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2022 Inspiring Excellence Award Winners

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President’s Award—Randy Chick [Hastings]

5-Year Director Award—Amber Holle [Falls City]

Our Main Street communities and those who lead the local efforts are not only supporting small businesses, but they are helping property owners re-utilize historic buildings for new uses while at the same time, building strong downtown management organizations, and promoting what their districts have to offer. That’s a lot to work with! Main Street is very much a community directed, community driven approach and takes a team of people led by strong individuals who put in the work day in and day out to make stuff happen. Successful downtown revitalization is not easy work nor is the success achieved overnight, so we feel very strongly as an organization that the leaders in these communities be recognized for their efforts. They are some of the most hard-working, dedicated people I know and very deserving of this pat-on-the-back. We recognize Amber Holle for 5-years of leadership directing the Falls City Chamber and Main Street program, and Randy Chick, recipient of the 2022 Nebraska Main Street Network President’s Award for leading the downtown redevelopment and revitalization efforts in Hastings while selflessly sharing his knowledge and experience with countless Nebraska communities for many years.

Adaptive Reuse Project—Vintage Venue [Beatrice]

When John and Colleen Schoneweis took over the building at 620 Court Street in downtown Beatrice, they knew they wanted to transform the space into Southeast Nebraska’s most attractive wedding and events venue. The facility had served the community as a center of retail for decades but when the local Radio Shack franchise owners John and Linda Linenberger announced their retirement it left questions about what would become of this large 50’ x 140’ two-story building. Once John and Colleen acquired the building in 2017 they quickly began to dive into the building’s history and worked to uncover its secrets. At first, they began selective demolition and discovered that all the windows had been removed but that the original hardwood floor, elevator, and sturdy brick walls remained and could be used to tap into both a modern and vintage look that they had been hoping for. They removed drywall and remnants of the original plaster, exposing native brick. The floors were covered with nails and glue and decades of auto shop damage and they needed some work. Most of the wood was salvageable, except for the part leading to the elevator that cars had driven over for decades. That section was replaced with new flooring and they began to sand down the rest and refinish it. The drop ceiling was removed, revealing wooden floor joists and an iron beam support for the 2nd floor, as well as the original knob and tube wiring that had been hand-drilled through the joists nearly 100 years before. They left the original wiring in place for decoration but had the electricity service upgraded. The original elevator while not rated for passenger service is now used as a recessed bar for their events. A new HVAC system was installed and the plumbing was upgraded to meet modern building codes. The new venue boasts 5,000 square feet of usable space and can seat more than 400 and hold upwards of 600 people if they’re standing. In addition to the event space, they have a large modern kitchen that allows Colleen to ply her kitchen magic and prepare high-quality meals for several hundreds of guests. They prepared the basement and second floor for future renovation and installed a fire sprinkler system to serve the whole building. On the exterior of the building, they reopened every one of the street-facing windows and all levels. This improvement really makes the building pop! The original carriage doors on the east end were uncovered and rebuilt based on historical photographs. New sidewalks and repairs to the original awning were also completed. Today the facility has become a top-rated destination for events, while the pandemic was an unwelcome interruption, the facility has found its way forward and is again welcoming events on a regular basis.

Adaptive Reuse Project—40 North Tap+Grille [Grand Island]

Grand Island is one many communities synonymous with the Lincoln Highway. Along with the highway came automobiles and buildings associated with automobile history.  In 2018, Jay and Jan Vavricek purchased the historic Antique Warehouse building on the corner of 3rd and Elm in Railside and have turned it into 40 North Tap + Grille. With its high vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, and over 100 years of stories, this building proved to be the right location to bring their unique bar and restaurant to fruition. The building had been occupied by a number of automobile dealerships including the WL Brotherton Motor Company, Norris Motor Company, Killion Motor Company and Oakland Pontiac dealership before becoming a used office furniture outlet and a rustic antique store. The restoration of the 9,000 square foot building included keeping the original building’s rafters while adding features including wood taken from Nebraska barns to a windmill from Ainsworth Nebraska, and a variety of other modern amenities.

