Lincoln’s retail community is thriving

Since 2003, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce has seen a steady citywide increase in small retail businesses.

But why Lincoln? What is the appeal?

Just last month National Public Radio posted a series of reports highlighting Lincoln’s stable economy and entrepreneurial growth. Many found that with Lincoln’s economy and quality of life, business owners can take a lot of risk.

Cost of living is low in the Midwest, and the economy has been stable since the 2008 financial crisis.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research ranks Nebraska 18th nationally as a top destination for entrepreneurs.

Overall retail numbers has been rosy in Lincoln. During the last decade, retail establishments in Lincoln increased by 8.31 percent and retail employment also increased, amounting to a gain in 1,800 retail jobs, according to the chamber. Retail sales in Lincoln have increased by more than one million dollars each year since 2002, according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue.

Downtown Lincoln has also noticed an increase of small retail businesses. This map highlights a sampling of small retail businesses in the downtown, as compiled by the chamber:

View A sampling of small retail establishments in a full screen map

The retail sector is flourishing in part because of Lincoln’s business culture, observers say. Paul Jarrett, founder of Bulu Box, told National Public Radio that Lincoln has an incredibly successful startup community. Jarrett started Bulu Box in Lincoln, a company that sends monthly packages of vitamins and weight loss samples to consumers.  In comparison to those on the East or West Coast, Jarrett said, people in Lincoln ask what they can do to help you, instead of what you can do for them.

It’s the mentality that any one startup’s success is good for everyone, Jarrett said.

Sam Nelson, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in Lincoln, agrees with Jarrett.

“The overall support you get from the community, there’s just a ton of very successful business owners in Lincoln that are willing to give back,” Nelson said.

EP-140829747.jpg&updated=201408210741&MaxW=800&maxH=800&updated=201408210741&noborderBut Nelson said there is also a new appeal of the Lincoln area thanks to Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Railyard and the growth of the Haymarket. This is attracting a lot of young talent, many of whom start retail businesses.

“The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce has been making a lot of improvements to the downtown area to make it more friendly too,” Nelson said. This includes P Street revisions, for example.

Laura Brooks, an employee at P Street’s Tsuru boutique, said that the city has helped keep boutiques alive.



Lincoln offers so many resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners that it’s simply “a great environment for them,” said Kristen Holmes, Chamber of Commerce membership director.

“This includes access to capital, affordable space, and a word of mouth community that provides support and wants to maintain a pro-business culture in Lincoln,” she said.

Meghan Ehrke is one of the new retail business owners in Lincoln. Her boutique, Select Style, was her dream for years.

“It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur here,” she said. “It’s starting to become more mainstream.

And the free resources that the city of Lincoln provides a good safety net for those starting businesses, she said. Ehrke said she’s happy to be part of the retail community.

“It’s a great network of people who own local boutiques and those that support them.”



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