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Allie Luedtke


Before Allie Luedtke was the owner of Crafthouse, she was a Lincoln resident who was frustrated – frustrated about fabric options.

Yes, fabric, as in fabric for sewing.

It might not sound like a big deal, but to Allie it was a problem. See, in college, she had the same issue. As a textile, apparel and design student at UNL, there were numerous occasions when she couldn’t find the kind of fabric she was looking for. There were no big, modern prints, no classic and soft cottons – her options were limited.

She thought to herself, ‘Someone really should fix this problem and open a more modern fabric store…’ never considering the fact that the ‘someone’ she was referring to could be herself.

Years passed and Allie found herself in another set of frustrating circumstances, this time, it was about her job. She was working in retail and really questioning her career path. She considered going back to school, switching careers… and then thought about the whole fabric store situation.

She realized that even though she didn’t consistently need fabric for school projects, nothing had changed. No one had filled the fabric void, and so the question in Allie’s head became, “What if I opened a shop?”

The idea was a nice hybrid between her degree and her retail experience, plus, she had a clear vision of her dream shop. But according to Allie she wasn’t a “business brain,” so even entertaining the idea seemed ridiculous.

As her discontent with work grew stronger, Allie said her ideas started to make their way out of her head. She pitched the idea to her husband, parents, siblings and close friends, and soon she needed to do something other than just talk about her idea.

So, Allied decided she might as well just try opening up her own shop. She and her husband worked out the business details, she had family members help design her logo and shop space and six months later she was opening the door to Crafthouse in October 2013.

At that point the shop was located on north 48th street. It was small, but overflowing with just what Allie knew had been absent from the Lincoln fabric scene. Bolts of bold and modern patterns lined the shelves, rolls of yarn were stacked in the corners and everything was a visual and textural treat for customers. It was just what Allie had envisioned.

A year later, she expanded the shop, knocking out a wall and giving herself more retail space as well as room to grow their increasing number of sewing classes.

Allie joked that while the shop expanded, she expanded as well, as she and her husband prepared for the birth of their first child. She said it was fun to have customers come in and see how she was growing and ask about her due date. Allie even went into labor while she was at her shop and had to leave to go to the hospital.

Having a new baby and owning a shop brought about a bigger shift in Allie than she anticipated. She was a full-time owner and mom who had her baby in the shop with her nearly every day.

Allie said she used to be a very private person, she kept to herself and wasn’t someone to let her personal and work life overlap too much. But that all changed when she had Calvin in the shop with her. Customers would “ooo!” and “ahh!” over her sweet newborn, but then there were the times he was fussy or stunk up the shop with a whopper of a dirty diaper.  

She’d ask customers to hold her baby while she cut fabric or to wait a few minutes while she finished feeding him. It was an overwhelming season, but also a very telling one, Allie said. She learned so much about herself and her customers.

“I’m like the hot mess mom,” Allie said with a laugh. “But it’s been cool to form friendships through that and realize that people aren’t ridiculously perfect.”

Being a full time mom and shop owner opened the door to real conversations about more than just fabric at Crafthouse. Allie said friendships come to life in her shop as people learned basic sewing techniques or just connected over a particular pattern or style.

At the end of 2015, Allie had to be honest with herself as well. Things with the shop were going well, but they could have been better. She liked the cozy neighborhood where the shop was located, but it wasn’t always easy for people to find.

Allie needed to move Crafthouse, and that seemed like a major undertaking. What if it failed? What if a new location didn’t help her sales? Could she even afford to move?

The questions came with a wave of anxiety and stress, but Allie knew she needed to pull the plug on her beloved shop and make the move.

Earlier this fall, Allie celebrated the three-year anniversary of Crafthouse and their recent move to a new location. She said 2016 has been hard, full of change and days when she didn’t know if she could keep going. But it was also when she realized the Crafthouse chapter of her story wasn’t over, it just needed a new start.

Allie never pictured herself opening a fabric store. She didn’t imagine herself dreaming about new bolts of fabric, designing her own line of custom patterns or even bouncing her baby on her hip while chatting with customers, but that’s where she’s at, and she loves it.

Not everything is perfect, her story, her shop, her life, and that’s just fine by Allie. She’s not about perfection, because she’s convinced the best stories in life are far from perfect.

Dan Nelson


We’ll cut to the chase and let you know that you’ve probably never met Dan Nelson or heard his story.

But, you may have tasted his kettle corn.

If you’ve ever had kettle corn at the Lincoln Farmers’ Market, there’s a good chance it was made by Dan.

He’s the guy in the tent meticulously watching and stirring the big, metal pot with bubbling sugar and freshly popped corn. His wife and sons often help him sell bags of the still warm kettle corn or give out the coveted sample cups to anxious market browsers.

But this is just Dan’s summer/weekend job. During the week, Dan is the owner and founder of Vahallan, a hand-painted wallpaper company.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Dan said. “I’m a professional finger painter.”

The lead-up to Dan’s “finger painting” career was about as nontraditional as his job. He graduated from the University of Kearney with a degree in business administration, considered going back to work on his family’s ranch in Alliance, Neb., and then decided ranch life wasn’t for him.

He moved to Omaha and worked as the manager at Blockbuster Video before trying out the insurance world for a few years. Eventually Dan moved to Lincoln, took a few more college classes, got a job in the medical field and then worked as a manager at Applebee’s.

Then, his brother told him about some hand-painted wallpaper he’d seen and was making, so Dan thought he’d try to make it too. Dan worked 60 hours a week and painted paper for another 40 hours, finding time before and after his day job.

He tested his designs in his sister’s garage and hung the papers over the fence in the backyard to dry.

Yes, that’s really how it all started. No art degree, no risk assessment, no second thought, just jumping in full speed.

Dan said that’s pretty typical for him. He sees something he wants to try and he goes whole hog.

That’s how he got into the popcorn business too. He saw kettle corn at an event, bought a kit to try it out and then started selling at the farmers market. His methods often cue an eye roll from his wife, but she’s always been extremely supportive of his ideas, Dan said. 

But just because Dan quickly got into the paper and popcorn business, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Most of the time it’s borderline crazy, Dan said. Starting a company comes with a host of demands that require Dan’s full attention at all hours of the day. And while his natural creativity propels a large part of his business, the technical elements of managing people, developing a workflow and coming up with ideas to help his company grow are all daily challenges.

It’s stressful too. Creating and selling hand-painted wallpaper is a delicate process. It takes creativity, design know-how, patience and physical strength. The hand-painted look is intricate and freestyle, but it also needs to be uniform and consistent enough to fit seamlessly into homes, offices, hotels and restaurants.

And while Dan doesn’t have any direct competitors in Lincoln, he does have competitors, big ones.

At times, Dan feels like a little fish in a big pond, and other days he gets a call from BCBG, Saks Fifth Avenue, one of his international suppliers or a famous baseball player who wants Vahallan paper in their space.

It’s a constant up and down, and as he gets older, it’s harder for him to handle.

Dan isn’t a peppy guy with a flashy smile. He’s simple and to the point. In true Nebraska form, he says what he means and works until the job is done.

He has a seemingly endless stream of ideas for designs, many of which use natural elements like pine needles and twine to give his paper a unique look and feel. But Dan is more than a finger painter, what he’s creating is art.

His story is about laying his chips on the table, going all in, because he’s proud to stand behind two businesses that he’s grateful to call his own.

He’s a fighter and a risk taker, and Dan wouldn’t have it any other way.

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