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  Omaha's Bill Grush and Star Realm

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Author Topic:   Omaha's Bill Grush and Star Realm
Jay Gallentine
Member

Posts: 249
From: Shorewood, MN, USA
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 10-28-2007 03:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Gallentine   Click Here to Email Jay Gallentine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Everyone,

With much delight I've discovered the name of Bill Grush used on the cS forums.

For those unfamiliar with him, in the 1980's, in West Omaha, Nebraska, and then later on in La Vista (basically a wing of Omaha), Bill operated a remarkable little store known as 'Star Realm'. It had bascially everything space and fantasy related. Plus comic books, movie posters, etc.

I spent much of my youth - and lawnmowing money - out at the place, lingering over the glass cases to peer at his assortment of patches, glasses, paperweights, and other space memorabilia. From age ten to sixteen I methodically attempted to purchase every single thing in this case. His spread of space and sci-fi books was absolutely un-matched. When I needed seven 'Alien' trading cards to complete my collection, Bill was the guy to track them down. He was the only place I knew of to get accurate and high-quality mission patches. And I thought I heard him mention once that he'd actually designed one of the Shuttle patches. When Challenger went, I traveled there that day and all we could talk about was how much we didn't believe it could happen.

In the mid-1990s, Bill introduced me to the magical things in the Superior Galleries catalogs. He first showed me eBay. And when I signed a credit-card slip for yet another purchase, he could only laugh.

"You're left-handed!" he pointed out.

"Yes."

"Jay, what's the national average?" he asked. "Maybe ten percent of people are left-handed? But with my customers, it's at least eighty, ninety-percent left-handed."

By that time he'd grown tired of the rat-race at his LaVista store. Business was huge; he had role-playing games going in the back rooms night and day. His phone constantly rang off the hook. But he said it was just getting to be too much for him. So he closed the doors, and relocated to basically a large closet in downtown Omaha. And I haven't had contact with him in probably ten years.

Fellow space junkie, all-around good guy. I was wondering if anyone else cared to share their anecdotes about dear old Bill.

Regards,
Jay Gallentine

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 10-28-2007 08:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hey Jay, we've probably bumped into each other on more then a few occassions! I was a regular there also. I spent probably all my Saturdays at Star Realm from about 1986 to 1993, playing Car Wars in the back room.

Anyway, my first visit to Star Realm was as a 12 year old, recently moved to Omaha with my folks (my Dad and Mom were born here as was I, but I spent most of my childhood in San Antonio). This was at the old 108th and Q location. I was more into WW2 planes at the time, but I immediately fell in love with the place as it had model kits, patches, cool games and all sorts of other stuff (and space themed video games). So I talked my Dad into getting me a Star Trek movie Enterprise kit (which I spent the next couple days building and painting). I was hooked at that point.

That location was nice, but the 84th was the crowning achievement. On the upper display rack sat pieces of space race Americana, from a Young Astronauts Cabbage Patch doll, to old models, to an extensive patch and art collection. I recall buying more then a few shuttle patches from him, in the early days when it was easy to keep track of the shuttle mission order, and had those sewn onto two jackets (one a "Members Only" jacket). I still have both those jackets sitting in my closet, patches and all.

I remember shopping for the model kits, as I would get science fiction stuff and later on some factual space kits. I built two Star Trek TNG Enterprise D models, which hung from the ceiling near a TMP Enterprise for many years and even presented Bill with his very own "U.S.S. Star Realm, NCC-1978" model when he closed the shop in early 1996 or so. I also made a deal with him to acquire a Master Modell 1/288 Buran/Energia Shuttle kit in exchange for building one for him. After I presented it to him, it joined his upper row of keepsakes until the day he closed that location as well and it was an honor for me to do it (I still have the kit I got out of the deal too). Buying books there, be they SF or factual space related (or gaming books) was also a favorite activity.

After that, I still tried to make an effort to visit his new locations. He did open up a spot on South 13th street for awhile as well after his year or so at the Old Market location. I still would buy kits. A large portion of my space model kit collection is still fully emblazened with "Star Realm" tags on it and those remain badges of honor and memories of happier times.

When I went to work for Hobbytown in 1995 as a plastic model specialist (I asked Bill and he insisted Hobbytown was not the reason he closed) I made sure to have a well stocked SF and space model aisle when Bill closed the LaVista location to sort of pay homage to that great store. It remains that way today even though there are a lot fewer space model kits available these days.

Today I know Bill is still out there with his wife Sandra. I've occassionally bumped into him, although we haven't seen each other for a couple years (a friend of mine still has regular contact with him though). We are still good friends, even if we don't see each other much.

I made sure to shoot some pictures of the place on the last day it was open, complete with the exterior murals that were painted on it. If I can find them, I will scan them in.

Jay Chladek
Member

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 10-28-2007 08:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This should help jog some memories. These pictures I shot on the last day the LaVista location was open. As such, the shelves were a bit bare inside (but not totally) and a few of his collection pieces were still on display.

Here is the front I know best.

Here is half of the mural on the back wall.

And the other half!

Here are some of the items on his display shelf that last day.

And here is the MAN himself, Bill Grush!

Jay Gallentine
Member

Posts: 249
From: Shorewood, MN, USA
Registered: Sep 2004

posted 10-29-2007 09:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Gallentine   Click Here to Email Jay Gallentine     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great pictures Jay! Thanks so much for sharing! They sure bring back memories.

I'll be in Omaha this holiday season and will have to look Bill up. It's been too long and I hope he's doing well.

I would swear I saw a post on cS from someone in the Netherlands or some such who dealt with Star Realm. Sounds like Bill really got around!

Jay Gallentine

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