It was a few years before this photo was taken that I remember first going to the Old Market and more specifically, to M’s Pub. My grandmother always seemed to know just the right place to be. I was so young and didn’t know what I was looking at but I would like to imagine the feeling was at once home. How could a kid feel attached to an older warehouse district? So maybe it would become home years later when I had enough sense to realize that this was as cool as it gets in a town like Omaha. I realize the Market came into being long before it was on Miss Cassette’s grade school radar. It had long been a haven for the artists, the hippie kids, counter-culture anybodies as well as the affluent being drawn in by the great restaurants and galleries. As with all good things, I actually might have been scared in my first encounters. After all, 1977-1982 were not pretty years in the Old Market. There was still an edge. Still some grit left over from the 60’s. It was not the American Mall that I was used to. Artistic types, yes. Beautiful, yes. Captivating, yes. Freaky, yes. But I don’t remember “pretty people” in the Old Market until the mid to late 80’s. Do you understand what I mean about beautiful vs. pretty?
The Iler Building also known as the T.S. McShane Building. 1113, 1115 and 1117 Howard Street. 1977. (Photo credit: Lynn Meyer).
This photo reminds me of those years downtown when you never really knew what you’d find around any given corner. They weren’t all retail shops, in fact, there were a lot of odd offices and vacant spaces. And the regulars. So much mystery! Is this a real store or an installation piece? Is this strange man in a costume or is he really Cartoon Jesus? I never knew. I miss not knowing. It would be many, many years after this photo was taken that girlfriends I would ride the bus downtown for fun on Saturdays. Oh, the people we met and the great times we had running down alleys, up fire escapes and into old buildings. That was when my real adventure began and I could say that the Old Market felt like a home.
Here we have 1113 Howard, shown in the furthest left bay of the photo was vacant in 1977. Next door in 1115 was the Casbah Gift Shop. I was surprised that seeing this white font sign faintly above the door would bring back so many memories. (I think this is the store that later moved out to 120th, just north of Center?) I believe it was a gift shop, head shop, rug store, ethnic clothes. 1117 appears to be an office. Just east of 1113 and out of the photographer’s range were Gizmo’s Gallery & Recreation Parlor (never knew the formal name!) in 1105 and Jethro’s Record Shop in 1109. I remember these two businesses fondly. After further digging I found that Gizmo’s last year in the Market was 1989. Jethro’s continued on into the early 90’s. I plan to do another story on Gizmo’s as it was such an important part of a lot of our lives. The floors above the shops were all empty at this time as the T. S. McShane Company had already moved out by 1973. In 1977 the new owners were considering turning these upper floors into apartments.
Let me run a few names by you and see if you remember these shops from the 1977 Old Market: 1014 Howard Street was Satan’s Pizza. 1017 was the French Cafe. 1018 was the Souq Imports (still going strong), 1019 was the Silversmith (Dwayne is still in business as Goldsmith Silversmith). 1112 was the Howard Street Tavern and Homer’s Records in 1114. Also in operation in 1977 were the Old Market Ice Cream shop, Mister Toad’s, M’s Pub (love you M’s Pub), Kalso Earth Shoes (I wish I could see that store), T Room Snackshop, Rosegarden Plant Shop, Pathfinders Antiques, Katelman Lamp and Art Glass, Overland Sheepskin Co. (still going strong), Through the Looking Glass Gift Shop (where I think my previously mentioned grandmother had gotten me the most amazing Alice in Wonderland doll), the Rainbo and Nouvelle Eve (RIP).
As always, I would love to hear your memories and thoughts from this time. Thank you, Omaha friends.
Ms. Cassette, just on Sunday we went to brunch at the French Cafe replacement, Le something French. It was a lovely brunch with lively company in an enchanting setting. Try it sometime. M’s continued to be my favorite place–such a sad loss– in Omaha since the 70s. In the early days, Mary herself (M’s) sat on a bar stool, where the reservation book is now–oh, no more. She was beautiful, always dressed in a becoming manner that matched her white hair, always smiling. I imagine she has long since gone to the great bar stool in heaven where she is even happier and prettier than in the Omaha days.
Great memories! Thanks for sharing. Le Bouillon is where the old French Cafe was and yes, I’ve been there a couple of times.
