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New redevelopment, nostalgic ice cream parlor enhance North Omaha Juneteenth celebration

Parade-goers will see some new sights on historic North 24th Street
Don McPherson
Posted at 2:24 PM, Jun 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-18 15:24:21-04

Don McPherson’s apparel store in a few weeks will be back on its familiar corner on Omaha’s historic North 24th Street.

And when the doors of Styles of Evolution reopen, patrons will see a totally revamped and jazzy space, a storefront that’s part of a resurgence taking place along a corridor long viewed as the soul of the city’s Black community.

The bay’s makeover is part of a larger project called Fabric, a redevelopment effort led by North Omaha native Manne Cook whose team recently bought a roughly 9,000-square-foot retail strip to update and nudge growth of Black-owned entrepreneurs and artists.

Though still a work in progress, the updated property of about five bays and a few upper-level apartments will be bustling with activity Saturday for its first Juneteenth celebration as Fabric.

Marks end of slavery

The traditional local Freedom Day parade that marks the end of slavery in the U.S. will march by the renovated space, giving participants from across the city a peek at new tenants such as Stable Gray marketing and branding and Fabric community development lab.

Styles of Evolution is in a temporary space until its neighboring spot is done. North End Teleservices’ satellite office, also part of the Fabric property, will be transformed to a pop-up nostalgic soda fountain on Saturday, giving away free ice cream and drinks.

There's still a lot of work to be done, but this is a time to take a moment and celebrate how far we've come – Manne Cook, Fabric LLC

“It’s all connected,” Cook, an urban planner, said of his work and the Juneteenth observance. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but this is a time to take a moment and celebrate how far we’ve come.”

Community leader Preston Love Jr., who regales groups with stories about local history, stopped his North Omaha Legacy Tours van along the corridor on Friday to chat with merchants.

His tour spiel touches on the community’s past, which he describes as “checkered with good, bad and ugly.” He also talks about the present, and says the future looks more positive than in a long while.

‘We’re coming back’

“As I go from shop to shop, I can say, ‘We’re coming back,’ ” said Love, who also teaches in the Black Studies Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Carmen Tapio, chief executive of North End Teleservices, the state’s largest Black-owned business, said her company’s free, one-day creamery is a tribute to the neighborhood.

“North Omaha has a rich history that we want to honor, reflect upon and help bring back to its vitality,” she said.

Frozen treats and beverages will be offered at the storefront, 2516 N. 24th St., from the parade start at 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Volunteers on Friday were decorating the space with vintage vinyl records, a juke box and other 1950s decor.

Tapio, also founder of Nebraska Black Women United, said Juneteenth is about progress that includes legislation making the Juneteenth anniversary of June 19,1865, a new federal holiday.

The day marks when Union troops delivered news to enslaved people in Texas that the Civil War had ended and that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

“It is when we look back to revisit the past, and we look forward with hope,” said Tapio. “It is when we know we must not just be better as a human race. We must do our very best as one humanity.”

Planned multimillion-dollar headquarters

McPherson, whose Styles of Evolution has been in the neighborhood for 16 years, said he is looking forward to new growth. That includes North End Teleservices’ planned new headquarters across the street from his and other Fabric property shops.

Last year, Tapio announced the multi-million dollar economic development project northeast of 24th and Lake Streets. The venture, whose details are still being refined, is to feature other mixed uses, including affordable housing.

Cook, who is also involved with Spark CDI, a nonprofit devoted to transforming neighborhoods, said his team has more development planned for the area where he grew up.

The Fabric property is on the south end of the new North Omaha Trail, and Cook hopes that opens up the area to more activity.

It’s a movement McPherson, whose store sells unique brands and promotes Black designers, likes to see.

He looks forward to the annual Juneteenth festivities as a means to remind young people about the struggles that allowed them the freedom to attain their goals.

It’s an appreciation, he said, that he understands as well.

Said McPherson: “Now I have a retail store of my own and am able to say to the kids, ‘You can be like me and better.’ ”

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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