A Biography of North Omaha’s Max I. Walker

1923 Max I Walker advertisement, Omaha, Nebraska

More than a century ago, an iconic Omaha business got its start in the Saratoga neighborhood of North Omaha. This is a history of Max I. Walker Dry Cleaners.

In 1917, Max I. Walker (1888-1982) and his wife Myrtle received a dry cleaning operation at 2410 Ames Avenue in return for a delinquent debt. Learning the business as they opened their new shop, Max and Myrtle ran the store successfully for more than a decade. Buying their own commercial grade cleaning machine, they expanded quickly and began taking more space in the building. Constructed 20 years earlier, their neighbors included a hardware store and Lane Drug, the longtime corner occupant.

Max I Walker Dry Cleaners, 2410 Ames Ave, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the original location of Max I. Walker Dry Cleaners in the Saratoga neighborhood of North Omaha. The building was demolished in the early 2000s. Image from the author’s collection.

Living at 2748 Redick Avenue, the Walker family was in the firmly middle class Minne Lusa neighborhood, and the Walkers stayed loyal to the community for decades.

In 1929, the Great Depression struck and the business was hobbled. However, the Walkers kept it running successfully throughout the next decade. Bringing their family into the business, eventually their two sons joined in and they expanded operations. Their second store was located on the southwest corner of the intersection of North 16th and Locust Streets, and it stayed open into the 1980s.

Max I. Walker, N. 16th and Locust Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the second location of Max I. Walker Dry Cleaners at the intersection of N. 16th and Locust Streets in North Omaha. The store closed in the 1970s and the building was demolished in 2015. Image courtesy of the Durham Museum.

The vast majority of Max I. Walker’s business originally came from individual shoppers cleaning their clothes. Soon after their drapery section was opened, that earned good returns. Eventually taking commercial business from car dealers, restaurants, electricians, plumbers, and other professional uniform wearers, soon that comprised a significant part of the business. By the 1970s, the country was “going casual” in a lot of business environments and dry cleaners became less relevant. With more than 45 Max I. Walker cleaners in the region, the company kept growing in many ways.

The store at 2410 Ames Avenue was closed after rioting that happened at the intersection in 1969, and in 1971 the building was condemned. It was demolished in the 2000s. The store at 16th and Locust closed in the 1970s and was demolished in the 2010s.

Today, Max I. Walker Cleaners continues operating across Omaha, with few stores north of Dodge and east of 72nd Street. There is no historic marker, plaque, or designation of the site at 24th and Ames declaring its relevance.

Historic North Omaha Max I. Walker Cleaners Locations

  • 2410 Ames Avenue (1917-1969)
  • 4122 Florence Boulevard (1951-1980)
  • 2826 North 16th Street (19??-1979)
  • 7102 North 30th Street (1950-1976)
  • 4420 North 60th Street (19??-1987)
  • 3002 Hamilton Street (1952-1989)
  • 4602 Cuming Street (1956-present)
  • 5908 Maple Street (19??-present)

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online

BONUS!

This is a picture of the building at North 24th and Ames. Richard Orr took it in the 1950s to highlight the streetcar. Behind that, you can see the Druid Hall, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places; a cleaners; the Star Liquor Store; and LaRue's Barbershop. Johnson's was a Rexall Drug Store.
This is a picture of the building at North 24th and Ames. Richard Orr took it in the 1950s to highlight the streetcar. Behind that, you can see the Druid Hall, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places; Max I. Walker Cleaners; the Star Liquor Store; and LaRue’s Barbershop. Johnson’s was a Rexall Drug Store.

One thought on “A Biography of North Omaha’s Max I. Walker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s