There is a long history of Jews in North Omaha extending back to the 1880s and earlier. By the 1920s, North 24th Street was a long-established stronghold of Jewish businesses, including the Mayfield Deli, Glass’s Butcher Shop, Hornstein’s Grocery, Epstein’s BBQ, and Forbes Bakery. From the 1925 through 1968, one bakery was a constant by a few names. This is a history of the Forbes Bakery, Ak-Sar-Ben Bakery, and Royal Bakery in North Omaha.
Opening Up in Omaha
Morris Forbes came to Omaha first and bought the E&H Bakery at North 24th and Clark, renaming it the Adler & Forbes Bakery because he ran it with two cousins. The E&H Bakery opened in the 1880s at 24th and Clark. Later it became the Adler Bakery and operated in that spot until the 1970s.
In 1920, Isadore Forbes (1894-1975) brought his family to Omaha. He was married to Gertrude or Gittle (1893-1989), and their children included Herbert Forbes (1917-1991); Irving Forbes (1920-2008); Marshall Forbes; Annette Merlis (1925-2020). First living with their parents and extended family at 2121 Burdette Street, eventually Isadore Forbes moved his family to 2565 Emmet Street.
Built in 1924 for $12,000, the building at 2711 North 24th Street became the Forbes Bakery in 1925. Forbes specialized in every hot bakery item. Their ads regularly included cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, danish rolls, and fresh bread. Breads at the bakery included New York pumpernickel, milk crust bread, Polly Parrot sandwich loafs, and whole wheat bread.
In addition to running their business, the Forbes family was involved throughout the community too. Gertrude was a leader of the Omaha Pioneer Women, an active Jewish group that held events throughout the decades.
The Great Depression
There was a fire in the bakery on February 1, 1931. Partially destroying the structure, the Forbes family extensively remodeled it and reopened less than six weeks later. That same year, Isadore formed the Forbes Bakery as a corporation with Morris Forbes.
Hit by the Great Depression, the Forbes Bakery corporation declared bankruptcy in 1933, but was restructured by Isadore and Jacob as F. & F. Bakery, a retail bakery and store, and kept going. That year, the bakery was struck by the increases in rye and pumpernickel bread that hit the city. Price became unbearable on the Jewish community, skyrocketing from 8-cents a loaf to 10-cents.
Renamed the Ak-Sar-Ben Bakery, the business ran there until 1939. The year before it closed, there was a short strike by the company’s delivery drivers over the wage scale at the business. Five drivers idled for half their shifts, and then a walkout was declared. However, it let up when union officials struck a deal with management. The drivers went back to work. There was also a call for an involuntary bankruptcy in 1938 by vendors to the business; however, its unclear the call affected the bakery.
The Forbes Bakery building was sold in May 1939. Soon after, Isadore opened the Forbes Bakery and Grocery Store at 1509-11 North 24th Street.
In 1941, Isadore Forbes bought the former Himelbloom Bakery, also called the Royal Bakery at 1511 North 24th Street. The business stayed there through 1952.
Moving Away from 24th
After trying a location at 3812 Farnam Street in 1950, in 1952, Isadore Forbes and his two oldest Sons Herbert and Irving Forbes opened a new bakery and deli in Dundee as family business partners. Using the family name again, Forbes Bakery and Deli was located at North 50th and Underwood (4920 Underwood Avenue). They also had a location at 224 South 24th Street that closed in 1957. The Dundee location closed in 1968.
Isadore and Gertrude are buried at Fisher Farm Cemetery in Bellevue. After serving as a nightclub, social hall, boxing club and mechanics garage, the Forbes Bakery building at 2711 North 24th Street has stood vacant for several years. Because of its relevance to Omaha’s African American community, the building was designated as an official Omaha Landmark in 2018.
- Forbes Bakery and Grocery Store, 1509-11 North 24th Street
- Forbes Bakery / F. & F. Bakery / Ak-Sar-Ben Bakery, 2711 North 24th Street (1925-1938)
- Royal Bakery, 1511 North 24th Street (1941-1952)
- Forbes Bakery and Delicatessen, 4920 Underwood Avenue (1952-1968)
- Forbes Bakery, 224 South 24th Street
- Adler & Forbes Bakery, 1722 North 24th Street
A special thanks to Marshall Forbes for his prompting me to research and write this article, and his contributions of research and personal history. Thanks Marshall!
Thanks to Bruce Forbes for his corrections to the article.
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