There’s a little, red, brick building on the corner of 60th and Pacific. I’m sure you’ve seen it while waiting at the lights. 1101 S. 60th Street, to be exact. It is known mostly for having a bus stop bench by it–some dental business has advertised a large set of crackly teeth on that bench for some time. Jarring….but eye catching. This Omaha Mystery stands rather discreetly as part of a mostly single family home area in Elmwood. There are some other businesses further south down 60th. It seems like a very long time ago now but when we first moved to Omaha, that little building was home to a gun shop. Arms & Ammo. My father and I would drive there from Benson. This had to be in the early to mid 70’s. I know it existed through the 80’s as well but by then I was too, too cool to be seen with my dad anywhere. Let alone a gun shop. Stupid kid. It seemed like such a long drive to midtown. (Driving around the Elmwood area now, I can’t remember or see where we would have parked dad’s car, other than in a neighborhood side street. Maybe on the north-most side of the building?) Anyway the entrance was on the west side, facing 60th. I seem to remember there being small windows in the front with a security gate or bars on the windows? I don’t think it was painted red back then. I do remember there being some lively characters in that gun shop. Of course, all men. Men standing around talking. I don’t know what they were discussing but we can guess. Kind of like how men congregate at S.G. Roi Tobacconist’s, Dragon’s Lair Comics or at Kanesville Kollectibles’. Different group. Yes, a way different crowd but the same perceived level of camaraderie to a young girl’s mind. I could be wrong but in memory there was a glass counter, like a horseshoe, that went around the store with a the center aisle for customers. It was a fun trip that just my father and I would take. Can’t be sure why he always brought me along but I felt privileged to be allowed to go into that dark, hidden place, filled only with men. Which brings up other memorable moments in our weird but great father-daughter jaunts around town: trips to Louis’ Bar for “dinner” with his drinking buddy and monthly visits to the old barbershop by West Lanes Bowling Alley on 72nd Street.
They say the owner of Arms & Ammo at 60th and Pacific was Jim Sutton. I believe he sold his business to a place out of Fremont. There also appears to be a AAA Arms & Ammo on Grover St in Omaha but I’m not sure if that is related. I left town in the mid 80’s and unfortunately do not remember exactly when the original Arms & Ammo closed down. It seems it was still there in the early 90’s, when I had returned.
The original building on 60th and Pacific was built in 1920. I would guess it was originally built as a grocery store–the traditional, corner, neighborhood store that we all miss or have heard so much about from our grandparents. It enjoyed another life as home to the Elmwood Grocery Store, owned and run by James and Anna Skryja, in the 1950’s. I’m sure they had the neighborhood credit policy where a child could “sign”for milk or cigarettes–the parents being billed monthly. I can imagine the creaky, wooden floor and the narrow aisles, stocked with pantry items. That neighborhood could use a great corner shop right now.
Just the other day I drove by and noticed there was heat rising from the old Arms & Ammo chimney which got the old wheels turning. A quick online search showed the building was apparently sold in 1997 to a buyer whose address is listed in another town in Nebraska. I have never seen anyone come or go from the mysterious 60th and Pacific address since the business left. I have imagined this to be an incredible home, albeit dark, or a secret clubhouse. The letters have been taken off the building but a shadow font still reads “Arms & Ammo”. The gated doorway suggesting that fabulous things are being protected therein. Who knows? Coincidentally the AAA Arms & Ammo business out on Grover Street was started in 1997.
This article now has a followup. Please see Mysteries of Omaha: Arms & Ammo Part Two.
If you have any memories or knowledge of this building, please, do share them with us…Click on the title of this post to enable comments. Thanks, Omaha friends.
Thanks for this blog, Miss Cassette, you are off to a nice start! My grandparents lived at 56th and Pacific, and I remember Arms & Ammo, well. Strange place, is right…
For many, many years, back in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a howitzer, in the yard, between the shop and the fence on the south side of the building. I always thought that a place with its own cannon was a bit wierd…
I grew up 2 houses down from there. I played on that old canon hundreds of times. Spent many hours inside buying bottled pops and looking at guns. I was at the folks house today, and there was a car that pulled in to the garage behind the building. Not sure what it’s used for anymore.
