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.