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Shala Hruska


It’s a Tuesday and Shala Hruska has one thing on her agenda: sew.

Well, not quite one thing. There’s picking up the kids from preschool, dinner, bedtime, ect., but when she’s in the studio she’s focused on her business, and today that means sewing.

Shala has owned and run her hand-made baby shoe shop, Belle and The Bear, for just over four years. It’s a job that she said she “fell into,” but also one that she’s been intentional about growing in a way that’s true to herself and her customers.

Back up a few years to before Shala started her business and her days were a jumble of diapers, feedings and keeping a close eye on her twin baby girls, Alice and Cora. Life was busy, chaotic and a bit overwhelming, but as Shala started to get the hang of being the mother of twins she came across a problem: baby shoes.

All the shoes on the market were either uncomfortable, unattractive, impractical or just too expensive. So, Shala decided to try making some shoes for herself. She took a pink suede blazer that was a thrift store find, made her own pattern and sewed her first pair of baby moccasins.

Getting the shoes to fit right took some time, but as soon as her girls started wearing the shoes she got comments and questions about where she’d bought them. She realized that she wasn’t the only one who had a problem with baby shoes, and she decided to start selling her shoes on Etsy.

Shala began sewing during nap time, late into the night and anytime she could to get her shop up and running. She didn’t expect it to grow much bigger than Etsy, after all, it was just a fun hobby and a way to make a little extra money on the side, right?

Shala wasn’t a business major and didn’t have any huge aspirations of one day owning a shop. In fact, she laughed about the fact that in college she had a million ideas but no specific major until her senior year in college – and she basically picked whatever major would get her to graduation.

So when her baby shoe business took off she was a little shocked. Sure, she thought her designs were pretty darn cute and she loved the shoes for her own girls, but she was amazed by the support and attention she was suddenly getting from the community. There were some big fans of Belle and The Bear, and some big fans of Shala and that felt good.

Despite the chaos of starting a business and caring for her family, Shala loved the fact that she could have one foot in motherhood and the other in the small business world. She expanded her Etsy site into a full-scale website and in 2015 she opened a brick and mortar shop entirely devoted to kids footwear.

Her shop carried her own designs as well as other brands that she knew of and liked. Having a shop was fun. It gave her an opportunity to interact with her customers, offer shoe fittings and it was a space for her designs to be seen and sold.

But it was also hard. Running a shop added another layer of complexity to her business and family life. Shala’s schedule was fuller and her time at home was in short supply.

After a year of running her shop, Shala decided it was time to close and exclusively sell online and wholesale. It was sad, because it felt like the store had failed in a way, she said.

But Shala didn’t close her store because shoes weren’t selling, she closed it because her brand of shoes were selling better than the other brands she carried. Opening and closing her shop showed her what she really liked about her business and what the community valued as well.

“Our shoes is us. That’s what I love and that’s what other people love,” she said. “I thought my dream was to own a shop, but what I love to do is design and make shoes and to have my own brand versus just my own store.”

Plus, Shala said she gets to spend her Saturdays on the soccer field with her kids instead of in the shop, and that feels good.

It’s not that running a business or even her full-time job as a wife and mother have become any easier, but closing her shop allowed her to run her business on her terms. Shala said that’s one of the things she’s learned over the last four years as a business owner – to trust her gut when it comes to her brand…and her story.

Shala didn’t think her story would involve sewing baby shoes, having twin girls or even living in Lincoln for that matter. To be honest, she didn’t know where her story was going to take her. She didn’t realize how much she’d love being a maker, or how connected she’d be with the maker community in Lincoln. She didn’t even anticipate how much she’d love the differences between her two girls and the life and love they bring to her story.

Shala might say that she just “fell into” running a business, but that’s not really true. Being an owner, a maker, a mother and a wife takes work, it doesn’t just happen. Her story is one that she’s built on her passions and her skills, it’s developed and changed over time, but for now it’s her normal and it’s exactly where she wants to be.

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.

Angela Garbacz


Goldenrod Pastries is closed on Mondays and is quiet except for the occasional hum of the mixer.  

Angela Garbacz is starting with macarons – espresso macarons with just a hint of cardamom. She pipes out the purple macarons with a quick flick of her wrist and then adds a sprinkle of sanding sugar to the top before putting them in the oven.

“I’m really on a coffee kick right now,” she said. “Espresso is in everything.”

This type of creative baking is exactly how Angela pictured Goldenrod. She wanted her pastry case to be filled with an assortment of pastries guided by her gut feelings and the availability of locally sourced ingredients, all while catering to alternative diets.

And for the past year that’s exactly what she’s created.

One day the Goldenrod pastry case might be filled with towering layered cakes, dairy-free muffins and macarons, and the next it’s stacked with gluten-free almond cookies, fruit galettes, mini cupcakes and gooey vegan cinnamon rolls.

It’s what Angela pictured when she was dreaming up Goldenrod, but it’s also so much more than she expected.  

Angela said she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t baking. It was her childhood hobby until she visited a restaurant that was in cooperation with a culinary school and realized baking could also be her career.

She got her Food Science degree at UNL, worked in a handful of restaurants and then attended the French Culinary Institute in New York. Shortly after she graduated from culinary school, Angela discovered her own dairy intolerance and began making pastries to accommodate her dietary needs.

When people found out she made dairy-free pastries they eagerly asked for gluten-free, vegan and other alternative diet baked goods and Angela started experimenting with various flours, sugars, fats and flavors.

