Research compiled by: Jordan H., Josselyn T., Kaleb W.
In 1917, the world was a harrowing place. Europe was in the midst of the First World War. In Eastern Europe, Rose Blumkin witnessed the looting of Jewish communities and violent attacks on Jews. She became one of many who fled the region in search of safety and opportunity, immigrating to America.
In Omaha, Rose and her family began running a secondhand clothing store, and Rose, lacking much formal education, applied her natural talents in sales and marketing to draw customers. The key business practice in this and her later ventures was providing goods at only a 10 percent markup, which resulted in savings for the consumer, drawing more customers into the store. In 1937, Rose started a furniture store in the basement of their clothing store and used the same approach. The following year, this business became Nebraska Furniture Mart and moved into its own building. Mrs. Blumkin’s business grew dramatically with the economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. The expansion of housing and growth of the population meant more people shopping at Nebraska Furniture Mart for affordable furniture and carpet. By 1969, the company had annual sales of $20 million. Today, it is one of the largest furniture companies in the country.
With entrepreneurial success, Rose Blumkin also became notable for her generosity in giving back. Places in Omaha, such as the Rose Blumkin Home and the Rose Theater, bear her name as a public testament to her philanthropy. Even with these public displays of generosity, it was her private acts of giving back that are remembered by many. In 1981, Rose received the Israel Peace Medal for “humanitarianism to Jewish and non-Jewish causes alike, to local and national needs, to overseas and to Israeli needs.” In 1986, she received the Distinguished Nebraskan Award. These were amongst many other awards and honorary degrees Rose received before she passed away in 1998 at age 104. It is her business skills and generosity that continue to shape the enduring legacy of Rose Blumkin today.
The best part of this experience was the food and learning about Omaha history. I loved learning about how exciting North Omaha used to be, especially the musical aspect. I loved the cultural food, such as Big Mama’s in North Omaha and El Alamo in South Omaha.