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Peggy Gomez


Peggy Gomez said that Mondays are typically her busiest day at the shop. She does inventory and helps the customers who come in looking for various art supplies.

Running and owning Gomez Art Supply has become her life. It wasn’t what she set out to do, but somehow it’s become her story.

As a kid, Peggy said she was always interested in art. She grew up in Omaha as the daughter of a father with Mexican heritage and a mother with Irish blood. They were supportive of her love for art and encouraged her to pursue it during school. She earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts at UNL and her Master’s in Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota, before returning to Lincoln to teach.

Peggy taught at the University for nearly 10 years, specializing in drawing and printmaking, and while she enjoyed working with the students, she said she knew she didn’t want teaching to be her full-time gig.

She remembers overhearing students talk about how they wished there was a local place to buy art supplies in Lincoln. The big stores were either not helpful or many were located far from campus. Back when Peggy was in school, there were small art shops in town, but they’d since closed, giving her the idea that just maybe she could open an art supply shop.

The idea slowly grew over the years and eventually she quit her job at the University with the hopes of starting her own business.

But in 2002, time stood still for Peggy. Her father passed away, leaving a big void in her life, and causing her to take some time off to figure out her next step.

Her father was the kind of dad everyone hopes they have, she said. He was always showering her and her two sisters with encouraging words, often looking them in the eyes and saying, ‘Did I tell you how much I love you today?’

“In life, if you’re lucky, you get what you need in a family,” Peggy said. “And my dad was the one we were all closest to.”

She still wishes he could have been around when she opened the doors to Gomez Art Supply in the fall of 2003. Her father was a businessman himself, who would have loved to see Peggy settle on a career, she said, but she always knew he was proud of her.

She intentionally named the shop ‘Gomez’ as a tribute to her father. It’s a good name, she said, and he was a good man – she keeps an old picture of him hanging on a wall behind the register in the shop.

Most days, Peggy said, she’s proud of how she’s kept her shop open and thriving for 13 years – and she knows her dad would be proud too. She’s got grit and lots of staying power, she’s not easily swayed and isn’t fussy about the little things.

When a big name art supply shop moved in just blocks from her shop, she thought maybe her days were numbered, but they weren’t. Peggy’s connection and support from the University, along with her integration into the Lincoln small business community have made her and her shop a well-known and loved part of downtown Lincoln.

But there are bad days too, she said. Her heart still sinks when a customer leaves a bad online review or when she overhears people in the shop complain.

It feels personal, she said, and the hardest part is learning how to develop a thick skin. Sure, her business isn’t all of who she is, but there is so much about Peggy that’s tied to her work.

When Peggy isn’t in the shop, she’s running the Tugboat art gallery in collaboration with other local artists. The gallery is a place where artists of all kinds can show their work and engage with the community. She doesn’t financially benefit from this kind of work, she just does it. It’s her way of giving back to Lincoln and supporting something she values.

Being a supportive part of the community was always in her rough sketch of a business plan. It’s something her dad did, and something she knew she wanted to be part of her legacy as well.

Gomez Art Supply is where Peggy saw her hazy future clear up. It’s where her love of art, community and quality converged. It’s a place that bears her family name, and one that she’s proud to own and operate even on the days when it’s stressful and overwhelming.

It isn’t a big art superstore and it never will be. It has hand-drawn murals and signs, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. It’s got character, spunk and it has weathered its fair share of uncertainty, but it’s Peggy’s shop and when she shuts off the lights and locks the door, that’s what matters.

Cinnamon Dokken


Cinnamon Dokken has never written a resume – she’s never needed one.

At the age of 22, Cinnamon and a college friend opened A Novel Idea Bookstore. What started out as collecting books turned into a business, and 25 years later the shop – dozing cats and all – is still thriving in downtown Lincoln.

“Let’s go sit in the poetry section,” said Cinnamon as she grabbed a small stool to sit on.

It was easy to tell she was in her element in the bookstore. The conversation flowed quickly as she waved at the occasional customer and looked relaxed and at home.

But owning a bookstore for 25 years has given Cinnamon a lot of perspective. She said she’s learned what decisions are worth stressing about and which ones she can make on a whim. It hasn’t been easy to build and maintain her shop, but it’s been a challenge that’s defined her story.

The bookstore’s first location was in a basement space near 16th and O streets. It had no heat, no air conditioning and they often blew the fuse with their electric teapot, space heater and stereo.

In the winter they gave out cups of hot tea to customers to keep their hands warm and when the lights went out they used flashlights to shop. It wasn’t ideal but it worked.

