A History of Reed’s Ice Cream in Omaha

Reed's Ice Cream bungalow, Omaha, Nebraska

Reed’s Ice Cream was a popular business that opened in Omaha in 1930, and operated into the early 1960s. Their signature bungalows were strategically spread throughout the community, and heavily anchored in several North Omaha neighborhoods.

Reed's Ice Cream, North Omaha, Nebraska

With cones that cost a nickel and malts that cost a dime, Reed’s was affordable during the Great Depression. Eventually operating 63 outlets across Omaha, at its peak the business grossed $2.5 million annually by selling one million gallons of ice cream every year.

With their production facility on North 24th, its obvious to recognize Reed’s as a North Omaha business. But they weren’t for everyone in North O.

Reed's Ice Cream, North 16th and Wirt Streets, North Omaha, Nebraska

Founding A Cold Dynasty


J. D. Reed started manufacturing ice cream in Des Moines in 1901. His son Claud came to Omaha in 1929 when he was 18 years old. He built the first 10 bungalows himself and opened in 1930. He made the ice cream delivered it to his stands and staffed them himself sometimes.

What J. D. Reed created in Des Moines was meant to set himself apart from other ice cream salesmen: prepackaged ice cream, and that wasn’t done before him. It wasn’t popular at first in Omaha, because customers didn’t like the idea of ice cream that wasn’t handpacked. However, once they tried it they liked it – a lot. It took three years for Claud to make a profit in his market, but when he did the money started pouring in.

Reed’s bungalow-style stands were part of the formula for success. They were designed to look like dollhouses with white siding, green trim and lace curtains. Reed’s made their ice cream cones out of tubes of ice cream wrapped in parchment, each a standard size and consistency.

Most of Reed’s first bungalows were in North Omaha, and then spread throughout the city into 53 stands. The ice cream was manufactured in a factory on the northwest corner of North 24th and Wirt Streets.


Reed’s Ice Cream early bungalows included:

  • Military Avenue and Decatur Street
  • North 40th and Cass Streets
  • North 50th and Military Avenue
  • North 36th and Meredith Avenue
  • North 30th and Read Streets
  • North 16th and Wirt Streets
  • North 24th and Browne Avenue
  • North 31st and Cuming Streets

Promoting themselves as making homemade ice cream at their factory, Reed’s suggested they had four “big reasons” their ice cream was best:

  1. It was made in small batches with simple recipes;
  2. They had a large variety with “fancy flavors” to choose from;
  3. Theirs was a unique production process that ensured quality and sanitation, and;
  4. Their ice cream cost the same as “average” ice cream.

In 1933, a gallon of ice cream cost $.55, and a pint cost $.17.

Originally, they only employed women to work in the bungalows. They were advertised as being “very congenial and appreciative of your business.” Reed’s expanded rapidly in the 1930s, quickly spreading throughout North Omaha and beyond. Their business model included shuttering their stores and bungalows through the winter, closing in October and re-opening in April. The plant on North 24th Street stayed open throughout the year though.

Clean conditions and fighting food poisoning was important to Reed’s. An early advertisement proudly proclaimed,

“…Reed’s homemade ice cream carries a double sanitation protection for your health’s sake. Every ounce of Reed’s homemade ice cream and sherbets from cones to pints to quarts is automatically packaged and sealed in air-tight containers by modern machinery as it is made. Impurities cannot enter Reed’s homemade ice cream.”

By 1933, Reed’s advertised a new “commercial grade” ice cream with fewer fresh ingredients but priced more in line with local prices and quality. That same year, prices for quarts at the North 24th Street plant ran cheaper than those at the neighborhood bungalows, which surely drew traffic to their plant.


That same year, they started advertising that they were hiring people to help fight the Great Depression, just as the President had ordered.

They continued to grow even through the Depression and World War II. By 1937, the company was advertising their 43 bungalows – although I can’t find a list of all the locations.

Their advertisements were a large part of their successes. Coming off as part-scientific and part populist, they appealed to indulgence with logic. Routine servings of ice cream were supposedly healthy, while all their processes were air-tight and sanitized for your health. All their ads featured wholesome Americana, including the bungalow workers and workers at the Reed’s ice cream plant. They had impartial laboratory tests and independents scientists, comparison trials and sponsored contests. Reed’s became ubiquitous throughout Omaha.

Reed's Ice Cream, N. 30th and Chicago Streets, North Omaha, Nebraska

Opening the Super Shops

Reed's Ice Cream, North Omaha, Nebraska

By 1940, there were 53 bungalows, with more than half of them open in North Omaha. The Reed’s Ice Cream plant on North 24th Street was packed with workers and constantly busy, too.

Reed’s developed a new store model in the early 1940s. While Omaha’s soldiers were off fighting World War II, their families at home were lining up for the Reed’s Super Shops. The Super Shops were full-service stores that offered complete desserts, including sundaes, malts and splits, as well as packed quarts and other take-home treats. Some of these were unavailable in the bungalows, and going to the Super Shops was a treat.

