Kim Noddle believes everyone has a creative side, and her new educational art studio aims to bring that out — even if it takes a glass of wine to release your inner Picasso.
The ArtRoom is one of five new businesses at Rockbrook Village shopping center, offering classes and open studio time for youths and adults, as well as events like a Thursday “Paint and Pour” girls night out and a Friday night “Paint 'N Popcorn,” where kids can be dropped off for an evening of art while their parents enjoy a dinner out.
The shopping center's support of the arts — the 41st annual Rockbrook Village Art Fair is this weekend — was one reason Noddle was drawn to the location at 108th Street and West Center Road, along with its Interstate access.
The ArtRoom and several other new tenants have boosted the shopping center, built in phases starting in 1963, to the highest occupancy rate it's seen in at least two decades, center marketing director Merrilee Miller said. Center chief operating officer Russ Daub said Rockbrook Village is more than 95 percent full. That compares with average retail occupancy rates across the city of less than 90 percent, according to a second-quarter market report from Xceligent.
Besides the ArtRoom, Rockbrook's new tenants include: a Scooter's Coffee & Yogurt that's already open; a specialty spice shop opening in November or December; a Subway restaurant; and a spa opening in November that provides laser hair removal, tattoo removal and skin treatments.
At least two other new shops are in lease negotiations.
Independent specialty businesses like the ArtRoom are the “hallmark” of Rockbrook Village, Daub said.
“They're all specialty merchants,” he said. “They're not national big box people. They've got a lot of energy in the areas they work in.”
The center's approximately 50 tenants include specialty foods shops, salons, spas, restaurants, home decor shops, a pet store, a florist, a bakery, apparel shops, a jeweler, a photographer and a life coach. The several retail buildings are arranged in blocks like a small downtown, instead of the typical strip center.
Daub said it's more work to run a shopping center with lots of small merchants, but he believes those shops have been more resilient during the recession.
“They're more relationship-driven than the big guys,” he said. “Even during the slow economy, the center has continued to be active. We have lost hardly anybody.”
The wide variety of retailers draws customers as well as other retailers who want to take advantage of the traffic.
“It's a good retail mix,” said David Stiles, one of four owners of the Bare Body Shop, which plans to open in the center in November. He said Bare will offer laser hair removal, tattoo removal, Botox and other skin rejuvenation services.
If a woman got a tattoo 20 years ago that is now raising questions in her kids' carpool, he said, “We're going to be that low-cost solution that allows them to take care of that.”
Unlike with a traditional med spa, Bare Body Shop will have no physician on site, but Omaha radiologist Dr. Jeffrey Himmelberg, a partner in the business, will serve as the medical director. Bare will employ a nurse practitioner and several registered nurses, Stiles said. “We're going to cut out a lot of the overhead that a typical med spa would have.”
Another new business opening late this year is the Savory Spice Shop, the first Nebraska location of the Denver-based franchise. The location is owned by Debbie Akyurek, formerly a manager for competitor Penzeys Spices, and her husband, Murat Akyurek, a recently retired engineer.
Savory will carry more than 400 herbs, spices, seasonings and extracts packaged in the store in quantities from a half-ounce up to several pounds. Debbie Akyurek said buying smaller quantities than sold in grocery stores means fresher spices. She will sell spice combinations and rubs not available elsewhere, including a special barbecue beef rub Savory is mixing just for its Nebraska store.
There will be multiple types of chili powder — but don't start out by buying large quantities of the “ghost chili.” Akyurek said that it's rated at 1 million Scoville heat units (compared with 40,000 in a cayenne pepper), making it the hottest chili pepper on earth.
Noddle said the ArtRoom has been busy since opening in July. In addition to the evening events, it offered camps in the summer and during the school year caters to groups of home-schooled students as well as Scouts looking to earn a badge.
The former schoolteacher and her business partner, Anne Twedt, teach day and evening lessons in painting, drawing, screenprinting, printmaking, photography, sculpting and sewing, providing the education of a school art class without the pressure of a grade.
“It's a great outlet, and it's low-stress,” Noddle said.
For school-age children, weekly classes teach mixed media along with the history and styles of art. Teen studio classes also are available, and teen portfolio instruction helps students prepare portfolios for college admission. Teens and adults also can take classes in specific art forms or buy a monthly pass to access the studio any time to work on their own projects.
Noddle taught from her home for three years before expanding to a retail space.
“ We all have the potential for creativity,” she said. “We all have it in us.”
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41st annual Rockbrook Village Art Fair
What: A juried art show with more than 150 artists demonstrating and selling their work, including painting, photography, ceremics, jewelry and glass.
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Rockbrook Village shopping center, 108th Street and West Center Road
Who: The fair was founded in 1971 by Gloria Mathews, the late owner of Gloria’s Custom Framing. It now is coordinated by Juanita Galvin, the store’s current owner. “It’s a wonderful mix of people and food and it’s great entertainment for the whole family,” Galvin said.
Parking: The fair attracts as many as 25,000 people, so parking gets “creative,” Galvin said. Spots are available in the surrounding neighborhood, and shuttles will run all day from the parking lots at Rockbrook Elementary School and the Westside Community Conference Center.