I grew up a few blocks away from there, I went in there several times a week as a kid, it was at the end of my paper route so I would stop in for a bag of cheese popcorn and an orange soda for the walk home.
Yes I went to Washington School
lived at 5703 Mason we would buy
groceries at Skryja’s little store say
1954 run up there on our bikes to
get Alamito milk and Seal Test
ice cream and jaw breakers I
have info for you on Hardings
distance cousins of my grandmother
and Alfred Cornishes 621 s 52
Collins and Morrison saddles later
Alfred Cornish Saddles 15 th and
Farnam next to Mrs B’s first store
Cornish silver saddle and Bill Cody
I was in Harding mansion as a little
kid. My family moved to aka Jolla
Ca about 1959 from Omaha my
great father Al Cornish owned
home on hill 52 Dodge prior
to about 1925 across from Black
House with the neat fence. Tom
Wigley Topeka KS age 79
I realize that you are responding to Bruce but I just wanted to jump in. Was you grandfather’s house the white one that used to have church services in it for a while? To the east of the Black House. You’ve got such a history with all of these buildings. I marvel! Thanks for writing.
Yes it has the bay window facing West and and was a church years ago. Al Cornish Sr. owned a lot of houses around Omaha several along Underwood on the South side West of 50th and in Hanscom Park. We lived at 5702 Mason from about 1952 to 1959. My
mother Margaret lived at 621 South 52 in the 1930s. Harvey Jacobsen that owned
a bar near Creighton downtown lived across from 621 on Jones directly across the
street. I went to Washington School with his daughter Kay. My mother went to Washington in late twenties and thirties then to Central class of 1940. We moved to La Jolla CA in 1959. I think I was the first kid in the door at the new Norris Jr. High when it first open then we went to California that year. I remember a lot of the names of folks
in the South 57th area as I delivered the Dundee News for a couple of years. The
Al Cornish family history is interesting the business a lot on line about it and at the Western Heritage. He had a big wooden white horse for years on the sidewalk in
front of his saddle store at 15th and Farnam an Omaha fixture. Hardings
were distance cousins of my grandmother and she was related to the Walter and Mercedes Harkerts who ran Harkert Houses around Omaha Harkerts Holsom Hamburghers. She was also related to the Strykers the law firm downtown Hird Stryker Sr. founded it. My grandmother was Cecile Cornish Smith. As a girl they lived on Park avenue on the hill that goes down to Dodge. The house is still there.
My mother used to say South 52 behind the Lee Drug and Wohlners store where we
shopped, they delivered groceries, and sometimes Skrijas and Steve’s market was
haunted and the kids wouldn’t go over there to play hide and seek in the 1930s at night!
Anyway I am still working in Topeka I am an attorney banker age 69. I really miss La Jolla and San Diego but it has gotten so big. My wife is from Ralston and her grandfather
did the stone work on the windows in the Dowd Chapel at Boystowns in 1940 he was
a stone mason and his name was Schlichtig. My wife graduated from Ralston High in 1964. We also shopped sometimes at the Cottage Store Leavenworth and 56 still there
and the old Leavenworth Safeway at 52nd and Leavenworth opened in 1940 and
Downs Bakery building still there across from Wohlners in the 1930s called Newmans.
What a whirlwind. I treasure these comments. I have a plan to do stories on two places you have mentioned. I look forward to researching more of what you have mentioned here. Thank you ao much!
Tom, it is so good of you to list all of this great information – thank you! Did you happen to know Roy and Helen Karlquist, 5616 Pacific? (Gray 2-Storey house)
I’m so excited you’re doing this!I have seen a gentleman out there mowing the small bit of grass every now and then.My son and I walk by often on the way to his school.He always gets really excited to see any action there.Sadly,we have never seen the mystery man go in or out of the building,he just mows and moves on.
Kind of in my neighborhood. If I recall, that was around the assault weapon ban, and I think there were legal problems facing them. I remember seeing it on the news, but it’s foggy.
So interesting, Miss Cassette. I look forward to more surprises!!
