The Mangelsen family

Mangelsen’s is a family-run business. From left: Matt Mangelsen, David M. Mangelsen, Marla Mangelsen and David A. Mangelsen.

Mangelsen’s is as much of a part of Omaha history as the zoo, college baseball and Warren Buffett.

It seems like everyone and their mother or grandmother has been to the event supplies store at 3457 S. 84th St.

That might be true, owner David M. Mangelsen says – but new customers pop in all the time.

“Every day I greet people who have never been here and were either driving by or dropped in because ‘So-and-so told me I had to come here.’ “

He asks if they’d like a bag of fresh-popped popcorn. Then, a history lesson of sorts begins.

David directs his visitors’ attention to a display of family photos and then shares a bit of the family-run company’s success story: Berenice and Harold Mangelsen opened the store May 4, 1961. They had four sons, and each worked at the store at one time or another growing up. David stayed on and made the store his career while his brothers went different directions. Bill ventured into wholesale distribution, Tom became an award-winning wildlife photographer and conservationist and Hal pursued a career in the import business.

Today, David’s own children, Marla, David A. and Matt, are involved in the business. It’s too early to know if any of the grandchildren will jump in someday – but David says he’d be “very proud” if they did.

A warm, welcoming, family-friendly environment is part of the store’s legacy. David makes sure every employee understands and supports that. “Family Run and Selling Fun Since 1961” is the store’s longstanding slogan. It fits everything they do, David says.

“I tell employees, ‘If we take care of the store, it will take care of you.’ And that means taking care of the customer as well,” he says. “We are thankful for amazing team members over the years who have helped make us what we are today.”

A lot of specialty and hobby stores come and go with the trends, David says. Mangelsen’s staying power is that it offers something for everyone.

“We’re very diversified,” he says. “A year-round Christmas shop, frames, candles, cake decorating items, classes, scrapbooking supplies – you name it, we’ve got it. There is always a holiday and always something going on. We’re there for it all.”

But the store is about more than what’s on the shelves.

“People come in here because they know it’s a family,” David says. “You don’t get that anymore, from anywhere else. People who have grown up and left Omaha make sure they stop at Mangelsen’s when they come back to visit. When you come to town, you have to go to Mangelsen’s.

“Plus, there’s free popcorn.”

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