As a segregated community, the Near North Side neighborhood of Omaha was denied many of the conveniences given to white-only neighborhoods throughout the city. When a five-and-dime store opened by North 24th and Patrick Avenue, people took note. This is a history of the 9 Center Variety Store in North Omaha from 1938 to 1947.
In July 1938, the first variety store in the Near North Side neighborhood opened at 2035-37 North 24th Street in the Ritz Theater building and was called the 9 Center. From the day it opened, the store was renowned for hiring Black clerks. The first manager of the store was quoted saying, “I am well pleased with my Negro clerks and can see no difference in them to the white clerks.” At the time, he had one white clerk and three Black clerks. The Omaha Star sang the praises of the store when it opened too, writing “Let us as a group stand by the firm who believes in fair play and stands on the square when it comes to proportional employment. That is imperative if we ever hope to climb the ladder of economic prosperity, if we ever hope to place our youth in other stores on Twenty-fourth street… Make your dollar count by spending it where you can realize a return.”
The store was noted for hiring African American workers, which other department stores and clothing stores along North 24th and in downtown Omaha would not. Defacto segregation was strict in Omaha, and Jim Crow prevented Black people from working in many places that would gladly profit off of them. Announcing Spiegal’s 1943 purchase of the store and his retaining the African American workers there, the Omaha Guide extorted readers, “Why go downtown? Spend your money where you can work.”
The store was bought by a Jewish businessman, Richard H. Spiegal (1909-2005) and his wife, Bertha (1911-2000) in 1943, and closed soon after. After serving in World War II from 1943 to 1945, Spiegal reopened the store in 1945 after the war ended, moving north to 2522 North 24th Street. There, Speigal also owned the Ideal Furniture Store next door.
Spiegal ran a closeout sale in December 1946, and closed the store permanently in January 1947. He used the location and remaining inventory in his new store at the same location called Ideal Hardware. It stayed in business through 1968.
The Ritz Theater building housing the first location of the 9 Center Store was demolished in the 1970s.
Today, the building housing the second location still stands on the southwest corner of North 24th and Ohio Streets with a beautiful mural celebrating Black history on the side.
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MY ARTICLES ABOUT THE HISTORY OF OMAHA’S NEAR NORTH SIDE
GROUPS: Black People | Jews and African Americans | Jews | Hungarians | Scandinavians | Chinese | Italians
EVENTS: Redlining | North Omaha Riots | Stone Soul Picnic | Native Omaha Days Festival
BUSINESSES: Club Harlem | Dreamland Ballroom | Omaha Star Office | 2621 North 16th Street | Calhoun Hotel | Warden Hotel | Willis Hotel | Broadview Hotel | Carter’s Cafe | Live Wire Cafe | Fair Deal Cafe | Metoyer’s BBQ | Skeet’s | Storz Brewery | 24th Street Dairy Queen | 1324 N. 24th St. | Ritz Theater | Alhambra Theater | 2410 Lake Street | Carver Savings and Loan Association | Blue Lion Center | 9 Center Variety Store
CHURCHES: St. John’s AME Church | Zion Baptist Church | Mt. Moriah Baptist Church | St. Philip Episcopal Church | St. Benedict Catholic Parish | Holy Family Catholic Church | Bethel AME Church | Cleaves Temple CME Church
HOMES: A History of | Logan Fontenelle Housing Projects | The Sherman | The Climmie | Ernie Chambers Court aka Strelow Apartments | Hillcrest Mansion | Governor Saunders Mansion | Memmen Apartments
SCHOOLS: Kellom | Lake | Long | Cass Street | Izard Street | Dodge Street
ORGANIZATIONS: Red Dot Athletic Club | Omaha Colored Baseball League | Omaha Rockets | YMCA | Midwest Athletic Club | Charles Street Bicycle Park | DePorres Club | NWCA | Elks Hall and Iroquois Lodge 92 | American Legion Post #30 | Bryant Resource Center | People’s Hospital | Bryant Center
NEIGHBORHOODS: Long School | Logan Fontenelle Projects | Kellom Heights | Conestoga | 24th and Lake | 20th and Lake | Charles Street Projects
INDIVIDUALS: Edwin Overall | Rev. Russel Taylor | Rev. Anna R. Woodbey | Rev. Dr. John Albert Williams | Rev. John Adams, Sr. | Dr. William W. Peebles | Dr. Craig Morris | Dr. John A. Singleton, DDS | Dr. Aaron M. McMillan | Mildred Brown | Dr. Marguerita Washington | Eugene Skinner | Dr. Matthew O. Ricketts | Helen Mahammitt | Cathy Hughes | Florentine Pinkston | Amos P. Scruggs | Nathaniel Hunter | Bertha Calloway
OTHER: 26th and Lake Streetcar Shop | Webster Telephone Exchange Building | Kellom Pool | Circus Grounds | Ak-Sar-Ben Den