The process of opening a new business in 2021


Jaden Cheloha, Staff Writer

Everyone is so tired of this narrative that people are now tired of hearing how tired everyone is of this narrative. Yes, COVID has been, is currently, and will be an issue for longer than most people have wanted. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been people defying the odds and breaking through the boundaries the coronavirus has put in front of them. With small businesses getting hit the hardest by the pandemic, their perseverance through difficulties shined brighter than ever before. 

If it was difficult for established small businesses to stay afloat this year, it’s a whole other story to attempt to get a business started, let alone have it succeed, in 2021. The best way to see from the perspective of these new businesses was to talk an owner of one here in Omaha. The Smokin’ Oak is a local pizza shop that opened in Midtown Crossing just this year by Matthew Jaksha and his partner Dan Yaksich. There are a few other locations dotted around the Midwest, but the opening of this new restaurant in Omaha was an operation ran by these two entrepreneurs. 

It originally started as an idea in the mind of Mr. Yaksich. As Mr. Jaksha described it, “My friend and partner approached me about a fast casual pizza concept and had a location in mind.” Once he tasted the pizza, he knew we was interested. He went on to elaborate on the plans that followed: “When we explored the location at Midtown Crossing, there seemed to be a lot of potential based on the space, patio, and presence of Turner Park. We were interested in bringing a fun and affordable restaurant to the area and expanding on that if it was successful. 

Before they could reach success (and success they did reach), they had a lot of planning ahead of them. When asked about just how much planning went into this endeavor, Mr. Jaksha had the most poignant of answers: “A lot.” From the conception of this idea up to opening day, they had to plenty under their belts. 

In order to get the physical site built out, it took the two an extensive amount of planning with designers, architects, and contractors. They also had to work with third parties regarding permits and licenses, coordinate with the franchise of The Smokin’ Oak as a whole, and coordinate with the owners of the complex down in Midtown. “Under optimal circumstances, this is months long process,” Mr. Jaksha put it. 

Only it was not under optimal circumstances, as, obviously, COVID-19 was the main culprit in just about every delay the partners faced. “There were of course supply chain issues, and even now we are dealing with supply chain delays that have us operating at less than 100% of our expectation,” said Mr. Jaksha. “The presence of COVID necessitates additional layers of safety and planning that would not have been considerations a few years ago.” 

Along with the pandemic, Mr. Jaksha and Yaksich also had to deal with the usual obstacles placed in front of new business owners. “Probably the biggest challenge is waiting to grow the restaurant. We have wanted to move faster on several fronts and have been forced to be patient while we wait on equipment or services.” It easy to take some things for granted when it comes to small businesses, but just know that if a soda fountain isn’t working, it’s not from a lack of care with these two. 

After spending a bit too long looking at the negatives, it’s always nice to appreciate the positives that have come with the opening of the Smokin’ Oak. “Dan continues to get great reviews from both first time and repeat patrons who are really impressed with the pizza and enjoy the atmosphere of the place It’s fun to be down there when it’s busy and we have live music or a big crowd out to watch a game.” 

I went down to Midtown Crossing for the soft opening a few months back, and I can attest to both the amazing pizza and the positive environment. If my word isn’t enough, take Izzy Walocha’s, another student at Central, who also recently ate at the restaurant: “I liked it. I had a margarita pizza. Solid 9/10.”