Fia + Belle owner Sandra Murray wants to bring an Old Market vibe to downtown Fremont.

The home accessories and clothing store in the historic Schweser's building was a must-stop on a day trip to the Dodge County community, less than an hour from Omaha.

Murray says studies show that people want to come back to downtown instead of visiting a mall.

"They like the experience of meeting owners and smaller businesses," she says. "We love our community, and building relationships with the people who come and see us is our joy."

Thom Ender, one of the owners of the Wise Olde Owl gift shop, says "There is a new vibe downtown."

He's right; our day was packed and once we arrived, we were able to walk everywhere. Unless you're too laden with packages. A sampling of our stops:

MILADY COFFEEHOUSE

105 E. 6th St., 402-206-2125

Located in the historic May Brothers Building, with exposed brick, 18-foot tin ceilings and hardwood floors. The centerpiece of the space is a colorful mural depicting three of the four May brothers who operated a wholesale grocery line here in the late 1800s. Milady Coffee was the brothers' go-to blend. The photo that inspired the mural by Jordan Blake hangs in the entry. Milady is the perfect stop for a latte or cappuccino (using Hardy Coffee Company beans), or a creamy milk shake or fresh fruit smoothie. Lunch is an option, too. Afterward, you'll be ready for more shopping! Check the playbills on the windows as you exit. Owners Glen and Nancy Ellis host open mic nights and live music acts year-round. Feeling entrepreneurial? The Fremont Creative Collective occupies space upstairs.

CHESTNUT MARKET

141 E. 6th St., 402-201-6489

Owner Jennifer Poulas offers an eclectic blend of old and new items. Walk in and you'll find hand soaps, candles, bath bombs, handmade greeting cards, kitchen gadgets and pillows. "One place in my shop that is dear to my heart is my cancer support corner," the cancer survivor says.

COUNTRY TRADITIONS

330 N. Main St., 402-721-7752

If you are a quilter this is a must. Hundreds of bolts of fabrics and all the kits and classes you'd ever desire. "It has the most beautiful fabric I've ever seen in my life," Ender says. "Every time I leave that store I have a different favorite color."

FIA + BELLE

108 E. 6th St., 402-699-6681

Fun selection of women's and children's clothing, storebranded soaps, bath bombs and candles, plus home décor items, vintage pieces (check out the rugs upstairs!) and antiques (in the lower level). Murray wants to make your visit an experience. "We love to help people find their style and express it through their home and personal style."

NANCY'S BOUTIQUE

423 N. Main St. 402-727-4592

The casual wear shop carries brands such as Lynn Ritchie, Cartise, Angel, Spanner and many more. If they don't have your size, they'll try to find it. "We pride ourselves with providing you with personal service and an enjoyable shopping experience," owner Nancy Hoshor says.

PICKENS

425 N. Broad St., 402-816-4252

This isn't your usual consignment store. It also carries quality antiques and repurposed furniture. Friendly atmosphere.

WISE OLDE OWL

439 N. Main St., 402-727-9999

Everything from novelty barware to kitchen gadgets and baby items. Find a greeting card for every occasion or pick up a cute but scary Halloween decoration in the middle of July. "We've sold Halloween every month we've been open," Ender says.

ABE KRASNE HOME FURNISHINGS

450 N. Main St., 402-721-2777

This more than 50-year-old family business is your small-town connection for big-city selection. Everything from furniture, flooring, mattresses, appliances, decorative accessories and window treatments in more than 100,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse space. Get free in-store or home design help.

PARK AVENUE ANTIQUES + COUNTRY CHOICE

515 N. Park Ave., 402-721-1157

The best collection of Americana anywhere. Part Pioneer Village, part "American Pickers." Antiques, rescued and restored pine and oak furniture and items made from reclaimed wood mingle with objects collected from local estate sales and auctions. Neat and tidy, with a prized antique sign collection displayed high overhead. Complement your new vintage treasures with decorative objects from the gift shop inside, Country Choice.

POLYMATH CYBER CAFÉ

414 N. Main St., 402-704-2020

Looking for the best chicken salad in Fremont? This is the place. Put down your packages and relax. Then play an electronic game or two or surf the Internet while your lunch is being made. "You'll find wonderful food, great service and something fun to do," owner Tammie Ciccarelli says. Need a hug? You've got it! And help yourself to a cookie, too.

J'S STEAKHOUSE & WINE BAR

406 N. Main St., No. 1, 402-727-6100

Our day of shopping done, we needed some sustenance. Our steak was cooked perfectly. If you aren't a steak lover, try the Alaskan salmon or the fish special of the day. For lunch, you won't go wrong with the Thai Lavosh. Feeling adventurous? Order the peanut butter bacon burger. Friendly atmosphere; popular with sports fans, the after-work crowd and friends meeting up for drinks, food and conversation.

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