Omaha school teacher Nancy Monen had an unusual guest come to her residence — hoping to see the “little room” off the upstairs master bedroom.
The famous man, and his well-known children who accompanied him, were enchanted by the small sun room as well as the rest of the 101-year-old house they’d lived in six decades ago. They took photos and waxed nostalgic during that visit earlier this year.
And before he left, the dad scribbled something on the arched door of the little room: “The birthplace of Buffett Associates May 1956.”
He signed his name, Warren E. Buffett.
It paid off for Monen — who, for the first time a few months later, rented her residence at 5202 Underwood Ave. to a trio attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, often called the Woodstock of Capitalism.
Monen reaped $3,000, and is considering hiking the fee next year to spread the wealth to a charity. She’s thinking an auction format might work best.
“I’m crazy not to capitalize on that,” Monen said. “Warren would want me to.”
The World-Herald tracked down Monen, a special education teacher for the Omaha Public Schools, after the Berkshire chief executive brought up the house reunion during an interview last week about lodging and other aspects of the annual meeting.
Buffett recalled the “little room” of the Underwood house as the workspace where, in his mid-20s, “the first partnership was started.”
He also pointed out the $175 monthly rent he paid back in 1956 — quipping that, in comparison, Monen “did pretty well” on the fare she received over the 2019 Berkshire weekend.
Monen said she was unaware of the Buffett connection when she toured the two-story Tudor 15 years ago. She said she always adored the wood-shake roof and overall charm of the corner residence, and would have bought it regardless.
Soon, Monen, a native Californian, would learn it was the home that Buffett, his first wife, Susan, and their small children lived in after returning from New York. Some of the history is captured in Alice Schroeder’s book, “The Snowball, Warren Buffett and the Business of Life.”
Says Buffett in that book: “I had about $174,000, and I was going to retire. I rented a house at 5202 Underwood in Omaha for $175 a month. We’d live on $12,000 a year. My capital would grow.”
Despite that publicity, Monen recalled just one touristy episode on her watch. A Japanese man stopped by as she was working outside. “So I’m thinking, maybe it’s not that big of a deal,” she said of the home’s past.
That is, until the recent visit by the Buffetts: Warren and two of his children, Susie and Howard.
Susie Buffett laid the groundwork for the reunion, Monen said. The two women are acquainted through the neighborhood and the high school their kids shared, and Monen said she was happy to oblige.
It was a snowy day, Monen recalled, and her employer had canceled school when the Buffetts pulled into her driveway. Almost immediately, she said, they asked to go upstairs.
In addition to three bedrooms and the little office, the second floor has a wrought-iron balcony that overlooks the living room. Schroeder’s “Snowball” book recalls Susie as a child being convinced that the “glasses man” lurked by the balcony that was just outside her bedroom.
The book described how Buffett had to inspect the balcony nightly and reassure his daughter that it was safe to go to bed.
Much of the Buffetts’ reminiscing on that snowy day was centered on the little office, Monen said, which now serves as a hub for her small antique sales business.
A snapshot of her with Buffett, taken on the day of the visit, sits on a shelf.
“They were so cool,” Monen said. “They weren’t in a hurry and were here quite a while.”
Monen is sure the recently inscribed message upped the appeal to Berkshire loyalists seeking a place to stay during the meeting weekend.
Three California women who stayed two nights in May told Monen that they loved their first visit to Omaha Berkshire festivities. All portfolio managers, they had connected with Monen through a mutual acquaintance and spent some off time lounging in her garden.
Also a Berkshire shareholder, Monen said she is grateful for the opportunity to have shared time and memories with the Buffett patriarch and local billionaire.
The business magnate autographed the annual Berkshire report for granddaughter Audrey. And, Monen said, he wrote a note to her 13-year-old neighbor, her cat sitter who she called over to meet her guests.
“It’s been fun,” Monen said. “And I like what it’s done for the value of my house.”
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns the Omaha World-Herald.