In 1945, there were eleven North Omaha locations for the Reed’s Super Shops. They included:

  • 841 North Saddle Creek Road
  • 49th and Dodge Streets
  • 1819 Military Avenue
  • 2202 North 16th Street
  • 509 North 18th Street
  • 411 North 30th Street
  • 3106 North 24th Street
  • 3122 Cuming Street
  • 7108 North 30th Street
  • 3610 North 30th Street
  • 3224 California Street

During the same decade, Reed’s became crass in their advertising by writing a daily comic just for kids. Called “The Reedette’s”, the comic featured two kids who constantly craved ice cream, and weren’t satiated until they had a large Reed’s cone in hand. Some adventures took them running through backyards packed with laundry drying in the wind, while others featured them climbing and playing and clamoring for satisfaction.

Reed's Ice Cream, North Omaha, Nebraska

Locations in 1940

After 1935, Claud Reed started franchising his bungalows. Individual owners had stands built on their properties and were responsible for maintaining the building. In 1940, Reed’s Ice Cream bungalows included the following locations, along with their owners.

  1. 2202 North 16th Street (Ruth Maroney)
  2. 3103 North 16th Street (Frances Crandell)
  3. 1527 1/2 North 20th Street (Leona Skaggs)
  4. 409 North 24th Street (Julia Lawless)
  5. 5007 North 24th Street (Vienna Hiserodt)
  6. 411 North 30th Street (Ada S. Clary)
  7. 3810 North 30th Street (Violet McCreary)
  8. 4605 North 30th Street (Adeline Meister)
  9. 7108 North 30th Street (Ethel Swanson)
  10. North 36th and Meredith Avenue
  11. North 40th and Cass Streets
  12. 3122 Cuming Street (Viola Grady)
  13. 4135 Florence Boulevard (Creta Sabine)
  14. 3224 California Street (Martha Coder)
  15. 2602 Ames Avenue (Dollie Rehder)
  16. 4116 Ames Avenue (Jean Mallory)
  17. 4334 Bedford Avenue (Milred Hogan)
  18. 3625 Hamilton Street (Rose Edman)
  19. 1819 Military Avenue (Jeanette Burkman)
  20. 4963 Military Avenue (Lois Crossfield)
  21. 6069 Military Avenue (Neva Moline)
  22. 21 East Locust Street (Mabel Ahlbeck)
  23. 1520 Carter Lake Boulevard (Amelia Geizfred)

Changing Times


By the early 1950s, Reed’s pivoted again. Their advertisements focused on pleasing families and conformity, and Reed’s focused on their popularity and pleasure. By 1950 the bungalows were largely gone, and Reed’s “Shoppes” were new phase. Ice cream was sold in half-gallon boxes, with uniform flavors and consistency at every turn. In August 1956, their featured flavors were black walnut, cherry nut, strawberry and vanilla. Their boxes were “specially made to fit your refrigerator,” and their homey local feeling was disappearing…

At the Reed’s Shoppes, ice cream was also sold as Clown sundaes, banana splits and other delectables that weren’t available in the bungalows or at stores. The chain continued expanding, with new locations further west in North Omaha, and more in other parts of the city, too.

In 1955, Reed’s advertised 11 flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, black walnut, butter brickle, double chocolate almond, butter scotch cluster, peppermint stick, dutch apple, cherry nut and pumpkin. At their peak, Claud Reed estimated the company sold 40% of all ice cream in Omaha from one of Reed’s 63 outlets.

Racism at Reed’s

Picketing at Reed's Ice Cream, North Omaha, Nebraska
African American protesters picketing against Reed’s Ice Cream segregationist practices in 1953.

Reed’s Ice Cream wasn’t for everyone.

Claud Reed and his Reed’s Ice Cream business practiced overt racism in their business. From the day he opened his first stand in 1930, Reed’s segregationist perspective was that African Americans should be allowed to buy the ice cream, but not work for the business. For more than 20 years this was his regular practice.

The segregation was fought by the DePorres Club and The Omaha Star in 1953. With boycotting, regular protests and picketing throughout that year, Reed’s stopped its racist hiring practices and hired one African American in order to stop the protests.


By 1959, Reed’s business was getting squished. Supermarkets were cutting into their business by offering one-stop shopping for all foods, and Reed’s knew they either had to get into the wholesale ice cream business or start selling sandwiches as well as ice cream. Reed’s wasn’t built to last though, and in the early 1960s all their ice cream melted, so to speak.

The business closed that year.

Another company bought their plant at 3106 North 24th Street, and the Reed’s Ice Cream name was gone from Omaha within a year.

DO YOU KNOW MORE NORTH OMAHA LOCATIONS!?! Share them in the comments section below!

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Reed's Ice Cream, North Omaha, Nebraska


  1. Another excellent research/writing job. You probably know about this one, but there was a Reed’s bungalow on the east side of 30th street, about Manderson or Fowler.