“When you’re used to being poor and tired and cold, it’s not a sacrifice to work a little harder and have a business,” said Cinnamon. “You just duck down and go.”

Cinnamon graduated from college in December of 1991 and the following year she found a new, bigger space for the bookstore – her current location on 14th street between O and P. Truth be told, Cinnamon said, they didn’t even have the first month’s rent in the bank when they got the space, so they hustled.

They sold books while moving into their new space and quickly got to work building new bookshelves and personalizing the shop. After hours, the shop became somewhat of a gathering place for the neighborhood. Bands would often crash there after playing a show at Duffy’s or small groups of friends would host late-night book talks over a bottle of wine.

Cinnamon watched as A Novel Idea developed its own culture and feel. Over the years the bookstore became a place for regulars, the curious college student or out of town visitors who wanted to find a local shop to peruse.

So much life has happened in the shop, both for the community and for Cinnamon. Her daughter, Isabel, was born shortly after the 10th anniversary of the shop and grew up stacking books and taking naps between the rows of shelves.

Starting a business was a risk, especially as Cinnamon acquired a mortgage and had children, but she was never afraid of being a small business owner. It’s a fearlessness that she attributes to her parents.

Cinnamon grew up in Pawnee City, Nebraska, watching her parents own and run their own businesses. Her mom owned a flower shop and her dad managed his own dental practice. The two of them were hard workers who were a big part of their small hometown.

“My dad always used the phrase, ‘It’s important to pay your civic rent.’ ” Cinnamon said. “In a small town there was a lot of opportunity to be involved, and that was part of life.”

While Lincoln is a different town than Pawnee City and owning a bookstore is a different business than a flower shop and dental practice, Cinnamon applies her father’s wisdom to her own work.

After 25 years, Cinnamon’s downtown bookshop is doing well. She’s seen more customers and sold more books this year than in years past – a surprising fact in the age of online sales and digital books.

But for Cinnamon this trend has only reinforced her love and commitment to the Lincoln community.

She’s spent her life building a business that’s served generations of readers, which she said is one of the greatest honors of her life.

“I want to set an example for my children that this is how you live life,” she said. “You celebrate and you contribute and you try to encourage the people around you to be their best selves.”

The way Cinnamon started her business was not glamorous. It took work – lots of work – but it’s also a work that she deeply enjoyed and was committed to. It’s work that’s defined her story and will continue to shape her future.

Dan Sloan


Dan Sloan’s world revolves around coffee, but he’s not an addict or snob.

He has a Milano in the morning and maybe another in the afternoon, but that’s about it. If he happens to have a cup of coffee that’s not great when he is traveling, it’s no big deal. Actually, it’s kind of a good thing, he said, it just reaffirms that what his team is doing at The Mill is as good as he thinks.

Dan has been part of The Mill since his early 20s. He’s gone from doing the books, to roasting the coffee and managing the staff to being an owner. He’s seen the coffee shop expand from a coffee corner to two full-scale shops.

A lot of his story has been shaped by the growth and expansion of The Mill, but Dan’s story has also shaped the organic and eclectic feel that’s present at The Mill today.

Let’s start at the beginning.

It was the late ‘70s and Dan was finishing his accounting degree at Union College. He was a numbers guy looking for his first job and a professor told him that the bike shop down the street needed someone to help with their books, so Dan applied and got the job.

At the time, the bike shop owner had a small coffee area in a corner of the shop. Nothing fancy, just basic coffee for the people who shopped. Over time, the shop owner fell in love with coffee and wanted to sell gourmet imported coffee to customers.

“That was the genesis of The Mill,” Dan said.

Now, The Mill has become a Lincoln staple. It’s a go-to spot for studying, newspaper reading or even a first date. Dan looked around The Haymarket Mill, scoping out his patrons for the day, as he described how he enjoys watching different crowds of people filter in and out of the coffee shop.

There’s a certain group that shows up at The Mill on Sunday mornings and another that occupies the late-night, weekday hours. So many people have integrated The Mill into their routine, and to Dan that’s special.

When it comes to running the shop, Dan described his approach as more evolutionary than revolutionary, meaning he didn’t necessarily set out to do anything other than roast and sell great coffee, but they’ve catered their services and aesthetic to what customers have wanted.

“We’re about community as much as coffee … we’re a melting pot, a meeting place, a safe haven … and we hear people’s stories,” he said as he waved to someone across the shop.

The Mill has done well, Dan said. Are there ways they could be more profitable? Sure, but he’s not willing to compromise his community-focused shop just to be slightly more profitable, that’s not Dan.

And while running a local coffee shop might seem like a simple task, it’s not. Dan takes it personally. His employees are like his kids, his two locations are an extension of his home and every paycheck he writes is going toward important things like college tuition, gas, groceries, student debt or rent.

