Lani Bresler and Robin Nielsen met when both wanted to open businesses in the same space on the same block in downtown Springfield.
Yes, Springfield has had a run on downtown spaces, with five new businesses opening in a three-month span.
Bresler was interested in moving into a former yoga studio up the street because the space was modern, with good light for her photography business, Allure Photographic Studio. She preferred it over her old space, a quaint storefront with a painted facade. Plus, the newly available spot was just next door to the coffee shop her husband was planning to open.
But Robin Nielsen had her eye on the same space for a new Pinterest-inspired store — Robin's Nest — that would sell refurbished furniture, antiques, yard decor and other gifts.
The landlord recommended Bresler get in touch with Nielsen and propose a sort of trade. Nielsen could have Bresler's old space, and Bresler would take over the modern studio, which she would share with her best friend, Tammy Muecke, who runs Tammy Muecke Photography.
“It was almost like it was meant to be,” Bresler said.
Nielsen's interest in gardening drew her to Bresler's old spot, which had a backyard. So Nielsen moved into the storefront, painting the facade her signature robin's egg blue, and Bresler and Muecke took over the spot next door to Bresler's Coffee House, a new establishment in downtown Springfield.
The exchange marked a fresh start for downtown Springfield and formed an instant community of newcomers. The town will celebrate the grand opening of the five new businesses this afternoon, all on Main Street: Robin's Nest, Allure Photographic Studio, Tammy Muecke Photography, Bresler's Coffee House and a new Irish bar, Garvey's Pub.
“Robin and I have really kicked off a good friendship,” Bresler said, adding that her husband, John Bresler, and the owner of Garvey's Pub, Larry Garvey, have also become fast friends.
“I bought some new booths for my bar and was loading them in by myself and, within five minutes, I had people out here helping me,” Garvey said.
The businesses' Facebook pages often encourage customers to go check out their neighbors' stores. Nielsen was touting Bresler's Cuban coffee one day. And Bresler said she now finds herself sending Nielsen photos of junk with potential she sees when out and about.
The friendships are not exclusive to new businesses, either. The new shops on Main Street also encourage customers to visit the old-fashioned soda fountain inside Springfield Drug. Bresler even persuaded her neighbor, Margie Trembley, who owns Springfield Artworks with her husband, Glenn, to try out for Omaha Fashion Week, which Bresler has photographed.
The Trembleys' studio features glass art, Glenn's focus, and wearable art, including silk and wool hats and scarves made by Margie. Trembley will be a featured designer in the show this year.
“It's great having businesses that complement each other,” Margie Trembley said, adding that she didn't think the coordination and support would be as likely to come about in a large city.
For most of the new businesses, it was a combination of price, the right space and the charm of a small town that drew them to Springfield's Main Street. Also on Main Street are Hazy's Bar and Grill, Corky's Workshop, which sells antiques, and Liebentritt Family Dentistry.
Larry Garvey lives in Millard. The Breslers, the Trembleys and Tammy Muecke live in Omaha, and Nielsen lives in Papillion. The Breslers plan to move to Springfield in about two years, after their son graduates from high school in Omaha.
“It's very much a community feeling here, very close-knit,” Garvey said. “That, location, the size of the bar available for sale — all of those played a big part in wanting to come here.”
Adding to the charm of Springfield is a recently refurbished downtown streetscape, including new stamped concrete, curb bump-outs at the intersections on Main Street, a new water main, new lighting, service lines and gutters. Mayor Mike Dill said the second phase of the project will include a public space at the corner of Second and Main Streets, which will feature concrete bleacher seating, more parking in front of the lot and new sidewalks.
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Dill said the goal is to create a community space that can be used for live music, movie showings and maybe even a basketball tournament. The second phase should be completed by late July, Dill said. Both phases of the project cost about $460,000 and will be paid for with a city bond.
“Our thoughts were that if we fix the town up and make the business district appealing, that businesses will come,” Dill said.
And come they did. Robin's Nest opened April 3. Bresler's Coffee House opened about two weeks ago, Bresler said, and she moved her photo studio down the street in February. Garvey's Pub also opened in February.
Wendy Richey, president of the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber previously has had grand opening events for two businesses at once, but not five. She said Springfield lost three businesses last year in the downtown, including a pizza parlor and the bar that Garvey's is now occupying.
To see five new businesses come in is “good for any city,” Richey said, but it's a lot for Springfield.
“Now that they've got a few new stores, a place to eat, a place to drink, it's really kind of making (Springfield) a destination,” she said.
Bresler said the mayor has been more than helpful, and the town has embraced the influx of new businesses.
“I think it's what's making it so much better — that we've all connected. We're all here for each other.”
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