Obama’s visit brings great business to Aksarben

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KIMBERLY BAILEY/THE GATEWAY
KIMBERLY BAILEY/THE GATEWAY

By Bryan Rutan
CONTRIBUTOR

President Obama’s speech last Wednesday at Baxter Arena was a historic event for the city of Omaha, and a boom for business for many of the establishments in Aksarben Village.

Considering Aksarben’s Village’s proximity to Baxter, it’s no surprise major events held at the arena meant increased traffic for many of the businesses there. Though the arena has only been open for a few short months, many of the restaurants in the vicinity have developed strategies for how to handle the increased traffic flow from arena patrons.

Megan Blair of DJ’s Dugout said they anticipated roughly the same amount of traffic they would typically see for a Maverick’s hockey game and opted to use that experience to their advantage.

Blair said they took extra care to staff well for the day, and increased food and beverage orders from vendors.

“We made sure we had plenty available for everyone coming in,” Blair said.

Upwards of 11,000 people flocked to the newly christened arena for the opportunity to hear the president speak. The line to get into the arena began forming hours before the doors opened on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

This meant a lot of hungry folks waiting to witness history. DJ’s Dugout opened their doors at 11 a.m., and accord-ing to Blair the bar and grill was busy immediately.

Pickleman’s Gourmet Café manager Cassandra Smith said they didn’t staff extra people, but they did prep extra food the night before. Having extra ingredients on hand for sandwiches, soups, pizzas and salads for hungry customers turned out to be great foresight by the Pickleman’s staff.

“It was our biggest day since we opened,” Smith said.

The local food joints weren’t the only ones to get in on the increase in business. Roast, the new coffee house located in Aksarben, saw a steady stream of folks looking to get their coffee fix. Roast Manager Cassidy Fletcher said they saw a big increase in business. For Fletcher, it wasn’t just exciting to see the increase in business, but also to good to see the variety of customers coming in.

“It was a larger day for us sales wise. I would say it was a more diverse crowd. I was really happy with that,” Fletcher said.

While the increased staffing and preparation proved beneficial for many of the businesses in Aksarben Village, there were some places that did not enjoy the same pay-off. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit was unable to capitalize on the increased foot traffic in the area. Manager Chuck Alvord said, “We staffed heavy but it [the event] didn’t really bring in much business.”

Ultimately, it seems a sitting president visiting town makes for pretty good business and with a little preparation it can be an outright economic stimulus in its own rite.

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