current ways of creating art.
  • Read photography rules at www.joslyn.org.
  • Do not sit on or climb on outdoor sculptures or displays.
  • Block out at least 3 hours (more if take a guided building tour) to view the exhibits and wander the outdoor gardens.
Create your own masterpiece & then Email it

A Gift to Omaha Citizens


Joslyn Art Museum was a generous gift to the people of Omaha from Sarah H. Joslyn (1851–1940) in memory of her husband, George A. Joslyn (1848–1916).

George & Sarah Joslyn

Lunch

Amsterdam Falafel + Kabob

  • 620 North 50th Street
  • Located in Omaha’s Dundee neighborhood
  • 402.504.3223
  • Find them on Facebook
  • Limited indoor seating
  • Outdoor seating available
  • Falafel is a Middle Eastern dish of spiced mashed chick peas, ground into a paste, formed into balls or fritters and then deep fried.
  • Kabob is roasted or grilled meat on a skewer.
  • Beverages for purchase.


Kabob Meat on Lettuce with Herb Dressing

Recommend Something

Do you have an activity, place or event I should visit?

Nominate it here.

Share this post. Visit these locations.

No services or fees were provided by either location for this post.

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

Nominate it above.

Natural Setting 25 Miles North of Omaha at DeSoto

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

Overview

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge’s primary purpose is to serve as a stop-over for migrating ducks and geese. Most years, large amounts of waterfowl and other migratory birds use the refuge as a resting and feeding area during their fall and spring migrations between the northern nesting grounds and the southern wintering areas.

Peak populations of 50,000 or more ducks, mostly mallards, are common on the refuge during the fall migration.

Late October through early December are the months of peak waterfowl use, with smaller concentrations of ducks and geese returning in March and early April

Address

1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555

Directions

25 miles north of Omaha, NE. From Omaha take Interstate 29 north to U.S. Highway 30, Exit 75 at Missouri Valley, continue west on US Hwy 30 for 5 miles to the refuge entrance. Or take US Hwy 75 North to Hwy 30, going east 5 miles to the refuge entrance on DeSoto Avenue.

Phone Number

712.388.4800

Fee

$3.00 per vehicle

Hours

Refuge Open 1/2 hour before sunrise and closes 1/2 hour after sunset

Visitor Center  9:00AM-4:30PM daily

Closed  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Note

The migration  season is October 15-April 14, limiting access to ceretain areas on the Refuge.

Museum Display

Things To Do at DeSoto

  • Hike the Trails
  • Take Bicycling or Driving Tour
  • Fish (April 15th-October 14th)
  • Bird Watch (Bring Binoculars)
  • Photography
  • Ice Fishing (January 2-end of February, annually, conditions permitting)
  • Gather Mushrooms
  • Hunting (Check website for details)
  • Observe Wildlife (Shhh! Silence attracts more wildlife)

    Bob Starr Wildlife Overlook
  • Visit the Bertrand Discovery Site
  • Picnic
  • Boat
  • Watch Video and See Museum Displays in Visitor Center, including thousands of cargo items excavated from the Bertrand Steamboat, which sunk in 1865 and was discovered a century later.

Prohibited

  • Firearms
  • Open Fires
  • Camping

Bring on Your Visit to DeSoto

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant
  • Water
  • Binoculars
  • Cash for gift shop
  • Picnic lunch/food
  • Walking Stick
  • Hat
  • Closed Toe Walking Shoes

Visited late April 2018 after Spring migration. Trails extremely well maintained. Very cool breeze. Few visitors at sunrise. Museum well worth visiting. Educational. Architecture of building alone worth the visit. Indoor restrooms available. Make time to view the short film . Gift shop.

©Copyright. May 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

 

7 Insider Tips for Millennial Home Buying

Millennial Home Buying Tips to Save Time & Money

Are you getting tired of paying rent? Do you think you’re wasting money? Do you want to build equity in your own home?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are like most Americans. You want to own your own home.

