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Miller and Paine

This Dec. 13, 1965, Journal Star file photo shows shoppers at Miller and Paine in downtown Lincoln. 

More than three dozen new retail stores and restaurants are creating a vibrant new downtown atmosphere, business and civic leaders say.

The stores are helping bring back that unique sense of place that retailers created in downtown Lincoln in the 1950s to the 1980s, when big department stores anchored the corners in the downtown area, said Bob Campbell, whose family owned the Miller and Paine department store on the southwest corner of 13th and O streets.  

The model for downtown today is different, with unique, independent smaller shops, said Campbell, who is president of Downtown Civic Ventures, that helps retail businesses in the downtown area. just ranked Lincoln number seven on its list of top 10 downtowns, according to Mayor Chris Beutler. "The retail scene is a factor in our success," he said.

"Things are going very, very well downtown," said Campbell during a Thursday news conference at Embellish, a woman's boutique in the first floor of the Stuart Building.

Embellish is one of 38 businesses that have opened in the downtown area since 2010.

Most of the stores -- retail stores, restaurants, arts and entertainment -- filled vacancies or replaced passive uses, such as office space, said Todd Ogden, program manager for Downtown Civic Ventures. 

Embellish, at 13th and P streets, is on one of the important downtown corners, anchored by the Wells Fargo building, the Stuart Building and the Civic Plaza, a new downtown park that will include artwork from Jun Kaneko, said Terry Uland, president of the Downtown Lincoln Association. 

"We invite people to come down and experience this," he said.

Downtown retail today, with small independent stores, is probably much like the way Lincoln was in the 1880s when Campbell's great-grandfather first came to Lincoln, he said.

Campbell's great-grandfather eventually built the Miller and Paine building, finished in 1915.

The family sold the business to Dillard's in 1990. Dillard's later left the downtown area for Gateway Mall.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or



Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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