Located at 30th and Corby for a few decades, rip-roaring good times were had at a chicken place that few people remember today. Gambling, informal jazz jams and other good times were found here by Omaha’s Black community and occasionally by the Omaha Police Department. This is a history of Mary’s Chicken Hut.
Opened at 2722 North 30th Street by Charles Jones in the 1930s, Mary’s Chicken Hut was named after his wife. Opened in a house that was 50-years old then, the restaurant featured home-cooked chicken dinners and more. Ten years after it was opened, Jones’ son Robert took over the business and continued running it into the 1950s.
Running ads in the Black-owned newspaper called The Omaha Guide after World War II, the restaurant claimed “Our Chicken Dinners are Something to Crow About.” It was one of dozens of Black-owned restaurants in North Omaha during the era, and one of thousands of Black-owned businesses in Omaha throughout the city’s history.
In what must have been a lively scene for good times and a relief for the community, starting in the 1940s owner Robert Jones regularly held card games, craps, and other gambling at Mary’s. It might have happened before that, but I can’t find any record. There is a trail that started to be left when Mary’s started to be regularly being raided by the Omaha Police Department Morals Squad. This special unit within the department was seen as a racket that used police officers to shake down businesses. Their work was especially focused on businesses in Omaha’s low-income communities, immigrant neighborhoods and in communities of color. Charges against the first owner, Charles Jones, included “keeping a common, ill-guarded house,” while his son Robert Jones was charged with “keeping a disorderly house,” as well as dice, gambling, and prostitution.
During the 1940s and early 1950s, Mary’s was regarded as one of several informal jazz joints for musicians in North Omaha. They’d gather and play into the late hours, celebrating and jamming until then joint closed.
While I can’t find any proof why, Mary’s Chicken Hut closed in the early 1950s. Other chicken places came and went, but none with quite the same reputation as Mary’s, one of North Omaha’s many Black-owned businesses throughout the decades.