But, are you financially ready for that next big step?

Read through these 7 tips to buying your first home.

1. Assess the Timing

Did you just land your first post-college job? Are you planning to stay with this employer? Will you be relocated? Do you plan on getting married anytime soon? Is there money saved  for a down payment? Are student loans taking a big chunk of your paycheck? If so, start a “home” fund and start saving for your dream. You need to do an honest assessment of the timing to buy a home to ensure it’s a good fit in your life at the moment. Chat with a local lender who will be able to best assess your current financial situation.

2. Check Your Credit Score and Cash Flow

Don’t waste your or an agent’s time if you haven’t first checked your credit score and know your debt-to-earnings ratio. (Avoid taking on new debt while in the process of buying a home.) Click here for more information on getting your FICO score. The better your credit score, most likely, the better your mortgage rate. (Always pay your bills on time and pay down your credit cards.)

When your credit score is worthy and you have the cash flow and a sizable deposit saved, talk to a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Before contacting a lender, organize your paperwork. The lender will likely have a checklist of required paperwork including, tax statements, W-2s, bank statements, a list of debt, including any student loans, credit cards, etc.

Most sellers won’t even allow prospective buyers into their homes without first knowing the buyer is pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Keep in mind it’s not just the down payment money you will need but also cash for real estate taxes, a home inspection and an appraisal, closing costs (If the seller doesn’t pay all of them.) possibly mortgage insurance, utilities, furnishings, maintenance, home owner’s association monthly fees, etc.

Always keep a 3-6-month cash reserve fund in case an unexpected emergency arises, like loss of a job or an injury that keeps you from working and earning an income.

3. Research 1st Time Home Buyer Lender Programs

The general rule has been that one should have 20 percent of the home’s value as a down payment when buying a home. But, that applies only if you don’t want to pay PMI-private mortgage insurance. Lenders require PMI to cover the loan if you default on it. If you are required to get PMI, shop around for the best rates just like you would for home or auto insurance.

Consult with your real estate agent and look for programs assisting first time home buyers.

Check with your lender about special lending programs. For instance, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans let you put just 3.5% down. Click FHA for more information on FHA loans.

VA offers home buying loans to veterans and active military members. Click VA for more information.

4. Get the Right Help

The expression, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” definitely applies in home buying. Before looking at neighborhoods and homes online, there are a number of necessary pre-steps. After ensuring the timing is right to buy a home, find a real estate agent who specializes in the type of home you are seeking and neighborhood in which you’d ideally like to live. If you’re a buyer, you don’t pay a real estate fee.

Remember agents at open houses work for the seller. Agents at new home construction sites work for the builder. Get an agent that works for you-the buyer.

Your agent’s expertise will likely save you not only money but also a lot of stress and heartache in the buying process. A great agent will guide you every step of the process, including helping you secure a lending agent just right for you.

5. Decide Where You Want to Live

Be realistic. Don’t frustrate yourself by looking at homes and neighborhoods outside of your budget. Attend open houses. Evaluate what appeals to you regarding style (older home or contemporary home with modern amenities), size (square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms), location (family friendly, retirees, urban), neighborhood traffic patterns (Is it a cut-through street? Is it on a cul-de-sac?) etc. Does the home need to be move-in-ready, or are you willing to buy a fixer-upper? Research re-sale values in the areas you’re highly considering.

Attempt to prioritize the general area of town and type of home you are seeking before working with an agent. If you can’t, have a list of what matters most to you: closeness to work, certain schools for your children, number of bedrooms, room for a growing family, recreation opportunities for children, etc. so that your agent can guide you to the best location and help you find an ideal home in that neighborhood. Keep in mind that your lifestyle preferences may change in the next few years, especially if you add children to your family.

