Two Wohlner's stores now have two different owners

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Posted: Sunday, January 6, 2013 12:00 am

Mike Schwartz, owner of Wohlner's Neighborhood Grocery and Deli, has sold the Wohlner's store at Aksarben Village and plans to focus on running the Wohlner's Midtown Crossing location.

Schwartz sold the Aksarben store to Rama Kilaru of Omaha for an undisclosed amount. The deal closed Dec. 21, Schwartz said.

Wohlner's is one of Omaha's oldest grocery operations, founded by Schwartz's grandfather, Albert Wohlner, in 1918.

Schwartz said he began mulling the idea of selling one of his stores a year ago.

“It's been hard concentrating on the two stores,” said Schwartz, 61.

In 2008, Schwartz moved the family grocery store from 5205 Leavenworth St., where it had been located since the 1930s, to Aksarben Village.

In 2010, he opened the Midtown Crossing location, just a few blocks from his grandfather's original store at 33rd and California Streets.

When it came time to decide which store he wanted to part with, the decision was fairly clear, Schwartz said. Each store is about 15,000 square feet.

“I always wanted to keep the Midtown Crossing store. It's always felt more like home for me. I worked on the store's design,” he said.

In addition, he said business at the store, at 33rd and Dodge Streets, was up 38 percent in 2012 over the year before.

Parking at that location is free, and there is plenty of it, he added.

Schwartz last August told The World-Herald that he hoped Aksarben Village's management would find a “solution to parking.” When events take place at the shopping center or nearby park, he said, it can be difficult for his would-be shoppers to find parking spaces outside his store.

The Aksarben store, he said, “wasn't performing the way I wanted it.”

Schwartz, who employs about 30 workers at the Midtown Crossing store, said he plans to concentrate on what he does best — “I've always been known for my meats, and I want to focus on that.”

Molly Skold, marketing director of Midtown Crossing, said she is thrilled with Schwartz's decision to focus on the Midtown location.

He plans to change the name of the Midtown Crossing store later this year. The family name will remain as part of the store's name, but he said he might include Midtown Crossing in the name.

As part of the deal, Kilaru kept the Wohlner's name and the 40 workers who are employed at the Aksarben store.

Kilaru ran a convenience store called Tobacco Junction, located at 90th Street and West Center Road, for several years until four years ago, and he has worked in IT consulting for 15 years.

He said in an interview that Wohlner's will remain a neighborhood market. The name will be the same, he said, but he plans to “completely transform the store.”

He already has ordered new shopping carts and plans to add a salad bar and soup counter.

“There are a lot of ideas I'm kicking around. I'm very excited to take over the store.”

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