Posts Tagged ‘Creative class’

A Creative Class Den: Mastercraft Building Finds New Life as a Creatives Community

February 2, 2012 3 comments

There was a time not so distant in Omaha’s past when the city held a less than enlightened view of old buildings.  Many a grand and historic structure was lost due to apathy or outright shortsightedness, with the greatest travesty being the razing of a huge swath of late 19th and early 20th century warehouses in a great urban valley called Jobbers Canyon.  A new appreciation and vision for preserving, restoring, and giving new life to historic buildings is evidenced throughout much of the inner city.  One such reclamation project is The Mastercraft building in North Downtown.  My story that follows is not so much about owner Bob Grinnell’s acquisition of the abandoned former furniture manufacturing plant and his making needed repairs and improvements to it, but about the creatives who have inhabited the immense space and made it a collective or communnity of like-minded independent entrepreneurs.



A Creative Class Den: Mastercraft Building Finds New Life as a Creatives Community

©by Leo Adam Biga

Soon to appear in Omaha Magazine


Mastercraft has joined Saddle Creek Records, Slowdown, Film Streams, Hot Shops and Creighton University as North Downtown anchors turning a once forlorn urban terrain into a vital creative class corridor.

Since its flex-spaces opened two years ago the renovated Mastercraft Building, 1111 North 13th Street, has become home to 20 mostly creative-based small businesses. For decades the three-block long, circa 1941 structure housed the Mastercraft Furniture manufacturing company. The loft-style modular layout boasts high ceilings, skylights, exposed rough sawn lumber joists and concrete floors reminiscent of the Old Market’s industrial-warehouse spaces. The cool, classic, retro aesthetic appeals to artists and entrepreneurs. The ample free parking, easy Interstate-airport access and reasonable lease rates, plus a perch right in the heart of trendy North Downtown, are magnets, too.

John Henry Muller’s website design firm, What Cheer, was already in NoDo when in need of larger digs his biz became the first Mastercraft tenant in 2010.

“We loved the building. The raw industrial feel piqued our interest, but it wasn’t until hearing owner Bob Grinnell’s vision and passion for refurbishing this old beast of a building that it became a serious consideration for us,” says Muller.

Ben Drickey, who just relocated his Torchwerks motion image studio there, says besides being “a stylin’ hip place…it’s a rare and exciting opportunity for people to be a part of revitalizing their city, and I’m very happy and proud to be a part of it.”

Unlike the self-contained Old Market and its dense development, North Downtown is a sprawling patchwork. But there’s little doubt it’s emerged as a major cultural district in its own right. Music, film, art, design, education, athletics and hospitality all maintain a strong presence there. The district’s most public venues, TD Ameritrade Park, the CenturyLink Center, Lewis & Clark Landing and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, are destination attractions.

It’s also a residential neighborhood with Creighton student housing, Kellom Heights, the TipTop, Omaha Riverfront condos and Saddle Creek live-work spaces.

The Mastercraft adds to this mix a burgeoning creative collective under one roof.

“It’s a very engaged community and you can’t stay an outsider for very long,” says Megan Hunt, owner of CAMP Coworking, a venture she opened there after “immediately falling in love” with the site. “I knew that coming into the North Downtown community on the ground floor would be a wise business move, and working in this neighborhood during such high growth has been really beneficial.

“It’s grown into a really creative and nurturing place to work,” says Hunt, who also operates her Princess Lasertron custom bridal design business from there.

A common corridor and shared entry connect the various businesses, whose doors are almost always open to walk-in traffic and impromptu interaction.

“The building is wide open and it just sort of exudes this creative energy,” says Grain and Mortar graphic design owner Eric Downs. “There’s a great collaborative atmosphere that happens. We can walk out into the hallway and ask anyone, ‘Are you guys dealing with this? Do you ever have this problem?’ You don’t get that anywhere else. We go to lunch all the time as groups. If things slow down we go out and play in the hallway, literally, bringing out skateboards and scooters.”

Frisbee, too.




“There’s always people popping in and out of each other’s studios to say hello or ask questions,” says Dave Nelson, owner of youth branding agency Secret Penguin. He says he most enjoys “being around like-minded people and friends.”

“Everyone here kind of understands each other,” Downs says.

Don’t get Downs wrong, it’s not all about playtime. “We work really hard,” he says, “but it’s fun to know that a break from work is right out the door or right down the street. That definitely goes a long way to keep you creatively charged.”

Nelson says, “We’ve created areas within our own studio to draw, to skateboard, to swing on swings, to read books and any other thing you need to do to get your creative mind going in a productive way.”