6. Know the Rules

Many neighborhoods now have Home Owner Associations (HOAs). Request a written copy of the rules before buying. Can you abide by the rules and restrictions? Can you afford the monthly fees? Ask to see the Association’s finances. Is it well run? Will they be able to continue the services offered without taking a rate increase?

7. Be Decisive

If you’ve done your homework and aligned yourself with a great agent, making an offer on your dream home will be easy. Don’t delay your decision making, or you’re likely to lose the home to another buyer.

Ready to buy or sell? Connect with Megan.
Megan Owens, Realtor
Owens Real Estate Group
“Delivering extraordinary care for extraordinary clients.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate
Phone | 402-689- 4984 Email | MeganOwensRE@gmail.com

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason.
All Rights Reserved.

12 Fun Things to Do in Omaha

Get Out and Explore All Omaha Has to Offer

Omaha is Nebraska’s largest city.

It offers plenty of entertainment and attractions for all ages and interests.

Check out 12 places to explore and find bonus links below.

Have fun exploring Omaha!

12 places to Explore in Omaha

1. OPPD Arboretum
LOCATION: 108TH and Blondo, adjacent to an OPPD substation
This is an ideal place to visit if you are planning to upgrade your yard with shrubs and plants. It contains groupings of native Nebraska trees, a conifer collection and lowland/wetland plantings ideal for the Omaha region. Explanations of each plant and how to plant these trees and shrubs around power lines are provided.
The arboretum is open to the public from dawn till dusk. A paved walking trail and wood chip trail are available as well as restrooms.

2. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
LOCATION: 3710 South 10th Street
One of Nebraska’s most popular tourist destinations. Check the website for hours and admission fees. Also look for paid Animal Encounters and Backstage Experiences. Plan on spending a full day. Going in summer months, pack patience. It can get busy and hot.

3. St. Cecilia Cathedral
LOCATION: 701 North 40th Street
The twin bell towers of this lovely hillside cathedral are one of Omaha’s key landmarks. It was founded in 1905 and took over 50 years to complete. The Cathedral is a national landmark containing more than 3 million bricks. It is one of the most outstanding cathedrals in the USA.

4. Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge
LOCATION: 705 Riverfront Drive-just north of downtown Omaha
S-curved, cable-stayed 3000-foot pedestrian bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska. A plaque marks the spot where the two states meet. Take a photo there. Bicycles are encouraged, as trails are on either side of the bridge. The Omaha landing features the Omaha Plaza, with bench seating, exhibits, a water jet spray fountain, a Fiber Wave Sculpture, play area, and a National Park Service Visitors Center. (Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters).

5. Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods
LOCATION: 1111 Bellevue Boulevard North Bellevue, NE Located off HWY 75 minutes from downtown Omaha
26 miles of maintained trails and 2,000 acres of upland and lowland forests, native prairies, wetlands, lakes and waterways. Go create a memorable adventure in the forest right here in Omaha, NE. Check the website for hours and admission fees.

6. Gene Leahy Mall
LOCATION: 1302 Farnam in downtown Omaha
This isn’t a traditional bricks and mortar shopping mall. This is a 10-acre outdoor green space in downtown Omaha near the Old Market District. Highlights include a lagoon and waterfalls, walking paths, gardens, playground, amphitheater and a sculpture garden. It connects to Heartland of America Park. Each winter it’s the centerpiece for the Annual Holiday Lights Festival. http://www.holidaylightsfestival.org/ Kids love the giant slide here. Pets enjoy the vast open outdoor areas.

7. Omaha Community Playhouse
LOCATION: 6915 Cass Street-near UNO Dodge campus
The Playhouse is the largest community playhouse in the USA. It houses two state-of-the-art performance spaces: Hawks Mainstage Theatre and Drew Theatre. Check the website for upcoming performances and ticket prices, including young professional and student tickets.