Interesting. You mention old neighborhood corner grocery stores. We had H&K on the corner of 65th and Blondo. They served ice cream and some dogs out of a window for a few years. You could get a sack full of candy for a quarter there. My brothers and I walked down there everyday. Then the corporate giant 7/11 built a store across the street from H&K filled with the allure of Big Gulps, slushy’s and nachos. Tough competition.
Had friend that did some stocking at H&K in the 8th grade…..he would sneak 12 packs of beer and leave them by the dumpster for later pick ups. H&K closed at some point shortly after.
Just signed up to automatically receive your blog. My husband and I love history so we are looking forward to future posts. Good luck with this awesome, informative endeavor! Lisa Fricke
From about 1987 to 2004, my ex and I to live almost directly across the street from the Arms and Ammo building, on the north side of Pacific. 5916 Pacific. Directly across from our front door was a white clapboard house, three doors east of the Arms and Ammo there lived an odd assortment of characters. We could see everything they did from our front window and they were an endless source of entertainment, because they were all home all day, every day.
There was an older couple, an aunt and uncle and their adult niece, whose age could have been anywhere between 25 to 45. The Uncle always wore a wifebeater and khakis, the Aunt was always wearing a thin, floral old lady housecoat. The niece is obviously not right, mentally. Her husband/ baby daddy was a girthy man about 6 foot 5 who always wore a cowboy hat and boots. There was also a little girl (obviously the progeny of the niece and Cowboy Hat guy) and a large collie that barked incessantly and no one ever walked. They were known in the neighborhood for their loud, yelling arguments with each other, and someone was always slamming the door as they left the house in a rage. The niece is the only one who still lives there, with a series of elderly pets.
Anyway, the guy with the cowboy hat used to disappear into the Arms and Ammo building every day. It was not open for business, but he hung out in there doing god knows what. Sometimes other guys would visit, but not that often. Never saw any arms or ammo going in or leaving. Every couple weeks or so, a red-faced obese bald man (a brother?) wearing only soiled overalls would come run a lawnmower over the lot. This went on for about six years, and then Cowboy Hat guy gradually quit coming around. The lawn continued to get mowed, and that fat lawnmower guy was the one who got the building painted red. The aunt and uncle eventually died, the little girl grew up into a surly teen and then departed. We always wondered what the hell they were doing with that building.
I lived on 56th & Pierce from 1999 to 2009. I remember that collie your talking about. Seemed like it was always on the front porch.
I remember this building as Arms & Ammo. Always wanted to go in. I might have once, but probably got scowled out. I can totally see this as a neighborhood grocery. Would love to see some pictures of it. Thanks, too, for putting up this site, Miss Cassette!
my grandmother lived at 60 & bancroft, and too many memories of driving by this bldg on the way over to my dad’s mothers home from way out west 😉 something about it being close to the elmwood park, petrow’s with the weird neon sign of the dude with the big hat and aksarben…to me it was like the big city.
I used to visit the place back in the early 70’s with my brothers…I can not confirm but have heard a story about a robbery late one night, burglars stole a pickup truck and backed into the front of the building at high speed breaking through the low bricks on the left hand side along with the glass etc…cleaned out the guns…never heard if anyone was caught, but the shop never reopened to my knowledge.
There was a short period around 98-99 when there was a vintage clothing store in this building, I can’t remember the name of it but I remember buying a coat there.
WOW! We have got to figure this out! And I am a vintage clothes lover. I have no recollection of that.
I remember driving past there as a kid in the 70s and 80s. Always thought that it was so cool (and a little mysterious) that there was a small cannon outside.
My parents moved to 5921 Pacific in fall of 1947 next door to the east of Mrs. Anna Skryja’s Grocery Store. That is my family home you see in the back of the photo. Mrs Skryja was a widow and her son helped her with the store. She was know all over the neighborhood for her wonderful meat. She had a locker and this little lady would heft the half a beef onto her back and throw it onto the wooden cutting block and slice off any piece of meat you wanted. She was a dear. All the kids in the neighborhood would come to purchase penny candy from the little glass candy counter. She did a big business in bread and milk and fresh fruit and veggies. The store had shelves all the way to the ceiling and there was a library ladder on a rail that her son moved from side to side when you needed a specific canned item. He climbed up and got it for you. When the produce was going bad it was sent home for us to use up. We made a lot of banana bread in those days and used up a lot of sour milk. Mrs. Skrja lived in the back of the store in a tiny little room with her bed under the stairway. She would have us in for tea every now and then. However, never could come to our house as had to mind the store. We often shared the home baked goods and desserts we or my grandmother made. She was a dear and when she passed away, we all felt a real lose. The gun shop made it appearance about the time I went to college. The old neighborhood was never the same. The love of attention to each customer was something you don’t find these days at the grocery.