Business of the Year—Quilt Stitches [Beatrice]

Quilt Stitches in downtown Beatrice, owned and operated by Ann Freese, has grown exponentially since Ann’s purchase of the business in 2017. This small shop has grown by over 70% and now operates out of three storefronts. Quilt Stitches has added new products, services, classes, events, staff, and so much more. The business frequently joins in on local events and promotions while bringing in its own large regional events to Downtown Beatrice. Their exciting and beautiful storefronts draw in not only local shoppers but countless others from surrounding communities making the shop a destination retail business and have inspired new generations to take up the skill. On top of the expansion, classes, and everything else, Ann heads up the local Quilts of Valor group that awards US military veterans with special Quilts. Quilt Stitches is truly an inspiration and a stand-out business in our community.

Business of the Year—Tekamah Drug [Tekamah]

Tekamah Drug is Tekamah's only pharmacy. Individuals from town, around town, and driving through town, are able to fill prescriptions, buy medicine, purchase health and wellness products, and convenience items that you would find at any chain drugstore. The next closest drug store for the community and surrounding area is in Blair, over 20 miles away. Having a drug store in town has proven essential over the years as over 66% of people take prescription drugs. Tekamah Drug’s pharmacist, Amy Tobin, has constantly fought to keep a locally owned pharmacy in town. She knows that despite the bad days, the pharmacy is providing a crucial service Tekamah and the joy she gets from helping people makes it all worthwhile. That positivity has never been more important than throughout the pandemic. Pharmacists have spent their days off and off-the-clock hours dedicated to staying up-to-date on the latest COVID and vaccination research/news, to acquiring medical equipment, and getting registered to administer vaccination clinics. A few months ago, UNMC released data showing that Burt County had reached over a 50% vaccination rate of its’ population. We truly believe that a large portion of that success was due to Tekamah Drug's perseverance and devotion to their community’s health, safety, and welfare. Congratulations to Tekamah Drug, Business of the Year.

Business of the Year—Vel’s Bakery [Wayne]

Vel’s Bakery, a Main Street mainstay in downtown Wayne is owned and operated by Vel & Sue Temme, who recently celebrated 50 years in business at their Main Street location at 309 Main Street. Six days a week they put in a full day of work all before NOON baking donuts, cakes, breads, rolls, catering events, and hosting their morning customers for daily coffee and news of the area.

Façade Improvement—Mercantile Building [Beatrice]

The Mercantile Building located at 301 Court Street in downtown Beatrice and owned by Todd and Soni Hydo, is an Italianate building from 1883. This gorgeous building sat empty beginning in 1991 and it seemed destined to stay that way. Thankfully, it was purchased by the Hydo family in 2016 who saw the potential in the deteriorating building. As work began most in the community figured it was preparatory work to tear down the building. The project, which has cost around $800,000 to date, was made possible by Fakler Architects and Lammel Plumbing with a lot of personal sweat equity on the part of Todd & Soni and their family. Work began in August 2016. After assessing the existing damage and historical photographs, efforts were made to restore the building to match photographic evidence and retain as many of the original features as possible. On the exterior, efforts were made to utilize the original metal storefront and rebuild the lost woodwork of the original storefront as closely as possible. Further efforts were made to re-install the exterior windows and all sides of the building. As the 20-century loading dock was removed a large amount of ghost advertising was uncovered and efforts have been made to retain them. Exterior work was completed and the first-floor businesses opened in March of 2019. Currently, the building is home to a popular craft brewery, a prohibition-inspired cocktail bar, a clothing boutique, a gift shop, and a ceramics studio. The reconstructed outdoor patio, formerly a loading dock provides an outdoor space for what is Nebraska’s first mostly indoor entertainment district. Work continues on the second floor with new and exciting opportunities on the horizon. This addition to the community has been a catalyst for business development which keeps local dollars in the community and ensures the economic vitality of our area.

Façade Improvement—Neligh Family Dentistry [Neligh]

Neligh Family Dentistry was one of multiple downtown Neligh businesses that underwent improvements and participated in a downtown revitalization grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Drs. Timothy and Cristina Brovont transitioned into the local business after the dentist of 41 years retired. The exterior façade of the Main Street business included a large shake shingle awning and three layers of heavy brick. “The exterior renovation involved an element of historic preservation, an undertaking complicated by the fact that there were no know photos of the office’s original façade.” The shake shingle awning was removed, and four transom windows were once again installed on the façade of the building, new windows were also installed. The improvements in the building have made a significant impact on Neligh’s Main Street, which is in the Old Mill District.