8. The Florence Mill
LOCATION: 9102 North 30th Street
Open May-October, the Mill is a National Register Historic site that once served as a grist mill. It was built under the supervision of Brigham Young. Today it serves as an art-loft gallery, museum, farmer’s market location and one of the sites on the North Hills Pottery Tour. http://www.omahanorthhillspotterytour.com/
Check the website for hours of each event.

9. Boys Town
LOCATION: 13628 Flanagan Blvd 137th and West Dodge Rd
Visit the Hall of History, Visitors Center and the Father Flanagan House in this National Historic Landmark District. Attend mass on campus. Get an up-close look at the world-famous Village established by Father Flanagan. Check out the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps and walk the lakeside path.

10. Kenefick Park
LOCATION: 100 Bancroft Street
Named after the former Union Pacific Chairman and CEO John C. Kenefick this park sits on the southwest corner of the Lauritzen Gardens property and is easily visible from I-80. Park in the Lauritzen Gardens lot and walk to the top of the hill to see the largest and most powerful diesel-electric locomotive ever built and the world’s largest steam locomotive.
Featuring several plazas, seating areas, a grand staircase, “canyon” stone walls, interpretive signage, sculpture and walkways, the park documents Union Pacific Railroad’s role in the development of Omaha and the West.

11. Lauritzen Gardens: Omaha’s Botanical Center
LOCATION: 100 Bancroft Street
A hidden sanctuary in the heart of Omaha, the Gardens are planted for visitors to enjoy all four seasons. In addition to the exquisitely maintained gardens, a visitor and education center features a floral display hall with seasonal flower shows, a unique gift shop, café, a horticulture resource library, banquet and meeting spaces and classrooms. Check the website for hours and admission fee.

12. Hot Shops Arts Center
LOCATION: 1301 Nicholas Street One block north of home plate at TD Ameritrade Park. Free parking located on 13th and Izard Streets
This center hosts over 80 studio artists and multiple gallery spaces, along with four anchor artists. Click on the website for classes, a list of artists and Open Houses, along with demonstration times.

Bonus Links

Website Link for City of Omaha Parks, Golf Courses and Pools https://parks.cityofomaha.org/

Omaha Visitors Center Link with List of Activities to Do https://www.visitomaha.com/things-to-do/

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Ready to move to Omaha? Connect with Megan.
Megan Owens, Realtor
Owens Real Estate Group
“Delivering extraordinary care for extraordinary clients.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate
Phone | 402-689- 4984 Email | MeganOwensRE@gmail.com

©Copyright. February 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Did You Land on Omaha’s 2017 Naughty & Nice List?

Annual List Revealed

3rd Annual Naughty and Nice List-With a Twist

As a reader and follower you know each December I release a list of business professionals or organizations that have been great, or not so great, to work with throughout the year.

I also highlight significant events from the year and hold myself accountable by posting “things” I’d like to achieve in the next year.

2017 will be remembered for all of the special activities and occasions that happened. Reflecting back on the year, it seems unreal that all of this happened in just one trip around the sun.

2017 Highlights

• Alex, our son, landed his first post-college career position in Omaha.
• He’s recently got engaged to marry in 2018.
• Brittany, his fiancée, also graduated from college and landed her first teaching assignment with the Omaha Public School system.
• We celebrated Alex’s December 2016 college graduation with a 3-generation trip to Las Vegas in the fall of 2017.
• Ken, my husband, and I honored our 25th wedding anniversary by returning to Antigua-where we honeymooned.
• We attended both the Iowa and Nebraska State Fairs. Everyone should. Great fun and educational.
• Traveled to Hawaii for Ken’s work reward trip. He earned it. Super proud!

Making the 2017 Nice List

Greenberg’s Jewelers
No one in our household claims to know much about jewelry. Therefore, we relied on the professional advice and guidance of Mara Palmquist at Westroads Mall in Omaha for both a 25-year anniversary band and a bridal set. The selection was great. The education and service-top notch.

