The Grass Shack
For 17 years, from 1947 to 1964, the Grass Shack at
3229 California was a “home away from home” for many
students at Creighton University. At the same time it was a
good place for a quick lunch or dinner for the bread man,
the Pepsi man, the grocer down the street and students
on their way home from Tech High. Jack and Alice Kaya
opened the cafe about three years after their release from
an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Jerome,
Arkansas. Prior to WW II the Kayas had been living in Los
Angeles where Jack had a 10-cent Cafe and where Alice
attended a fashion design school. In Omaha Jack, an
excellent cook, first worked in the kitchens at the
Blackstone Hotel, but soon found a building for his own
cafe on 33rd and California. There were living quarters to
the rear for the family and for Alice to do her dress making
and alterations. Alice had already gained many customers
from Mutual of Omaha and word spread that she was very
Kaya Family: Alice, Jack
and daughter, Carol
The Grass Shack was one of the first Japanese restaurants in the Omaha area. Hawaiian
and other oriental students at Creighton were some of the best customers. These men
and women lived in rooming houses and apartments in the area and depended on Jack
and Alice Kaya for cooking to their tastes and pocket books. Mrs. Kaya recalls that many
times the students would have to put their very modest meal checks on the “cuff” until
their loans or money from home would come in. She said that without fail they paid up as
soon as they could.

The Grass Shack served breakfast, lunch and dinner, using a lot of rice. This was
relatively inexpensive and, in fact, many of their dinners cost only 55 cents. In spite of
very small profits and with the help of Alice’s sewing they routinely closed for two weeks
each summer so the Kaya family could drive to a lake in Minnesota for a week of fishing
and relaxation and, on their return, a week of cleaning and preparation for the next
season. They made a change of location to Countryside Village where they opened as
the Mt. Fuji Inn in about 1964. They later moved to 7215 Blondo where it is still in
operation. The Kayas had four children and now have four grandchildren and six great
granddaughters. Mr. Jack Kaya died in 1982 and now a daughter, Jackie Shindo, is the
manager with help from her mother, Alice.


Kaya, Alice and Shindo, Jackie, interview, February 1996
Gifford Park Neighborhood Association
P.O. Box 31462, Omaha, NE 68131-0462
Gifford Park
History Book