Interior Commercial—Clean Slate Soap [Beatrice]

The Clean Slate Soap Building, located at 811-813 Court Street at the east end of downtown Beatrice is owned by Kim and Chris Witulski. Their building was originally the Beatrice Fruit Market but over the years saw major changes and uses. Prior to the Witulki’s ownership, it was home to Melron’s Cash Registers, The Beatrice Railroad Enthusiasts, and a hair salon. The project was completed by Chris and Kim as the general contractors and designers. The work they could not do themselves was sub-contracted out to local companies and individuals. The rehab project was started in November of 2018 and included considerable clean-up and demolition as the previous owner had accumulated many items over the years. When we asked the owners about the project they commented that “we had a vision of what we wanted the completed building to look like and believe that we achieved our goal. “My favorite part is getting to share the love of what I do with others. Clean Slate Soap is more than soap, it is a reminder to Wash off Yesterday and Start Each Day with a Clean Slate. I think we achieved that motto with our rehabilitation project and are excited we get to share that message with the community now that it is complete."

Interior Commercial & Business of the Year—Pinnacle Bank [Neligh]

Pinnacle Bank’s Neligh location holds a special place in history for the Dinsdale Family. In 1959, it became the first bank that Roy and Jack purchased outside of Palmer. With the purchase of the Neligh bank, Pinnacle Bank’s legacy of expansion began across Nebraska and into neighboring states. The bank at 4th and Main first opened as Atlas Bank in 1918. The more than 100-year-old building is part of the Downtown Neligh Historical Old Mill District. In 2020, they embarked on a renovation project to not only make necessary improvements but retain the building’s rich history for future generations. The local Pinnacle Bank family is dedicated to the betterment of the community. The team serves on numerous boards and committees throughout Neligh and volunteer at nearly every community event. Pinnacle Bank is also extremely generous to local non-profit groups, providing financial resources that would otherwise be unattainable. They often go above and beyond in the service work they do. They are truly invested in Neligh’s Old Mill District and making Neligh a thriving, growing community.

Interior Residential—210 Main Street [Wayne]

210 Main Street in downtown Wayne was built in 1915. The building’s history includes being the home to several different meat markets and more recently several different retail shops. The building was purchased in August of 2020 by Wayne residents and business owners Amy and Corby Schweers. The initial plan is for the building to house 2 apartments on the second floor and 2 business on the main floor. With an existing first floor tenant, the Schweers immediately went to work renovating the second floor for apartments, beginning with the street facing apartment. Although that space had been most recently used for retail and storage, the original apartment footprint was still in place. The Schweers purchased as many of the materials used in the rehab as they could locally, and utilized local carpenters and contractors where possible. The project was finished in time to show it off at a Chamber Coffee in March of 2021.

New Construction/Infill—Beatrice Fire Hall [Beatrice]

Downtown Beatrice is proud to be home to the new fire station finished in December 2021. This project began after efforts were made to keep the station downtown while avoiding impacting existing historical areas. When a full City block on the southern edge of downtown was purchased it had a mixture of residential and commercial areas that included several vacant lots. There were two uninhabited houses, a metal warehouse, a dry cleaner, and a long-vacant filling station. In 2018 the City of Beatrice voted to approve a sales tax increase to fund a new station bond that would be paid off in ten years. The City Auditorium basement location had been in use by the fire station since 1965 and the department had outgrown it. At the dedication ceremony of the fire station, Mayor Stan Worth had this to say, “This is something that is a landmark in our community and is going to serve as a symbol for many, many years to come as the public safety standard in Beatrice,” he said. “It’s also an economic development symbol for the community of Beatrice because, with the facility that we have today, people that are coming in from out of town and are looking for a place to land for their industry or business sees that there is a priority in our community for public safety.” By December 2021 Beatrice Fire and Rescue transitioned their equipment and residential amenities to the new station and began operating out of the facility full-time.