    Galen Lillethorup


    1. Well-done article, Adam. It’s unfortunate Reeds had racist policies, though they were probably no different than many other businesses during that era. My memories of Reeds are very fond. Our local Reed’s Stand was at 4334 Bedford, which was in walking distance from home. However, my fondest memory was of the factory. In the 1940s (before we had TV) the family’s Sunday night entertainment to cool off in the summer was to drive to the airport, then park and watch planes take off and land. I loved airplanes, and still do. On the way home, we stopped at the Reed’s factory on North 24 St. and all of us got sundaes. My mother got a chocolate pecan sundae that always looked the best to me, but it only had two dips instead of the three dips for all other sundaes. So I never got one. Now I have ice cream at home often, and chocolate ice cream with chocolate topping and pecans is my favorite.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing that Tom – you have some -sweet- memories. About the racism, it was a reality a lot of places, but of course that doesn’t make it okay, either now or then. Omaha has a saccharine perspective of its history, and frequently, I’m trying to tell the rest of the story. Glad you read it though, and I’m glad you shared your piece!


  2. In 1957-58 I worked for reeds at their forty eighth and ames (or there abouts) location. It was a stand alone walk in store. The featured item was a whirli whip cone. The machine I think was invented by Mr reed I was told. It was a large machine with a handle on the side that you had to pull down to whip and whirl the ice cream into a cone. The ice cream was wrapped in to the paper wrapped cylinders that came in long logs and you needed to cut them to the length you needed. It was a great consept.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A Reeds Ice cream Parlor was located at Countryside Village during the late 50’s. It was always packed with students who would walk across Pacific Street from Westside High School to have a malt or cone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We frequented the 21st and East Locust location in the later 40’s. The manager was Mrs Ackley. We became very fond of her and missed her when she was transfered to a location in town. I don’t remember the address but think it was somewhere on north 30th. The shop had living quarters in the back where Mrs Ackley and her daughter lived. I think a Reed family member named Claudia went to North High.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for that Donald. All of the small Reed’s bungalows were in front yards of private homes, and many of the shops were add-ons to existing homes. Sounds like your knowledge shows that!


    2. I remember the one on 21 Locust Ardeh Doors who had a small stand on 21 street she had built herself and sold Candy s pop to people on they way to the airport before Abbot Dr came along . she also sold fish bate and art stuff she made by hand braided rugs not sewed to gather but braided that seemed to last for ever . I still have one . any ways she bought one of the old reeds building and had it moved to her yard close to 21 & Ave k . the building and her home That she also built was tore down along with rest of old East Omaha 1976-77 Ron potter

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reeds was owned by my father in the 50’s on south 39th St. Just south of I St.
    After Reeds was no longer a Reeds bungalow it was turned into a house and still stands. my older sister worked in the busniss. It was built on a empty lot two houses Down from where My family lived when I was a little girl. My fathers name is Edward Wees.


  6. I grew up on 4308 Bedford Ave, and spent many a summer (day and night) at the Reed’s stand on Bedford. Mom and my brother and I frequently went to the Reed “plant” and luxuriated in their “Clown Sundae”


  7. You left out reeds partner who hsndled the business end of reefs ice cream Christian f Becker.he was the partner who helped finance and develop the business end of reeds ice cream. If you need back up verification I have the photos and paperwork to prove it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary, thank you for calling attention to my grandfather C.F. Becker. I grew up in the house he built in Iowa Falls, Ia and he owned a cigar news store there prior to his move to Omaha to partner with Claude Reed. I stayed at his home in Omaha each summer and loved going to the plant and getting ‘free’ ice cream. My cousin Milton worked there in the summers. I would appreciate any info and pict you have about him as parents are deceased..


      1. Shirley, My grandmother was a “Milliner (sp) and worked at ” The Aquila” I can remember the name Harms, as being my grandmother Ethyl Knudtson’s close friend. Is there any connection?


    2. Christian Becker was my grandfather. His daughter (1 of 4 children) was my mother and her name was Lucille. I stayed with him in the summers for a couple of weeks and went to the plant and got free ice cream which I was thrilled with. My cousin Milton worked there when he was in school and we communicate and he is in California.


  8. In the late 1950’s my family lived on the east side of 30th street about three blocks north of Dodge. I was in grade school at that time. I remember going to the Reed’s at 411 N 30th to get huge banana splits. The place was run by a man we called Sarge and his wife. I think he as in the Air Force working out of Offutt AFB. I think Sarge and his wife lived behind the shop.


  9. Does anyone know which location the tudor-style stucco Reed’s was? I recognize the building, but I can’t quite place it in my mind. If it was torn down, do you happen to know around when?


  10. The Tudor-style Reed’s bungalow was at 411 North 30th Street, right on the corner of Charles. The building stood into the 1980s, when it was torn down to make way for a parking lot for St. Joe’s. The parking lot is still there.


  11. Christian Becker was my grandfather. His daughter (1 of 4 children) was my mother and her name was Lucille. I stayed with him in the summers for a couple of weeks and went to the plant and got free ice cream which I was thrilled with. My cousin Milton worked there when he was in school and we communicate and he is in California.
    This is my 2nd email to you and I’m hoping you will reply with any info you have about my grandfather.


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