She got so busy that she quit her day job and opened up Goldenrod Pastries in May 2015.

Opening Goldenrod gave Angela a place try out new things and really engage with her craft. She cooks with precision, but also leaves room for experimenting.

She loves watching singular ingredients merge and transform into a cohesive treat that’s both beautiful and tasty. It’s satisfying work to create and feed others, she said, and most of the time she just wants to give her pastries away.

That’s the thing about Angela, she didn’t start a bakery to get herself noticed or even to be her own boss, she did it to meet a need in Lincoln.

She started off simply with a blog and a few followers, but the day she opened her doors she had a line of people waiting to try her pastries.

She started off as a lone shopkeeper and baker and is now the boss to five hardworking employees.

She started off with a vacant space in the cutesy College View neighborhood and has transformed it into a place where life happens.

Angela and her staff have made cakes for sweethearts and expectant mamas, only to have them show up in the shop a few months later with engagement rings new babies. And last week a kid asked his girlfriend to go to prom with him at Goldenrod.

Angela is a woman with a clear creative vision, but even she didn’t anticipate the kind of growth and support she would receive from the community. Take one look at the Goldenrod Pastries Facebook or Instagram feed and you’ll notice people commenting, tagging friends and planning dates to meet up at the shop.

Goldenrod has become more than a place to eat pastries, it’s become a place where people want to be. It’s not something Angela manufactured or planned for, it just happened, and it’s beautiful.

So much of Goldenrod feels like home. It feels safe and comfortable, it makes you want to stay and be yourself. And all of Goldenrod is Angela. She didn’t just breed community out of nothing, she’s intentional about the way she runs her business, reaches out to customers and cares about her roots.

Her story has quickly become a part of Lincoln’s story. A story of creating and sharing, of welcoming and inviting.

“This is my life, this is everything I do,” Angela said, looking around her shop. “So if I’m not happy and grateful for everyone who comes in the door then it doesn’t matter, so I really don’t take a customer for granted.”

Meg Hasselbalch


“I don’t really have much of a story,” said Meg Hasselbalch as she stood in Paper Kite, her little boutique sandwiched between other locally-owned shops on Prescott Avenue.

I smiled a little at her comment, because in my head her story was already taking shape. Meg has a story, even if to her it feels like she’s been ‘winging it’ most of her life.

Meg said she always felt like she was faking it. 

In college she jokingly referred to herself a “fake” art student, because she loved art, but never latched on to any one discipline like most other students.

When she discovered her love for boutique shops she got a job at a maternity boutique in San Francisco. People would often say to her, ‘Wait, you’re 22 and you don’t have any kids, but you work in a maternity store?’ Meg would respond with a quick, ‘Yep!’ and then go back to work.

That’s the thing about Meg, she’s present and focused on the task at hand. So despite the fact that working in a maternity shop wasn’t exactly what she pictured doing in her 20s, it was an important part of her story.

She loved working at the maternity boutique and her boss quickly became her mentor, inviting Meg to assist with buying, go to market and pick out items for the shop. The fake feeling was starting to wear off.

Four years later, Meg moved back home to Lincoln. She missed her family, her community and was ready to do something a little different.

She briefly worked in Omaha, designing extravagant window displays for Anthropologie and then came back to Lincoln when she heard about a shop on Prescott Avenue that was moving out of its space.

The name of the shop was Scout. Meg had kept her eye on this shop, thinking that someday it might be a place she could fill with her own ideas. She loved the little architectural touches, the cozy neighborhood where it was located…and the fact that Scout was her middle name.

It finally just fit.

Now, it wasn’t like all the pieces fell into place, but things did happen quickly. Meg ran the idea for her boutique by her friends, family and a financial advisor to see if it was just plain crazy or possible.  

She threw together a business plan and talked with her former boss and mentor.

She pieced together various word combinations to land on just the right name and feel for her shop.

It was like a dream, she said, a really stressful but beautiful dream. Meg said her family pitched in right away, painting her space and helping her decorate in record time. She stocked her shelves with gift items and clothing catered to ‘baby, home and her,’ and featured as many local and regional makers as possible.

And on October 1, 2013, Meg opened Paper Kite.

It was a whirlwind, but it was her whirlwind and she was so proud to call Paper Kite her own.

Three months later, Meg and her husband found out they were pregnant with their first child.

Cue whirlwind number two.

“What are we going to do?!” was Meg’s first thought. But in true Meg-style, she kept moving forward.

Battling morning sickness while working six to seven days a week was a full time job that kept Meg plenty busy until her daughter, Mary Frances, entered the world nearly a year to the day after she opened Paper Kite.

It was insane, Meg said, but it worked. She continued working with her dozing daughter snuggled with her in the shop.

People started coming to Paper Kite to see Mary Frances almost as much as to shop, and Meg realized she was well into the second year of owning her own shop. Paper Kite was busy, people loved her shop and Meg loved her job.

It was the right fit.

Meg wandered around her shop telling me about her favorite items and rearranging stacks of notecards or smoothing a sweet little baby outfit just to feel the soft cotton.

Meg said it was important to her that everything went together, even though she was selling everything from candles and cards to corn cob rattles and patterned leggings – it all needed to look like Paper Kite.

Meg’s story is like herself, humble and gracious. It’s about finding her place, mixing her loves and her skills and moving forward when the unexpected turns out better than you expected.

Paper Kite is Meg’s art. It’s not overly complicated – it’s simple, it’s beautiful and it’s hers.

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