Miss Cassette, another post of great personal memories and unearthed history. Since the addresses are odd numbers, I’m taking this to be the south side of Howard, where Spag Works, Zios, etc are now. I remember hearing ads for Satan’s Pizza on Z-92, maybe even KQ98 when it was still a cool rock station. I knew there was a Gizmo’s down there – I’m not sure if I ever went in. I was a Westie growing up, so I remember the Gizmo’s at Westroads more. Jethro’s had a location in Countryside Village for a time, too. I bought my first LP at age 10 there (“A Night At the Opera” by Queen). I remember spending a long time looking over which one would be my first. I was looking at Exile on Main St. by the Stones, digging the weirdos on the cover, and a female clerk walking by and saying, “That’s a good one.”
As far as the Old Market goes, my first experience was in about 1980. My mom and dad took me down the Summer Arts Festival, and we ate lunch at the Ratskellar, which I believe was owned by Walter Hecht, or at least he was the chef there. I think it occupied part of the space where the Upstream is now, next to the old Firehouse Dinner Theater. My older brother worked at the Ratskellar, and he would regale me with stories of the freaks, druggies, drag queens, and assorted characters he’d run into in the Market. I got to walk around by myself down there for awhile, which for my parents, was pretty loose. I wondered if they were drunk. I connived some money out of my dad and bought Van Halen II at Homer’s.
Walking around, I couldn’t believe how cool it was and why I had never been down there before. The brick streets held so much promise and not everything was developed down there. Cool stores amongst abandoned buildings, filled with age, history, and dust. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to explore everything down there.
Just fabulous. Thanks for the stories!
After watching an HGTV show highlighting a television show of my childhood I began recollecting my memories of living in Council Bluffs and visiting Omaha on a regular basis. You mention Satans Pizza…we ate there many times. I recall little stores that sold incense and incense burners and being excited when my mother bought some to burn in our home. I remember flower boxes on upper levels of buildings that later I would find similar to those in New Orleans Bourbon Street district. This was in the late 60s and early 70s. I also remember trekking to Southroads and Westroads (but not Crossroads very often). I remember the Mutual of Omaha building and often wondered if Marlin Perkins from the “Wild Kingdom” lived there with his chimp Judy. When I was older I remember the opening of a restaurant called “The Crystal Towers” and going there with my parents and their friends. We moved from the area when I was 11 but I am surprised at the memories I have from that time and do wonder if they are accurate!
I grew up in west Omaha, but on my high school graduation (or shortly thereabouts) gravitated toward the Old Market. I worked at Spaghetti Works right after it had opened, and operated the Train Car (that is what we called it, I believe it was name “Espresso” after one of the earliest cappuccino machines outside of south Omaha). I frequently took late shifts at Mr. Toad’s, and was manager of Harrigan’s (under the Firehouse Dinner Theatre, where I also did one show) after its incarnations as The Wine Cellar and something else (the name escapes me). There absolutely WERE beautiful people in the Old Market in the 70s and early 80s–we call came out after dark. Many memories of after parties and bacchanals that may curl your hair, if it isn’t already.
I love this! I will definitely be writing more about the OM. Thank you
I moved to Omaha in 1977 and lived at the western end of the city. After graduating from high school in ’79
my friends and I would head to the Old Market for great music, great meals, and fun. I remember sometimes stopping in Benson with friends for “cheap” drinks at Louis Bar before heading to Howard Street Tavern, where the drinks cost more and sometimes all we had enough money for was the cover charge. One of my favorite bands there was the Jailbreakers. We also hung out at Mr. Toads and sometimes headed to the Dubliner, where some of my friends would continue to work on their quest to try every beer they had their so they could get their card stamped and eventually earn the coveted beer mug. Homers was the place to go for great LP’s as well. Spaghetti Works was one of our favorite places to eat, and we’d wander to the Central Park Mall to walk around and go on the slides. I left Omaha in 1988 but my Omaha memories and especially the Old Market will always hold a special place in my heart.
Nice memories, I worked at the Elysian Fields Bookstore at the corner Of Howard and 11th in 1977 (I think). Always fun to get a drink at M’s with friends and hear music at Howard Street Tavern, I recall seeing Luther Allison, Son Seals and other CHICAGO or Kansas City blues acts. Late nights tab Toad’s for an Irish coffee. Too bad the city allowed the old warehouse district to be leveled for the Cargill corporate campus! Graham
Old, Old Market Memories
So crazy cool I just found this blog! Was trying to see if archives would give me some Satan’s info & google led me here!! I had some of this written already from The Gambler angle with my dad. After seeing your blog I expanded some of my favorite memories into a longer piece. I wish I could find people who knew my mom’s shop or remembered Vicki (& Tom) Sheldon. We lost her to metastasized breast cancer in February 1987
There was a to die for Pizza Parlor down in the Old Market where my mom’s 3rd yarn shop, Pandora’s Box was. Chocolat Abeille appears to be what’s now located where Pandora’s Box was. That was essentially cati-corner to M’s Pub. Believe I was roughly 9-12 when she had that shop. Days I went with her she’d often put me up in the big bay window area with a spinning wheel, correctly guessing people would see a little girl making yarn & decide they could too. My mom had a gorgeous antique cash register that I desperately wanted to ring up sales on. My mother said I had to learn how to count change before I could touch it. Oh yeah I learned & I learned fast!
