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Omaha Magazine

Businesses in Little Bohemia

Nov 21, 2019 05:40PM ● By Sean Robinson

"This street is about to go HAM with business.”

Zoey Sterba—owner of The Chute, an ethical womenswear boutique in Little Bohemia—isn’t wrong about that. With the opening of several bars and stores, including her own, all within weeks of each other this past fall, Little Bohemia has indeed gone “Hard as a Mother.” From fashion to furniture to fruity cocktails, it can all be found just south of downtown on 13th Street—and much of the fresh development is women-led.

“We’re all in support of one another, whether that’s sharing each other’s stuff on social media or collaborating on events,” Sterba said. “As women, we’re in this together and want to see each other succeed.”

Zoey Sterba—The Chute

Sterba never questioned if she would open a business. Rather, it was always a question of what kind of business she would run.

She’s had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as she can remember. At 6 years old, while other girls were playing house, she sold garden supplies and created her first company, Z Bloom. She then moved on to a card-making business with her neighbor, but it was her studies in fashion merchandising at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that helped shape The Chute.

“I really learned a lot about sustainability there,” Sterba said. “If I am going to do anything, it has to be meaningful, and respect the Earth and everyone in it. It has to put good out in the world in some way.”

The Chute opened Sept. 18 to fill Omaha’s need for a womenswear shop that was uniquely youthful and affordable, yet ethically based. Whether shopping for the office or a night out, all the styles found at The Chute are either produced at factories with good working conditions and wages, are handmade, or created with recycled materials.

“It’s all about bringing meaningful and mindful shopping to Omaha,” Sterba said.

Abby Massey—Dusk Goods & Gifts

Another Little Bohemia retail-owner who’s weaved integrity into her business model is Abby Massey of Dusk Goods & Gifts. She also makes sure her products are handmade or come from a place where employees are paid proper wages.

“I take time in the brands I incorporate,” Massey said. “It’s really all carefully and thoughtfully collected goods.”

And the Goods & Gifts go beyond fashion here. Womenswear fills the racks, but so do baby clothes with a vintage touch, greeting cards, planners, natural soaps, and colorful beauty products.

No matter what she’s selling, Massey’s personal maker mantra is “Honest + Authentic + Handmade.” Little Bohemia seems to capture this for her. After years of pop-up shops and online sales, she fell in love with the neighborhood for its big sidewalks, charm, and old town vibes. So much so, she knew this would be home for her first stand-alone. After two years of researching via email, Facebook, and word-of-mouth, she found the perfect space. Her shop opened Aug. 1.

“There’s great potential for south 13th Street to have a lot of shopping that’s vintage, antique, and sustainable. That’s all coming to life now,” Massey said. “We’re all just very eager to help each other. If the other new shops shine, I shine.”

Here’s more proof that these women truly support one another: The Chute and Dusk Goods & Gifts share the same building, with Sterba subleasing from Massey.

Megan Malone—Tiny House

Megan Malone’s Tiny House is unlike many, if any, bars found in Omaha. Like the name suggests, it’s located at what was once a tiny house. But come inside, and the fun really begins. Funky light fixtures hang above plush furniture, private seating areas are hidden behind boho beaded curtains, and random art pieces that shouldn’t work together, but do, set the mood.

Then, there’s the drinks. Cocktails with names like “It’s Britney, Bitch” and the “Obama Sex Dream” are made with the house’s own juices and syrups. The majority of the bartenders are women, a rarity in the male-dominated industry, and it’s a designated safe space.

“People seem to really respond initially to the atmosphere,” Malone said. “There’s really not a whole lot of other places where you can have a $3 beer and you’re not staring at a blinking, neon Budweiser sign.”

Opened in March, Tiny House is one of several new Little Bohemia bars, including Infusion and Beercade. To Malone, it’s no surprise this once quiet corner of 13th Street is on its way to becoming the next Benson or Blackstone.

“C’mon, it’s beautiful here,” Malone said. “It has a rich history of mixed-use ethnic residencies. As a kid, I can remember going to the movie theater or butcher shop. The locals are seeing life come back here.”

Jennifer Penton—Brick and Hoarder

Brick and Hoarder started because founder Jennifer Penton fell from a building in New York City.

Following the near-fatal accident, Penton couldn’t work the three day jobs she needed to earn enough for rent in the Big Apple, so she started selling her hoard of clothes online. To her surprise, her stash started making her some treasure.

Once she moved back to Omaha in 2017, Penton began signing new brands to build Brick and Hoarder’s inventory, first selling in a studio, then a storage unit, before opening a full store on Oct. 5 in Little Bohemia.

“I’m trying to bring that bigger city style here,” Penton said. “I find a lot of people shopping that say, ‘I love this but I don’t know where I would wear it.’ Wear whatever you want, wherever you want! I want people to feel comfortable feeling beautiful all the time.”

Like other Little Bohemia retailers, Brick and Hoarder’s specialty is curated recycled goods and styles from independent designers for women, but there are also future plans to develop a larger breadth of plus sizes and bring in men’s clothing. Penton said her vibrant merchandise likely isn’t found anywhere else in the city.

When it comes to Little Bohemia, however, she’s all about helping direct customers to the next coolest thing, often right outside her store doors. Working with the other women business owners, she plans to have a mural map of the neighborhood painted on the side of her building to guide shoppers.

“I think all of us women believe in collaboration over competition,” Penton said. “We want to send customers to one another, so our traffic builds off each other. It’s women helping women, friends helping friends.”

This article was printed in the December 2019/January 2020 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Abby Massey, Dusk Goods & Gifts

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