From the late 19th century through the 1970s, every neighborhood in North Omaha had its own little corner stores, taverns, drug stores and more. When corporatization and white flight swept through almost all of these businesses disappeared. There are still a lot of buildings left in the community that once housed these businesses though. This is a history of the Manderson Inn.
The original commercial structure at 3724 North 16th Street was built on the edge of the Kountze Place neighborhood in a working class section bordering the upscale houses nearby. The building has two sections today, an original building and a large addition. The original building was constructed in 1915, and includes approximately 4,500 square feet of space between the basement, first and second floors. There were originally six rooms on the second floor, including a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedrooms.. An addition with approximately 2,000 square feet was added in 1987.
Located on the southwest corner of North 16th and Manderson Streets, this building has had three primary purposes throughout its existence: Grocery store, garage and tavern.
Its first job was as a grocery store in a new neighborhood, opened as the Burstein-Runierman Grocery Store in the 1910s. Remaining in that line of business for a decade, it switched purposes during the Roaring ’20s. That’s when it became the Manderson Garage, a six-stall shop for cars to get fixed. Brothers Sigel (Jack) and William Lovelady ran the business for into the 1930s, advertising that they rebuilt engines, charged batteries, and more. The business became a victim of the Great Depression and closed permanently in 1931.
The Manderson Inn was opened as a working class tavern for locals to come in after a long day and just relax with a beer and friends. Opened in 1937, the bar belonged to husband-wife team Tom Vukelic (1891-1956) and Vera Vukelic (1908-1992). When Tom bought the building he immediately altered the building for its new use, and they named it the Manderson Inn after the street it was located on.
For the entire time they owned the Manderson Inn, the Vukelics lived on the second story of the building. In that space, they raised three kids: John Nistor, Eleanor (Nistor) Phipps, Elizabeth Nistor, and Ann (Nistor) Cafaro. In 1947, their daughter Elizabeth was crowned the “Cookie Queen” of Omaha in an Elmwood Park ceremony with 2,500 attendees after she sold 156 boxes of cookies, the most Girl Scout cookies sold by one girl in the area.
In 1950, the Vukelics were charged with selling alcohol to minors. Vera continued to operate the bar after Tom died in 1956. He was buried at Forest Lawn.
In 1962, Vera Vukelic sold the tavern to Leo McDermott and Ken Tolliver. They incorporated it for $20,000 and continued to run the business. Similar to its previous owners, McDermott lived above the bar. The bar had several robberies from then onward though, and closed permanently in 1968.
Since then the building has hosted several businesses. When it was for sale in 1970, it cost $12,000. The building was home to Airway Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. in the 1980s. Most recently, it was home to the NP Griffith Company, a manufacturer of parts for musical instruments.
The building stands today. It is not recognized for its historical contributions to the neighborhood or seen as a historical asset by the Omaha Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission. There is no sign of commercial activity there, either.