Santa with a young boy

Regency’s rich history as a holiday tradition for families

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For more than 40 years shoppers have made Regency a favorite destination, especially at the holidays. With its brick-lined interior and enclosed store-fronts only steps apart from each other, Regency was originally designed as a small-town village as part of the overall Regency development. Locals who lived in the housing division and worked in the adjacent business park could walk over to shop and dine as an extension of their own neighborhood.

Today, Regency appeals to a much wider audience with its emphasis on one and only retailers unique to Omaha. National merchants such as Williams-Sonoma, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, and Pottery Barn Kids provide a wide draw. Local retailers such as Borsheims, Parsow’s Fashions, Tilly, and Christian Nobel Furs bring an additional niche clientele. Fleming’s, Bonefish Grill, and Paradise Bakery offer a variety of dining options so there’s something for everyone.

But what unifies all of these merchants are the family-friendly events they host throughout the year. “We aren’t what we used to be,” said Regency’s General Manager, Alicia Peters. “We are doing much more to appeal to younger families and our stores have events centered around them.” These include junior chef classes at Williams-Sonoma, weekly story time at Pottery Barn Kids, and character visits at Learning Express from Peppa the Pig and others. During the summer months Regency holds its Kids Funfair every Thursday, which draws up to 300 families and includes activities such as magician shows and performances by Omaha Street Percussion.

Other special events during the year include bringing in local pop-up shops, fashion trunk shows, Borsheims’ wedding showcase and Berkshire Days, American Girl cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma, and special event stylings at Garbo’s Salon. Both Fleming’s and Bonefish Grill have popular happy hours as well. But one of Regency’s most notable events is when Santa comes to town.

In his eighth year as Santa Claus, Lynn Hendrix, joined by his wife Jackie as Mrs. Claus the past two years, will bring his love and enthusiasm for the holiday to Regency once again. “He’s so popular as Santa because of his personality,” Alicia said. “He’s no different in and out of character. They are both so genuine, which is what makes him so popular. He’s the driver behind the magic we have at Regency at the holidays, and we are so lucky to have it.”

When first approached to play Santa, Lynn admits he was hesitant. But his wife and family encouraged him to try it. “I don’t like to shave, so the beard was natural,” he said. After giving it a try the first year, he was hooked. “The first time you hold an infant and look into their sweet eyes, it’s so special,” Lynn added. He’s grown into the role over the years, to the point where even his own grandchildren didn’t recognize him when they were little and visited him at Regency. “I curl his beard, and he has a natural twinkle in his eye and a reddish complexion—he literally is Santa!” Jackie said.

When Regency asked her if she’d like to play Mrs. Claus, Jackie said she was honored. During the holiday season, she holds a weekly story time at Pottery Barn Kids where she reads Christmas books to toddlers and preschoolers. They also sing songs, have treats, all complete with “snow” inside the center courtyard. “The kids stick their tongues out and try to catch snowflakes,” Jackie said. “It’s such a joy.”

This will be the second year that Regency has held a “Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus” contest. One family is chosen out of all those who enter to enjoy breakfast with the couple at Paradise Bakery. The Hendrix’s plan to continue their roles as long as they can at Regency. And despite their popularity creating long lines to visit Santa, most say it’s a smooth process and worth the wait. “I always focus just on the children I have in front of me at the moment and devote my whole attention to them and that family,” Lynn said. And it’s not just children who come to visit Santa. He’s held cats, dogs, and even a baby pig wrapped up in a blanket.

Adding to the magic of the season at Regency are its decorations, special touches like hot cider from William-Sonoma, and the high-end window shopping. “We’re not New York City, but we take a lot of time and care to make our windows and stores beautiful at the holidays,” Alicia said. “The customer service of our merchants is also unlike anywhere else, with special touches everywhere you go.” Whether it’s to shop for unique gifts, visit Santa, or enjoy a meal with friends and family, Regency aims to be the destination for all of your holiday family traditions.

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