Public Partner—Big Give Gage [Beatrice]

Big Give Gage is a three-year running 24-hour time of giving where Gage County area supporters are invited to give back to their favorite local charities and stretch their giving even further. The event has raised the visibility and knowledge of local non-profit projects and missions and matched that with supporters’ passions and generosity. Big Give Gage has proven to be a large-scale fundraising effort, raising over $750,000 to date. Led by a coalition effort of the Gage County Foundation and Beatrice Community Hospital Foundation this event has had a significant impact on downtown Beatrice. In 2021 alone, this event saw 62 nonprofit organizations raising funds together in Gage County with 14 downtown-specific organizations and other 10 others that have some impact on downtown. This event saw donations from 59 communities outside of Beatrice, and 36 states, and even included donations from Canada. The event utilized three of our downtown event spaces, Vintage Venue, Tall Tree Tastings, and the Beatrice Farmers Market. Downtown organizations who benefitted from this fundraising day include; Beatrice Area Railroad Enthusiasts, Beatrice Educational Foundation, Blue Rivers Area Agency on Aging, Carnegie Center, Inc., CASA of Gage County, Community Players, Gage County Historical Society & Museum, Homestead Conservation and Trails Association (HCTA), Mosaic, Mother-to-Mother Ministry, Rita’s Cat Rescue, The Resolution Center, St. Joseph's School, and us here at Main Street Beatrice. Its impacts have been profound, for Main Street Beatrice specifically the event allowed us to start the public art projects that continue to grow and impact the community to this day.

Streetscape/Public Space Improvement—Beatrice Murals [Beatrice]

Aside from the unique architecture present in the Main Street Beatrice district, one of the most eye-catching improvements has been our public art and mural initiative. To date, Main Street has commissioned two large murals decorating our district with an eye to continue the project with alley art this year. The first mural was completed in 2020, by artist Tyler J. Rinne at 604 Court Street on a low wall next to Beatrice Movies. This mural is a colorful panorama highlighting downtown Beatrice as well as community landmarks and is a local and visitor favorite for photo opportunities. Its vibrant colors have been noted by community members as putting a smile on their faces each time they pass by. Our second mural, dedicated to the site of America’s first Homestead, was completed by Artist Sydney Saathoff in 2021. This second-story mural captures the iconic homestead scene with a farmer, two horses, a plow, a log cabin, and a windmill in the background. The homestead mural greets passers-by at 119 N 5th Street and youth at the middle school. These two mural projects were supported by organizations such as The Hevelone Foundation, Big Give Gage, and Gage County Foundation, and with strong community support. Sydney was selected after a Request for Proposal process that has expanded our knowledge and access to local artists. These two murals are just the beginning. We have seen other art efforts develop in Beatrice most siting these two streetscape improvements as their inspiration. It has helped the community look at downtown and the community differently, in a more positive light. Other communities have been reaching out asking for our input and suggestions as they consider their own projects. It is great to see this initiative having such broad impacts and being successful at its goal of visually improving our downtown and fostering community pride.

Streetscape/Public Space Improvement—Canteen District [North Platte]

February of 2018 began the revitalization of Downtown North Platte with the removal of the canopies that were installed in 1972 to give the area a “mall” feel. 10-year old Piper Caldwell commented, “It looks like they picked the buildings up, moved them back, and set them back down!” With a multi-million-dollar infrastructure project in the works, the Downtown Association board of directors got to work formulating a plan for the street above the project. They applied for a Quality Growth Fund Grant that enabled them to purchase two decorative gateway arches into the downtown, festoon lighting, speakers, trees, planters, bike racks, trash receptacles, ash receptacles, flowers and benches. Two board members and their husbands helped place the furniture while the City secured it into place. We also planted trees with the help of another board member. Planter boxes were filled with beautiful flowers and hanging baskets were hung on each of the vintage light poles lining a 2-block stretch. A pocket park complete with a waterfall and seating area was installed nearby and the alleyways were cleaned, painted and had new lights installed. Building owners also helped by installing new awnings and signs on their buildings. Some of the signs were throwbacks to their predecessors while the historic Fox Theater sign was refurbished. Along with the renovation came a rebranding. Our downtown is world-famous for the Canteen that hosted soldiers as they traveled through during WWII. The Canteen brought out the best of the best of North Platte and the surrounding areas to these servicemen and our downtown strives to do the same. We continue to look for ways to improve the area and we are looking forward to continuing the beatification and extending it throughout our entire district.

