Ames Avenue businesses say area overlooked in Omaha development plans

‘We always get left behind’: More closed and boarded-up storefronts than new businesses working to open up along the north Omaha street.
North Omaha business owners along Ames Aveune from 30th to 72nd streets feel ignored when it comes to business development in their area.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 8:57 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Some business owners in an area of north Omaha believe they were skipped over when millions of dollars in federal funds were made available to help maintain and grow business in the underserved area.

When there’s talk of business development in north Omaha, 24th Street is almost always the focus.

But business owners along Ames Avenue from 30th to 72nd streets feel ignored when it comes to business development in their area.

Dawawn Robinson sells clothing for men women and children. He said one of the problems he sees is getting customers to drive by some of the larger stores and shop the smaller shops.

“It’s not a game,” he said. “Customers feeling more comfortable with, working with, small businesses that is not known — they’re used to going to the big name places that already know to be here. So it’s harder for a small business to be established.”

Right now, there are more closed storefronts and boarded-up buildings than new businesses working to open up on Ames Avenue.

They’ve been cutting hair at Don’s Barbershop for 15 years. They believe things have to change.

“It’s differently being ignored. We need a lot of improvements around here.”

Jay Overton and his mother own Southern Spoon Restaurant near 40th Street and Ames Avenue. They’ve been here for about a year. Overton said it was tough to get started.

“We really don’t get any actual economic assistance when it comes to different actual funding that comes through the state, federal level — different things like that — even though this is considered a federal blighted area,” he said. “And it’s disturbing, to be honest with you.”

Overton said north Omaha doesn’t have an entertainment district like Benson, Blackstone, or the Capitol District, but Ames Avenue carries a lot of traffic a long way.

“This is a fruitful corridor with all the things that are going on here,” he said. “As far as traffic being able to actually head west from here, there’s a lot of things that need to happen here. But we always get left behind.”

Overton said when federal funds were made available for north Omaha, Ames Avenue was left off the list. But he said he did get some help from the Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

“(The Chamber) actually assisted us in trying to get a loan through the Nebraska Enterprise Zone, but when that grant money came out — with the Omaha economic development stuff, and everything they were doing down in this area — they didn’t give us any money,” he said.

Overton wants to get the small business owners along Ames Avenue to work together to get attention and find funds to grow business there.

“I think we could actually go ahead and do better by, you know, working together,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with a couple of other actual businesses in this area and actually go ahead to form a coalition. ... At some point, I would like to sit down and say, ‘Hey what we can we do to come to them as a collective group and say we need those funds?’”

Omaha city officials told 6 News there was a coalition in the early 2000s to pair Benson and Ames Avenue for development, but for some reason that coalition fell apart.