1953. A gallon of gas goes for 20 cents, polio gets a vaccine, Shane hits the big screen, Eisenhower wins the White House, Michigan takes the College World Series at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium, Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay top Mount Everest, James Bond is born, and Countryside Village–Nebraska’s first planned shopping center–opens for business.
Designed in the long-and-low Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style emphasizing strong-and-sturdy horizontal lines, constructed in steel and cement block with a façade of Texas white stone, and boasting storefronts on all four sides, ten-foot deep sidewalks, a sheltering overhang, free parking at every door, and air-conditioning in all 18 retail bays (coolly unprecedented at the time), the 30,000-square-foot building at 87th and Pacific Streets took 18 months to complete, cost $250,000, and was inaugurated over four days in August: the 26th-29th to be exact.
Festivities included a live telecast on the first night, dancing to Slim Everhart’s full orchestra on another, square dancing on yet another. Over 25,000 guests kicked up their heels, made merry, enjoyed gifts and special bargains in shops that bridged need and desire at multiple price points, and generally witnessed the vision of Larry Myers. Countryside’s trailblazing founder, he saw the future and built a Village predicated on convenience, quality and service–a winning trifecta buttressed by many stores and services in close proximity.
In his own words, from “First Omaha Shopping Center Offers Many Advantages” in the Sunday, June 28th, 1953 edition of the Omaha World-Herald: “Suppose some January morning you make a list of things you have to do: (1) Have Junior’s hair cut. (2) Get a shampoo and wave. (3) Buy sister a sweater and skirt. (4) Buy the family groceries. (5) Look at a fur coat. (6) Get a prescription filled. (7) Pick up a suit at the cleaners. (8) Buy gifts for a wedding. (9) Sundry shopping for candy, jim-cracks, etc. (10) Buy hardware items. (11) Look at draperies. Sounds like a big day and yet all these things are contained within a few steps walking distance at Countryside Village.”
The synchronicity of shops and services paired with quality and convenience was so successful that a matching second building was added in 1955.
While the mix of ingredients might have changed over the last six decades, jim-cracks giving way to caramel macchiatos, the original recipe based on quality, service, convenience, commitment to community and innovation remains unchanged.
In today's world of super-sized stores and mega-malls, Countryside Village stands out as a counterpoint. Cozy and familiar, confident but humble, easy and convenient, and above all unique.
Countryside Village: Omaha’s Original Small Town in the City.