It’s heavy and even lonely at times, because running a popular coffee shop is a 24/7 job. But it’s a load he shares with his wife, and it’s also one Dan takes pride in. It’s a pride and work ethic that he connects to his dad who owned a bakery in a small Michigan town.

Dan can remember washing dishes in the bakery and pulling all-nighters with his dad to make sure the shop was stocked for the next day. He knows it wasn’t easy to raise four boys on a bakery, but it was what his dad loved and passionately pursued until he retired.

He’d often say to Dan, ‘If you don’t have pride in what you do, you have no business doing it.’ That’s why Dan has stayed tethered to The Mill after all this time, it’s the combination of his passion, the people, the ownership and the community – it’s satisfying work.

And while his accountant-turned-coffee-shop-owner title cues looks of confusion, Dan likes that his work is a nerdy-hippie hybrid.  He knows his experience in the corporate accounting world has shaped him as an employer and given him the tools to properly build and expand The Mill. In the same way, his people-driven coffee shop has brought out his extroverted side.

When Dan takes time to zoom out and look at the broader picture of his life, he’s not shocked that The Mill has been a consistent theme. He said he always hoped he’d be his own boss. He was never a traditionalist who played it safe. Dan likes risks and he values making his own mistakes.

His story is about building community, watching community grow and staying true to his values. He’s thankful for the stress, chaos and culture that a coffee shop has brought into his life and his story.

He’s Dan Sloan largely because of The Mill, so if you want to know Dan, just stop by The Mill.

Ann Ringlein


She’s had the same routine for more than 30 years – wake up and run.

Sometimes she even sleeps in her running clothes so all she has to do is get up and walk out the door. Now that’s dedication.

But even though she’s an avid runner, Ann Ringlein isn’t showy.

Sure, ask any Lincoln runner about Ann and they’re sure to know her. She’s won lots of races, qualified for prestigious runs and was a track and cross country coach for 20 years, but that’s not why Ann runs.


Ann hustled over to unlock the front door of the Lincoln Running Company and peeked her head out, “Good morning ma’am, do you need something? Shoes? Ok, yeah come on in!”

She doesn’t turn people away even though it’s at least 45 minutes before the shop opens, because that’s just Ann.

“Take a seat and let’s see what you need here,” she said with a big smile.

Ann watched carefully as the woman walked back and forth in the quiet store, quickly assessing her feet as they moved in the tennis shoes.

“You have a good arch, let’s try these,” she said.

The Lincoln Running Company is known for quality shoes and a good fit. Doctors and physical therapists often refer patients to the store because they trust their expertise, but a lot of them also tell their patients to ask specifically for Ann.

She knows shoes because she knows running.

Ann said she couldn’t really remember the exact details that surrounded why she started running, but she remembers being bored. She had a lot of energy as a young girl, so many nights after she got off work she’d head over to the track across from her house in Red Cloud, Neb., and run laps.

She competed in a few races as she got older and did well enough that she won prizes and qualified for bigger races, and Ann was hooked. She’s been running ever since, and her days without running seem few and far between.

After moving to Lincoln 31 years ago with her husband and two young girls, Ann quickly became a major part of Lincoln’s running community. She’s coached track and cross country teams, worked in shoe stores, given motivational talks about running and she even puts on a beginners running class during the summer that typically brings in about 300-400 newbie runners.

Ann said so many of the new runners are intimidated by the sport, they don’t even know where to start. She said they take one look at her petite frame and they want to give up, but she works hard to get them to set their own personal goals and not compare themselves to others, because the most important part is that they’re moving.

That’s the thing about Ann, she doesn’t care how people run, if they do it wearing tutus and glitter in crazy-themed races or on the trails in Lincoln, if they start out just walking or if they never run a race, exercise is exercise.

For Ann, running is about caring for herself, staying well and taking time to regroup. Ann said when she had young kids she had to be a little bit selfish about taking time out of the day to run, but if she didn’t do it her day was completely thrown off.

Ann runs because she loves it. She runs to breathe deeper, to enjoy the outdoors and to start her day right. She also runs to be a better boss, employee, wife and mother.

Sure, running is a major theme in Ann’s story, but it’s not all that she does. She’s an avid gardener, nature lover and recycler, a compassionate mother and doting grandma. She loves to donate new and pre-loved shoes to local organizations and is on numerous boards in town including the Humane Society, Great Plains Trail Network and the Lincoln Track Club.

Ann runs for more than just her own enjoyment, she runs so she can learn, teach and care for her community, and to Ann, that’s what matters.

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