Crum Cakes Bakery
Elana bakes and decorates to perfection. We ordered a two-tiered cake, one with a peanut butter filling, and iced sugar cookies. Both were delicious and almost too pretty to eat. She takes great pride in both the taste and appearance of her baked goods. We met Elana at the Florence Mill Farmer’s Market. We believe in supporting small business. Maybe you do too.

Jewish Community Center

Wellness and painless mobility were 2017 goals achieved at Omaha’s JCC. The culture of fitness and community attracted me and keep me going back. I’m not Jewish and I’m not treated any differently because of it. All are warmly welcomed in the well-maintained facility with enough activity variety to please all. Special shout outs to:
Tracy Modra, Director of Membership, who patiently worked with me and finally got me there. (All sales people could learn a lot from her.)
Matt Thomas-the Physical Therapist on location. Excellent knowledge. Great communicator.
Breann Lundblad, Fitness Center Director, for letting me box with her. I know she could take me down with one punch but she never lets her superiority show.
The aquatics staff for keeping the pool clean and for ensuring my safety while exercising in the 12’ water. For the first time in years, I have not had an ear infection from pool water. Thank you for keeping your pool area and water clean.

 Travel Faire

This full-service, Omaha-owned and operated travel organization has been in business since 1970. Donna Ahrendsen, Leisure Travel Consultant, helped Ken and I plan a perfect anniversary trip to Antigua. She even ensured both our anniversary and Ken’s birthday were recognized while there. Knowing you have an experienced consultant and a recognized agency beside you while traveling provides the peace of mind every traveler deserves.

 Lauritzen Gardens

I have no good explanation as to why it took us 2.5 years to finally visit this Omaha attraction. Everything about it mirrors our interests. We were simply overtaken by the vast beauty of the natural settings and displays and will return often. It is a sanctuary filled with memorable fragrant scents and sights.

 Jarrod McCartney 

Jarrod is the Heritage Tourism Development Director in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Red Cloud is known as America’s Most Famous Small Town. It’s the home of author, Willa Cather, and more. We visited in summer 2017. It is a thriving community with enviable business support and involvement.

Jarrod organized local businesses and together we conducted a November giveaway to Red Cloud. If you haven’t been to Red Cloud, click the link above and plan a trip.

Naughty List with a Twist

In year’s past, I’ve listed businesses that needed improvement, exclusively in customer service. This year, the twist is, I’m listing behaviors that need improvement. I’m guilty of some of these too. I’ll keep working to do better.

 GREED

It’s bothersome to see greed, especially as individuals rise in organizations. There seems to be amnesia about who’s helped them achieve their goals and earn their bonuses. When little, to none, is given back, it makes those in authority appear greedy and unappreciative and completely out of touch with the process of achievement. It lessens authority and breeds resentment. Create a winning team with gratitude.

NOT KEEPING ONE’S WORD OR COMMITMENT

Honoring one’s word and following through on commitments are signs of character. Not doing so disrespects the person and/or the cause/event you committed to. It lessens you as a person. It makes you untrustworthy. If you’ve committed, follow through, unless there is a legitimate reason not to. And, if so, let the organization or person you’ve committed to know as soon as possible. Many times, your lack of follow-through costs them money. And, leaders, never create incentives and then not deliver them. You’re seen as a liar, or worse yet, someone who gained from the hard work of others but didn’t deliver on the promised incentive.

SUPERFICIALITY

How much time do you take to know someone versus critiquing someone? Do you notice their smile or their clothing first? Do you mingle with the group or do you stand aside and critique? Everyone has a story. Get to know it. Clothing, hair, shoes, etc.-they’re all replaceable. A human story is not.

DISRESPECT PERSONAL PROPERTY

Would your neighbors and/or co-workers call you a good person? Do you respect them and their personal property or are you habitually trespassing? How do you act?  Do you act like your rights and needs trump everyone else’s? Are you neighborly, offering help? Are you considerate? If not, maybe these could be 2018 goals.