Back to pizza! You could get whole pies or just a slice. Dad and I loved the loaded combo kind and man those slices were generous! But mostly we went to Satan’s (yep that was the name, nope nobody geeked out on that kinda thing then. Not like they were slaughtering goats & sacrificing virgins in the kitchen.) It was just one of the best pizza joints in the world. Appears to be about where The Oven is. So we’d go between lunch & dinner rushes to indulge our pizza hearts in peace but mostly to indulge our predilection for debating lyrics. I believe it was 2 songs per quarter or 5 for 0.50.
There were other songs I can’t recall. Ohhhh Reverend Blue Jean’s WAS one, lol… it was a long time before I accepted that was Forever in Blue Jean’s…. Our primary and most lengthy debate centered on Kenny Rogers, The Gambler. This always involved significant replays as there was no other way to get lyrics in those days.
The owner was phenomenally gracious every time we walked in, knowing full well we were going to play something again and again. Only once of all the times were there other people who ultimately complained. The owner was super apologetic for shutting down our fun but could we please move on to a new song because the other table was kinda losing their mind by about the fourth replay. Lucky for them, though we usually spent a dollar we did it 2 quarters at a time so we could (if we wanted) swap to another song after the fifth play.
To this day, 43 years later, The Gambler always, always reminds me of my dad, the Old Market and the best parts of being a kid. Godspeed Kenny, I just know you broke even!
My favorite shops were the Greek pastry shop and baklava by Mr. Toad’s, the health food store (believe that was where La Buvette is now) that sold carob chocolate, the 2nd hand store down by Homer’s Records where I found a blue pioneer girl’s dress with a white collar for $5. Every weekend I’d go check, praying it was still there. I worked for weeks to earn enough money to buy that dress! The book store over by the health food store. Was thinking it was secondhand, but actually may have been new books. I believe it was the corner of 11th & Howard or next place down on 11th by where La Buvette is now. They had a book that told the “real” story of Laura Ingalls Wilder with actual photographs of the family that was another of my save & hope & check on dreams. I still have that book packed away somewhere! Overland Sheepskin Co that was across from the greek pastry shop that I’d go stand by just because it smelled so divine every time the door was opened. The shops down in the alleyway (called the Passageway now) behind my mom’s store that had the most fascinating things to see. Trini’s was there back then I believe as was this antique display of an old time dental office, tools, chair and all if you trekked all the way upstairs and down a rather long empty hall.
As an adult occasionally returning, that little place downstairs on the left when you go in was my go to gotta stop there shop! Had everything from incense, candles, unique books, gorgeous, fun jewelry. Don’t see it on the map now so I guess they moved or folded.
Spaghetti Works was then & remains my favorite restaurant down there. Homer’s, lol, I was NOT supposed to go in there, but I snuck in a couple times!
In 1978 or 1979 there had been an issue with a serial rapist attacking women going to their cars at night at Westroads. Unfairly (in my opinion) the World Herald was focusing on The Old Market’s issue with homeless people, generally referenced as “winos” back then. I had seen them, walked around them etc many times with my mom. They never bothered anyone. But the press coverage was negatively effecting Old Market businesses, by making it sound like rather than a nice day of quaint and interesting shops and restaurants, you’d spend your time trying to play keep away from the winos sprawled everywhere. I knew it wasn’t true and I was mad that people like my mom were being hurt that way. By the same token because focus seemed NOT to be much on the Westroads rapist, more women continued being assaulted. So at my whopping 11ish I wrote a scathing editorial about that very perspective. I was stone cold shocked when they published it! Wish I still had a copy. Most of all, I hope it really made a difference for both issues!
– Stephanie Mattson
I worked at Jethro’s from (iirc) 1989-90 or 91. Marcie the owner and her daughter Suzie were always very good to me. Ted & Wally’s was next door, and then on the other side there was a Godfather’s Pizza. On the west corner there was that textile company run by Marv Brookstein, whom I got to know a little bit, a real character. There was also the window washer named Seven, speaking of characters. Thanks for posting these memories!