Streetscape/Public Space Improvement—Wayne’s Art Walk [Wayne]

A goal to increase the quantity and quality of public art in Wayne had been identified by Mayor Cale Giese when he took office in 2018 with the intent to bring additional opportunities for residents and visitors to experience the talents and inspirations of professional artists, while beautifying the community. Thus the Wayne Art Walk was born. Up to 10 artists/exhibits were chosen to provide a work of art that would be displayed for 1-year. At the end of the year, the pieces would be returned to the owner and new sculptures installed so that a perpetual sculpture series would result. The inaugural sculpture walk was installed in May of 2021 and consisted of 9 of the 10 selected sculptures and 1 alternate created by local artists from Wayne and Wayne State College, as well as artists from New Jersey, Iowa, New York, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland, and Missouri. As the variety of sculpture styles and materials were installed, lively conversations regarding art and what constitutes art ensued. Over the summer of 2021, the sculptures provided the backdrop for many photos along Wayne’s Main Street and many visitors traced the Sculpture Walk through downtown Wayne.

Streetscape/Public Space Improvement—Gazebo Park Restoration [Weeping Water]

The Downtown Gazebo and park in Weeping Water had become quite tired over the 20+ years since it had been first donated and landscaped. The mural in the space was beginning to deteriorate. RAWW took on the project of restoring the gazebo and replacing the mural. About 20 volunteers from RAWW and the local garden club worked for more than 300 hours to re-roof and restore the gazebo, clear the landscaping of old bushes and plants and paint over the old mural. They then planted daylilies, coneflower, spring bulbs and other flowers to enhance the landscape. A quartz rock bubbling fountain was installed to replicate the "weeping water" for which the town is named. A new mural which reflected the town's history was designed and installed. Bistro sets dedicated to the memory of Judy Kindle were placed in the gazebo. Grounds around the gazebo were tilled and reseeded. A sprinkler system was also installed to keep the landscape healthy. Rededication ceremony was held in June at Limestone Day with participation by our local commissioner, state legislator and Mayor. The local Boy Scout troop provided the flag replacement ceremony. The renewed gazebo area now attracts citizens of all ages to sit, listen to the water and reflect on the town. RAWW plans to provide family entertainment from local musicians at least two times per month during the warmer months.

Volunteer of the Year—Dana Hydo [Beatrice]

As one of the founding board members of Main Street Beatrice, Dana Hydo has been a shining example of what it means to support Nebraska Main Streets. She has been involved for countless hours as the organization’s treasurer and has served two stints on the board of directors as well as being a continuous member of the design committee since 1996. Dana is retired from Lammel Plumbing and is currently engaged with Gems & Junk thrift shop, both of which are located in the Main Street district. She has been an active advocate for property renovations and improvements to all of our downtown properties working closely with our organization, SHPO, Carnegie Center Inc., and other entities to maintain and encourage pride in our downtown. There is no doubt in our minds that Dana has earned this honor and many more.

Volunteer of the Year—Jamie Anderson [Wayne]

When it comes to organizing a vendor event, Main Street Wayne’s go-to expert is Jamie Anderson. Through her business, WW Galore, a boutique consignment store; she has accumulated an extensive contact list of boutique market vendors and craft artisans. With her personal knowledge of these contacts, we are able to expand our vendor search and customize our vendor invitations for each of our events. Jamie has also helped us to create inviting spaces for the vendors to set up their booths, and faithfully promote the local events. Jamie helped Main Street Wayne create a new fall event in 2021. Coming out of Covid, the Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism group wanted to recreate some of the themed seasonal events of years past. She encouraged other downtown businesses, and more outside the district, to provide a Trick or Treat and/or Harvest activity at their business location. Pop-up vendors were also solicited and paired up with business owners to provide another layer of engagement on the 3rd Saturday in October. A free sponsored movie was shown in the afternoon. The event was subsequently deemed worthy of repeating again in 2022. Jamie also serves as a cheerleader for our Retail, Hospitality Tourism group, attends and sometimes hosts our meetings, and always reminds us to use our community assets-the people-those who create and those who shop our downtown, and helps create a web to connect the business community to whatever event we happen to be organizing.