Berkshire Hathaway
I Enjoyed Omaha!

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By Parsad
May 10, 2002

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I posted notes on the annual Berkshire meeting previously, but I decided that I would use a separate post for my actual Omaha experience! I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Omaha, and I certainly will go again.

As my plane began its approach to Eppley Airfield, a surge of anticipation filled my body, as I looked at Omaha below me. Dark fields of soil, divided like perfect grids, were all around me. Some of the grids were etched with retaining walls to prevent soil erosion. The ground looked like a giant mural!

One of the first things you will realize about Omaha, is that it's a hell of a lot bigger than you expected! As you draw closer to the city, the grids of soil turn to pockets of green and the number of homes visible increases dramatically.

Eppley Airport is clean and efficient, with everything well organized. Even on its busiest day, it isn't that busy! Never rent your car from Thrifty - they suck! My car seemed to have alignment problems and was short a few tune-ups.

Borsheims is quite unassuming from the outside of the Regency Fashion Court. The mall is in a fairly upscale neighborhood with many beautiful homes. It's very elegant inside with an excellent selection of merchandise. Regency Fashion Court is quite stylish, but seems to be somewhat empty. Perhaps they are losing business to the Westroads Mall across Dodge Street. Borsheims is totally packed on the shareholder event evening and the Sunday event as well. A beautiful young woman from the corporate marketing department named Jaime, was extremely helpful over the weekend when I needed to find something in particular. She is an asset to Borsheims and she went out of her way to help me.

But, if it's selection you're looking for, then the retail store with the biggest selection has to be Nebraska Furniture Mart. It is hands-down the biggest retailer I have ever seen. Imagine 10-12 IKEA's stuck together, and you have some idea of how big this retailer is. And it is still expanding, with a new distribution warehouse. It encompasses roughly 5 square blocks! The prices and selections are amazing, but for out-of-state shoppers the shipping costs can be an obstacle. But, it is no wonder that NFM is completely dominant in Omaha and the surrounding areas!

The Holiday Inn Central where I stayed was ok, and the hotel was relatively empty. So, I had this gigantic swimming pool and hot-tub area all to myself most of the time.

The best biscuits I've ever tasted are at Popeyes Chicken. The chicken isn't any better than anywhere else, but the biscuits and gravy were amazing. They probably had half a tub of lard in each biscuit!

Downtown Omaha is neither big nor small. The Old Market Area is quite nice, especially the Passageways Shopping area with its boutiques and restaurants. The Jocelyn Art Museum was very interesting, and the gigantic Dale Chihuly glass sculpture is amazing! The Capitol Hill High School next to the Museum is quite striking as well. I couldn't believe that was a high school! The War Memorial was also quite a striking sight, with its huge green pastures leading to the semi-circular monument at the top of the hill. This whole Happy Hollow area is very established, and the homes are exquisite.

Berkshire's office is indeed diminutive. Especially if you compare the room they use to the amount of space encompassed by the Mutual of Omaha building. Now I see how those overpriced premiums for insurance coverage were spent, and why they were financing the "Wild Kingdom" for all those years. They have perhaps the nicest office building in all of Omaha, with a lobby comparable to the best hotels! Their security guard booted me off their property because I was taking a picture of the building from the outside! Perhaps the only rude behavior I encountered in Omaha. If WEB and CM want to point out a good example of corporate excess and deceptive practices against consumers, perhaps they should just point down the street to the Mutual of Omaha! Berkshire's office just has a little intercom button next to the door, and the sign says, "Berkshire Hathaway, Admittance by Appointment Only." The lobby of Kiewit Plaza is nice, but not ostentatious.

The "Bookworm" is a terrific little bookstore in Omaha. It's the type of bookstore you want to go shop in and simply sit there, read, and chat with the sales staff. Unfortunately Robert Miles was delayed by the Cleveland airport bomb scare, so we didn't get him to sign our books. But a small group of Berkshire shareholders simply mingled and talked about the company.

Ironwoods Golf and Country Club is very nice, and the banquet was just amazing. I couldn't believe that WEB was there and only about 100-120 people were there listening to him. It was extremely well organized by Farmer Lyle and Sherrie. It was an experience of a lifetime to meet Warren and have my picture taken with him. Even his security detail made him quite accessible to everyone while protecting him. The rear patio overlooking the golf course at Ironwoods is stunning. Architecturally, something akin to a colonial mansion overlooking a southern plantation. Also met Debbie Bosanek, who is very nice and Lotsofcoke, who seems to know just about everyone in Omaha. Susan Buffett has inherited her father's charm and good graces, and took the picture for me!

Joann's barbecue was quite interesting, and I met TMF Selena, Freggel, howardroark and UsuallyReasonable, who was most reasonable that day! Joann's coleslaw is the best I've ever tasted! Her ribs were damned good too!

Rosenblatt Stadium is a beautiful little ball field. It's just too bad that they replaced all the old-fashioned wooden seats with new plastic seats. While they are comfortable, some of that baseball magic seems to be missing. I was surprised to see Warren signing autographs at the top of Section G for almost 2 hours! For a 72-year-old man, he sure has a ton of energy! Certainly more than me!

I spoke to Larry Sarbit during the day, but I didn't get to meet him since AIC has their own box and I just had reserved seats. It would have been nice to sit there for two or three hours and just pick his brain!

If any shareholders out there wonder if they should go to the BRK meeting, I would without a doubt recommend that you go at least once. The people of Omaha are probably some of the nicest I have ever met. Everywhere I went, it was "Good morning," "How are you?," "Hello," and "Welcome." Never did I feel as if I was an outsider. There also seems to be an inherent bond between Berkshire shareholders, and people you meet for the first time, will gladly tell you their life story, and welcome you with open arms. I met many people who I have now become friends with such as Lotsofcoke, gwi96 and his friend Dave, Freggel, Joann, Sherrie, a fellow named Alan from Seattle, and an older lady named Loo Hobart, who bought her first shares of Berkshire A's at $800 each! I would even recommend that non-BRK shareholders attend as well, especially Wall Street. There is no doubt in my mind that if some of the philosophies within Berkshire were practiced by Main Street and Wall Street, corporate America would be greatly enhanced.

My father was my hero, and I never had a chance to thank him. Warren comes a close second! Berkshire Hathaway has changed my life for the better, and I thought I owed Warren and Charlie a "thank-you" in person. The intellectual framework that is used for successful investment management, becomes part of the decision making process for the rest of your life. The one thing I will never be able to reiterate enough, is that Berkshire Hathaway's value isn't simply in its market price, but the educational value you receive, and how you begin to view the world and life itself. Without Warren and Charlie the economic value will remain as strong as ever, but the educational benefits will diminish. That's why I recommend that if you have the opportunity to hear Warren and Charlie in person, please take that opportunity at least once. Cheers!

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