The camaraderie extends to serious business to business commerce. Hunt says when she needs photography or graphic design, she calls on neighboring businesses specializing in those services.

Cross-referrals happen all the time.

“As creatives our world revolves around referrals,” says Downs. “We’re very sensitive to that fact. The ultimate compliment you can give someone is to refer business to them, and that’s definitely the case here. It’s just an unspoken understanding that that’s what we do for each other.”

“When you work so closely with people, you really appreciate and respect their businesses,” says Hunt.

“There is an eclectic mix of professionals around and the building is becoming quickly populated with talented entrepreneurs. We jive well with those individuals and we all have benefited from having each other’s business around,” says Bill Sitzmann, a partner in Minorwhite Studios photography.

“The vibe of the building reflects how we like to work,” says Muller, who likes its “vibrant, inviting atmosphere.”

Building owner Bob Grinnell doesn’t take credit for this creatives haven but he welcomes it and sees ever growing interest in the site. With 140,000 square feet to lease, he can accommodate dozens more businesses.

Downs considers Grinnell an ideal landlord. “What is extremely attractive is that he’s here every day. We like the way he runs the building and engages with the businesses here,” says Downs. “We feel like he has our best interests at heart.”

Mastercraft tenants hold occasional public events. Each second Friday CAMP hosts an open creative work time from 6 p.m. to midnight.

For the complete tenant directory and tour-leasing info, visit

Nomad Lounge, An Oasis for Creative Class Nomads

June 21, 2011 6 comments

Nick Hudson is one of several Omaha transplants who have come here from other places in recent years and energized the creative-cultural scene. One of his many ventures in Omaha is Nomad Lounge, which caters to the creative class through a forward-thinking aesthetic and entrepreneurial bent and schedule of events. This Metro Magazine ( piece gives a flavor for Hudson and why Nomad is an apt name for him and his endeavor. Three spin-off ventures from Nomad that Hudson has a major hand in are Omaha Fashion Week, Omaha Fashion Magazine, and the Halo Institute.  You can find some of my Omaha Fashion Week and Omaha Fashion Magazine writing on this blog.  And look for more stories by me about Nick Hudson and his wife and fellow entrepreneur Brook Hudson.





Nomad Lounge, An Oasis for Creative Class Nomads

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in Metro Magazine (

Another side of Omaha’s new cosmopolitan face can be found at Nomad Lounge, 1013 Jones St. in the historic Ford Warehouse Building. The chic, high-concept, community-oriented salon captures the creative class trade. Tucked under the Old Market’s 10th St. bridge, Nomad enjoys being a word-of-mouth hideaway in a shout-out culture. No overt signs tout it. The name’s stenciled in small letters in the windows and subtly integrated into the building’s stone and brick face.

The glow from decorative red lights at night are about the only tip-off for the lively goings-on inside. That, and the sounds of pulsating music, clanking glasses and buzzing voices leaking outdoors and the stream of people filing in and out.

Otherwise, you must be in-the-know about this proper gathering spot for sophisticated, well-traveled folks whose interests run to the eclectic. It’s all an expression of majority owner Nick Hudson, a trendy international entrepreneur and world citizen who divides his time between Omaha and France for his primary business, Excelsior Beauty. Nomad is, in fact, Hudson’s nickname and way of life. The Cambridge-educated native Brit landed in Omaha in 2005 in pursuit of a woman. While that whirlwind romance faded he fell in love with the town and stayed on. He’s impressed by what he’s found here.

“I’m blown away by what an amazingly creative, enterprising, interesting community Omaha is,” he said. He opened Excelsior here that same year — also maintaining a Paris office — and then launched his night spot in late 2006.

If you wonder why a beauty-fashion industry maven who’s been everywhere and seen everything would do start-up enterprises in middle America when he could base them in some exotic capital, you must understand that for Hudson the world is flat. Looking for an intersection where like-minded nomads from every direction can engage each other he opted for Omaha’s “great feeling, great energy.”

“We’re all nomadic, were all on this journey,” he said, “but there are times when nomads come together, bringing in different experiences to one central place and sharing ideas in that community. And that’s exactly what it is here. Nomad’s actually about a lifestyle brand and Nomad Lounge is just the event space and play space where that brand comes to life for the experimental things we do.”

He along with partners Charles Hull and Clint! Runge of Archrival, a hot Lincoln, Neb. branding-marketing firm, and Tom Allisma, a noted local architect who’s designed some of Omaha’s cutting-edge bars-eateries, view Nomad as a physical extension of today’s plugged-in, online social networking sites. Their laidback venture for the creative-interactive set is part bar, part art gallery, part live performance space, part small business incubator, part collaborative for facilitating meeting-brainstorming-partnering.