LACK OF GRATITUDE

Gratitude is an action verb. It’s a way of life. It takes discipline and practice. It’s more than acknowledging there are starving children in the world while you’re eating dinner. It’s a philosophy. Alex and Brittany received an engagement gift to help practice gratitude. It contained slips of paper and a container. Each day one writes down what he’s grateful for. A definite must-do in 2018.

2018 Goals I’m Willing to Share

Sharing makes one accountable, right?

Here are a few things I’m working toward achieving in 2018.

  • Commitment to fitness and wellness through diet and exercise.
    • 1 night a month out with friends-it’s too easy to depend on social media and texts. Looking someone in the eye still matters.
    • Tipping bathroom attendants at public events. Most do this job with a great attitude. This should be rewarded. Tipping them makes both parties feel good. Try it.
    • Attending my son’s wedding as a guest and living in the moment. (I produced events for decades. Being a guest is new to me.)

Jotting a gratitude note and placing it in a container daily. Photo is gratitude tin as of March 1, 2018. It’s true. One’s perspective does change when stopping to acknowledge what she is grateful for daily.

  • Reading all notes at month’s end.
  • Finishing a book I’m writing. Stay tuned!

So, there you have it. The 2017 List.

The organizations, individuals and businesses that deserve top billing in 2017 and the behaviors that need improvement. 2017 has been a memorable year for all the right reasons. I’m looking forward to 2018. And, I hope you are too.

If you haven’t already, find some quiet time. Reflect on highlights and grateful occurrences in 2017. Make a list. Pull the list out often. Practice gratitude.

How can your life be enhanced in 2018? Set some goals. Strive for them. List them.

It is only through action that goals become reality.

Thank you for following along. If you have a story you’d like to share, contact me. Know an interesting person I should interview, tell me.  See ways my website can be improved, do share.

And, many thanks to all who’ve shared their stories with me in 2017 so I could share them with each of you. I trust you’ve learned from them or been inspired by their words.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Beautiful Smile Hides Russian Orphan Life

Meet Mara

Mara shares in the happiest times of her customer’s lives. She helps select engagement and wedding rings, anniversary bands and other special occasion jewelry. She’s a jewelry sales professional for Greenberg’s Jewelers  at Omaha’s Westroads Mall.

But, while she’s helping others celebrate their happy times, few know the life she’s lived. Meet the incredible Mara Alyona Palmquist.

Russian Orphanage & Kindness

Mara’s earliest years were spent in Kalyazin, Russia.

Her strongest Russian home memory is of boiling water for her brother’s bath. “It took so long to fill up the tub. I had to boil the water and then carry the pot back to the bathroom. By the time I got there, half of it was spilled. It stands out to me because he was all I had. I always looked out for him, even at that early age.”

In Russia

When she was five, the State removed Mara and her 3-year-old brother, Vanya, from her alcoholic parent’s home and placed them in a Russian orphanage. She’s never seen her parents since, but longs to return to see especially her dad, whom she’s recently learned is still alive.

Though life was tough, her fondest memory is of kindness at school, particularly from her first-grade teacher. It was not hard to identify orphans in school. They wore jean skirts and jackets. The students were asked to draw a picture of whatever they wanted. “Everyone got a pencil. The teacher gave me a pen. And, my classmate next to me gave me stickers for my picture. I’ll never forget their kindness.”

In 2001, at age 11, Mara’s life was again filled with kindness. She and Vanya came to Los Angeles, California through the Kidsave organization.

