“We decided we could live anywhere we wanted, and we chose Fremont.”

Meet Glen Ellis, local business owner and newly elected city council member in Fremont, NE (population 26,397).

Ellis and his family moved to Fremont (45 minutes NW of Omaha) from Kansas City 14 years ago bringing with a successful startup company creating 30 local high tech jobs.

“I’ve always moved with my jobs, but when we decided to take the company full time we weren’t tied to any location,” said Ellis. “We decided we could live anywhere we wanted, and we chose Fremont.”

Then, in 2014 he purchased and began renovating the May Brothers Building downtown with a dream of creating an innovation hub.

The buildings namesake is three brothers; Joseph, William, and Jacob May who came to Fremont in the late 1860’s seeking new opportunity and soon opened a small grocery store, Staple & Fancy Groceries.

The May Brothers business eventually prospered into one of the biggest and most innovative wholesale grocery lines in the Midwest. Their rapidly growing business called for a much larger space, which led to the creation of the May Brothers three story, 30,000 sq ft building in the heart of downtown.

Today, the building has been gorgeously and sustainably renovated. Original marble slabs from the second floor have been restored as counter tops and the dropped ceiling was removed revealing a gorgeous original tin ceiling. When the original hardwood was determined to no longer be suited for floors it was reclaimed and instead used to create cozy interior walls.

In 2017, Ellis opened Milady Coffee House on the first floor which serves as a beautiful, comfortable community hub including an incredible calendar of live music, a pint room, artisan markets and plans to expand the creative collective to the above floors in the near future. The name is also a historical nod to one of the May Brothers most popular products, Milady coffee blend.

Speaking of history, the Milady Coffee House also boasts two incredible murals featuring a colorful, modern take on the May Brothers themselves…

Photo from approximately 1885 of the three May Brothers

…and a larger than life Milady Coffee Wagon deeply saturated with historic gems and symbolic references.

Together, Ellis and the Fremont Creative Collective offer an excellent example of the unique opportunities for innovation that exist in rural communities all across the country.

While some say rural is dying and nothing can be done, others are actively and creatively shaping the future of their communities.

Be sure to visit www.maybrothersbuilding.com and www.fremontcreativecollective.org for more information about this story.


Rural + Placemaking = The New Place to Pioneer

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