Thank you for the great stories and information about the grocery store. What a delight to hear this history! Mrs. Skryja must have had such a special impact in your and many people’s lives. I treasure your story. Thank you and please weigh in on future posts.
Mary, thank you for sharing this memory of my great-grandma. She was really something. We still have the meat saw she used to use to cut the meat and it was almost as big as she was. I love to hear stories of my family and this is going into our family archives.
The Douglas County Assessors office lists the owner as Conrad Shade, of 2205 Ave B, Plattsmoth.
Yes, I had found this information as well but didn’t want to put his info out there. I have heard from my other facebook posts/reposts that the owner apparently uses the building as a storage space.
Thanks for the detective work.
I grew up 2 houses east of there. I played on that old canon hundreds of times. Spent countless hours as a kid inside drinking bottle Fanta pop out of the pop machine and looking at guns. Bought my Buck hunting knives from Jim. I was at my parents today and a car pulled in the driveway behind the building, not sure who the people are anymore.
A couple years ago I called the owner and left several messages trying to find out if he would be willing to sell. I thought it would be such a cute place for a children’s clothing boutique. I never got an answer or call back. This is just a rumor, but I heard from several people the owner is bitter about the gun and ammo store having to close. So he is just holding on to the building as storage and not willing to sell.
Conrad Shade….an anagram for “no cheddars”- this guy is obviously the leader of a cheese cartel and is storing massive wheels of cheddar in there waiting for the spike in market price and making us all beg for just a little taste.
The building was built in 1920, but the first reference I can find is that it was Elmwood Grocery, owned by a James P. Skryja. The first record of the building as a gun shop appears in 1960.
I grew up on 58th street, between Howard and Happy Hollow during the 70s through the early 90s and this building was always a topic of discussion. My mom was kind of obsessed about buying it and turning it into a little cafe. We were always so curious about why they shut down the gun shop and boarded it up- I think we imagined Boo Radley living in there! Thanks for the history; it’s fun to read.
I grew up through the 70s and 80s just a couple of blocks from Arms and Ammo. I must have passed it hundreds of times never paying much attention to it. Then, one day, my neighborhood buddy and I were walking by and he suggested stopping to buy a “pop” and chips, specifically, Guys Potato Chips. I remember it being rather dark and grim inside, with a one gentleman talking to the other, who was working behind the counter. There were wooden floors and glass display cases and, of course, lots of guns. We bought our snacks, exited the building and walked around the corner where, on the north side of the building, was the small side yard and the large, aged “gun” which to a young guy like me, looked like a cannon. There was also a large dog in the yard, which had run a path along the fence. If memory serves me correctly, it was a German Shepard, and my friend called him by name, “Bear”. It was a delight knowing that some decent, inexpensive junk food was available so close to home and that Bear wasn’t as fierce as he appeared.
Now That is a great story! Thanks for sharing.
I lived around the corner from this building in the early 2000s, in a house on Rees Street I rented from the famous Jan Eric Pusch. I always wondered about the history of this little red building. Thanks so much for shedding some light on it.
We moved to 59th St, just south of Leavenworth in the mid-‘50’s. We referred to this place as the “candy store.” (I wish I could remember – or someone could jog my memory with the name of the store.) Although there may have been other grocery items, as kids, we never saw past that glass case with every candy imaginable – the sugar dots on paper, taffy, wax lips, candy cigarettes, wax bottles of liquid, bubble gum. It was a treat for us to get a nickel-maybe a dime-to walk 5 minutes to a store that was full of fun. We brought our candy home in a small paper bag and sat on the front porch enjoying our sweet treats.