“That whole connecting people, networking piece is really exciting to us because it’s not just being an empty space for events, we’re actually playing an active role in helping the creative community continue to grow,” said Hudson.



Nick Hudson



Social entrepreneurship is a major focus. Nomad helps link individuals, groups and businesses together. “It’s a very interesting trend that’s going to be a big buzz word,” Hudson said. “Nomad is a social enterprise. It’s all about investing in and increasing the social capital of the community, creating networks, fostering creativity. My biggest source of passion is helping people achieve their potential.”

“He’s definitely done that for me,” said Nomad general manager-events planner Rachel Richards. “He’s seen my passion in event planning and he’s opened doors I never thought I’d get through.”

The Omaha native was first hired by Hudson to coordinate Nomad’s special events through her Rachel Richards Events business. She’s since come on board as a key staffer. With Hudson’s encouragement she organized Nomad’s inaugural Omaha Fashion Week last winter, a full-blown, first-class model runway show featuring works by dozens of local designers. “That was always a dream of mine,” she said.

Under the Nomad Collective banner, Hudson said, “the number of social entrepreneurs and small enterprises and venture capitalist things that are coming from this space from the networking here is just phenomenal. Increasingly that’s going beyond this space into start-up businesses and all sorts of things.” Nomad, he said, acts as “a greenhouse for ideas and businesses to expand and grow.”

Nomad encourages interplay. Massive cottonwood posts segment the gridded space into 15 semi-private cabanas whose leather chairs and sofas and built-in wood benches seat 8 to 20 guests. Velvet curtains drape the cabanas. It’s all conducive to relaxation and conversation. Two tiny galleries display works by local artists.

There’s a small stage and dance floor. The muted, well-stocked bar features international drink menus. Video screens and audio speakers hang here and there, adding techno touches that contrast with the worn wood floors, the rough-hewn brick walls and the exposed pipes, vents and tubes in the open rafters overhead. It all makes for an Old World meets New World mystique done over in earth tones.

Hudson embraces Nomad’s flexibility as it constantly evolves, reinventing itself. In accommodating everything from birthdays/bachelorettes to release/launch parties to big sit-down dinners to more intimate, casual gatherings to social enterprise fairs and presenting everything from sculptures and paintings to live bands and theater shows to video projection, it’s  liable to look different every time you visit. Whatever the occasion, art, design, music and fashion are in vogue and celebrated.

Dressed-up or dressed-down, you’re in synch with Nomad’s positive, chic vibe.

“It’s this whole thing about being premium without being pretentious,” said Hudson. “Nomad is stylish, it’s trendy, it’s great quality. All our drinks are very carefully selected. But it’s still made affordable.”

In addition to staging five annual premiere events bearing the Nomad brand, the venue hosts another 90-100 events a year. Richards offers design ideas to organizations using the space and matches groups with artists and other creative types to help make doings more dynamic, more stand-alone, more happening.





Clearly, Nomad targets the Facebook generation but not exclusively. Indeed, Hudson and Richards say part of Nomad’s charm is the wide age range it attracts, from 20-somethings to middle-agers and beyond.

Nomad fits into the mosaic of the Old Market, where the heart of the creative community lives and works and where a diverse crowd mixes. Within a block of Nomad are The Kaneko, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, the Blue Barn Theatre and any number of galleries, artist studios, fine restaurants and posh shops. Nomad’s a port of call in the Market’s rich cultural scene.

“It’s such a great creative community. We want to help make our little contribution to that and keep building on all the great things going on,” said Hudson.

Besides being a destination for urban adventurers looking to do social networking or conducting business or celebrating a special occasion or just hanging out, Nomad’s a site for charitable fundraisers. Hudson and Richards want to do more of what he calls “positive interventions” with nonprofits like Siena/Francis House. Last year Nomad approached the shelter with the idea for Concrete Conscience, which placed cameras in the hands of dozens of homeless clients for them to document their lives. Professional photographers lent assistance. The resulting images were displayed and sold, with proceeds going to Siena/Francis.

New, on Wednesday nights, is Nomad University, which allows guests to learn crafts from experts, whether mixing cocktails or DJing or practically anything else. It’s a chance for instructors to market their skills and for students to try new things, all consistent with a philosophy Hudson and Richards ascribe to that characterizes the Nomad experience: Do what you love and do it with passion.

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