In 1918, a new storefront was built on the northeast corner of North 30th and Laurel Avenue. For more than 30 years, the neighborhoods surrounding the intersection had been growing up, including the Acadia neighborhood, Miller Park and Belevedre Point. Fort Omaha had been across the street for more than 50 years, too. So it makes sense that little storefront has hosted a series of useful businesses, including Jacobberger Groceries, Checkerboard Grocery Store, Red and White Store, Craddock’s Bicycle Shop, and the Miller Park Animal Clinic.
A permit was issued to build the 1,100 square foot building in early 1918. By July of that year, William Jacobberger was running a grocery store there. Jacobberger got his start in Council Bluffs before moving to North Omaha, where he belonged to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and was active throughout the community.
By 1925 the store was for sale, and within the year it became the Sorenson Brothers Grocery. Within a few years, Elmer R. Sorenson was trying out a few different chains, using both the Checkerboard Store brand and the Red and White Store at the address. As of 1931, his brother was no longer involved.
As vice-president of the Checkerboard chain in Omaha, Elmer Sorenson was connected with more than 20 other stores in the city. He and his family lived at 3019 Belvedere Boulevard. In 1938, Sorenson was installed as a director of the “Rome of Red and White Stores” of Omaha and the vicinity. The organization represented more than 200 store owners. Labelled a “prominent grocery man” in Omaha, the Omaha World-Herald frequently reported on his activities. However, they didn’t cover him going out of business or closing the store down, but that happened at some point after 1950.
The building went for sale in November 1954. Advertised as a 24’x50′ building, the ad said it had one large room, a full cement basement, toilet and drain, and a big glass front. It was vacant when it went for sale by the Amos Grant Company.
The Ralph Craddock Bicycle Shop was located at 5901 North 30th Street between 1955 and 1965. However, it had a much longer history. Started in South Omaha in 1920, it moved to Capitol Avenue in the 1930s. Harland Ludwick owned the shop when it moved to 30th and Laurel in the early 1955, and kept it open until 1974. That year, the building was sold to a young African American veterinarian.
Dr. William Cornell Lofton opened the Miller Park Animal Clinic in 1975. While the surrounding neighborhoods were transitioning with more African Americans moving in, Dr. Lofton offered a gentle, non-assuming service that made people feel at home and relaxed with their pets’ health.
Dr. Lofton grew up in rural Kentucky with a love of animals, especially small ones. After graduating from Kent State University in Ohio, he went to vet school at the Tuskgee Institute in Alabama. In the 1960s, he was drafted by the US Army to serve during the Vietnam War. However, they sent him to Fort Omaha to work as a food inspector. Retiring as a captain, he opened his clinic at 30th and Laurel afterwards.
My family went to Dr. Lofton for a cacophony of pets. My younger sisters had fish, guinea pigs and rabbits, while the family dog and cats went to Dr. Lofton repeatedly for all kinds of services. Dr. Lofton was also on the board for the Umoja District for Boy Scouts of America when I earned my Eagle Scout award in Troop 508. I owe a debt of gratitude to him for guiding me on my path to success.
In 1993, he was presented the Edward Danner Award for Community Service by the Urban League of Nebraska. He was also a member of the long-standing Friendly 16 Club, a social group that existed for 40 years starting in 1934.
Not everyone knew the building was a veterinarian office. Dr. Lofton never posted a sign on the exterior of the building, and with the front windows long covered up it was nearly impossible to discern what was going on in there. However, once you gained access most folks knew they were in the right place.
Dr. Lofton passed away in November 2015, and with him the business closed. Since then the building has apparently been vacant, and after a recent accident where a car wrecked into it the building was condemned by the City of Omaha.
We don’t know what the future of this address is, but now we know the past. Stay tuned and I’ll update the space with what I find out.
You Might Like…
- A History of the Miller Park Neighborhood
- A History of Miller Park in North Omaha
- A History of the Belvedere Point Neighborhood
- “North Omaha vet William C. Lofton could put pet owners at ease” by Roger Buddenberg for the Omaha World-Herald on November 5, 2015.
- “Dr William C. Lofton,” FindAGrave.com