Summer Miracles®

The Summer Miracles ® program places older orphans, aged 11-14, who have little chance to be adopted in their own countries, with families in an orphan hosting program. Children, who are available for adoption, stay with host families for a 4-to-5-week summer visit. While in the USA, the kids learn about the culture, attend summer camp, and experience life in an American family. Host families work with Kidsave staff and volunteers to find the children adoptive families. [Nearly 200,000 orphans are currently growing up without families in Russian state institutions.] Visit the Kidsave website for more information and/or to host a child: https://www.kidsave.org/

Los Angeles to Branson, MO

Mara and Vanya were placed with a widow in Los Angles who wasn’t interested in adoption after the summer program ended. Instead, a Branson, Missouri family that was in California on vacation “got a random voice message on their hotel phone saying there were 2 kids about to be sent back to a Russian orphanage if not placed with a family.” The family shortened their vacation. The father remained in California with Mara and Vanya for a few days and then traveled with them to Missouri to meet the “rest of the family.”

Fitting into a Family of 11

The rest of Michelle and Andre’s family included 9 other children-7 of their own and another brother and sister adopted from a different orphanage. All of a sudden, Mara and Vanya were part of a group of 11. Adapting was difficult.

While she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, Mara admits being adopted is not easy. It’s difficult to be part of a new family, knowing where to fit in the family, church and culture. “I had to learn how to be a daughter, an older sister, a younger sister. Religion was hard. Fitting in overall was challenging.” She sat in front of a mirror for hours each day practicing her English accent so she wouldn’t sound “funny.”

Mara feels extremely blessed and eternally grateful that her family opened their home to them because some of the kids they knew from the orphanage got sent back to Russia for behavioral issues. “It changed my life for the better. I have so many opportunities that I’d never have had in Russia. There, at age 16, you are put on the streets. Prostitution is so high for that reason.”

Guilt & Gratitude

Mara sometimes feels guilty for the life she has in the USA. “I’m living this beautiful life with so much, knowing my Russian family is still struggling  and I can’t help them at all.”

She understands many Americans have it worse than she ever did. “I grew up going to school, having food in my belly and dressing in clean clothes. I had a roof over my head.” Mara’s inspired by these basics: she calls them gifts. “God brought me here for a reason. I want to show him it was the right place for me and I won’t waste this opportunity to better myself.”

She never takes relationships and friendships for granted and cherishes life. She seeks opportunities to do something great and make someone smile.

Jewelry Sales

Mara achieves that goal every day she’s selling at Greenberg’s Jewelers. She finds it particularly rewarding to help nervous couples select a perfect piece of jewelry. She builds rapport, especially with “lookers,” easily finding out why they entered the store and then helping them. She’s a relationship builder with excellent listening skills. “Customers will just walk in to chat when they’re in the mall shopping. I love that. I enjoy hearing their stories about how they met, their first date, etc. It makes my work day all worth it.”

Circle of Life

Making her life all worth it is her adorable six-year-old son, Brody. “He has the purest heart and was the best birthday present ever. [Born six weeks early on Mara’s 21st birthday.] “Having a child of my own makes me understand God’s unconditional love for us.”

Mara works hard every day and hopes Brody is proud of “his mommy.” She does not want the life she has had for Brody. She’d like to be able to provide him everything she never had growing up. “I’m not talking about material things.” Instead, Mara wants to shower Brody with love and affection and kisses and tell him “he’s the best kid in the whole world.”

Growing up in a Russian orphanage was not easy. But Mara learned how to survive and how to blend in. Now, as a mother, she knows what she craved and never received in her younger years. Mara now provides that to her own son. And, when the time is right, she will share her early years with him, most likely with a joint trip to Russia.

My husband, Ken, and I had the remarkable experience of working with Mara when selecting a 25th wedding anniversary band in May 2017. She made us feel like newlyweds through the entire sales process.

Other than her outstanding sales skills and techniques, we were drawn to her as a person.  Behind her charisma and smile, we sensed a deeper story to her life. I thank her for the courage it took to recall memories of her Russian life and for sharing them with all of us.

Russian Trip: Funds Needed

Mara needs to raise funds to secure the required paperwork to plan a visit to Russia. If you’d like to help, please contact me by completing the form below. Can you contribute?

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

 

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.