Former UNO student designs sushi bar
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011 15:03
"I think architecture is extremely rewarding," says former UNO student Tom Allisma. "It's like art at a huge scale."
Allisma designed and co-owns a new Omaha restaurant, Blue - Sushi Sake Grill.
Allisma moved with his family to Omaha when he was 7 years old in 1981.
He credits his mother for stirring up his creativeness early on.
"My mom was the one to get me involved in coloring contests and other cool, fun, creative things," he says.
While attending classes at Millard South High School, Allisma received more exposure to architecture and design. Friends would encourage him to take certain design classes because the teachers were cool, but he found that once he was in the classes, the material covered intrigued him as well.
When Allisma took a drafting class his sophomore year of high school, he knew designing was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
After high school, Allisma enrolled in UNO's pre-architecture program. He attended UNO from 1993 to 1996.
While at UNO, he was able to take advantage of the university's unique teaching style and made multiple contacts, such as Randy Brown and Kevin Clark.
The pre-architecture program hires professionals in the field to teach courses. These professionals bring a unique perspective to the classroom with their experience.
Since UNO does not offer degrees in architecture, Allisma transferred to UNL in order to complete his bachelor's and master's degrees.
Allisma was accepted to multiple universities in Los Angeles for graduate school but decided to stay in Nebraska.
"If I went out to L.A. and went to school, I would probably be $100,000 in debt right now and I would not be having a sushi bar, and I wouldn't be doing any of these projects," Allisma says. "I would be struggling."
Currently, Allisma is an architect intern. He explains one has to work for three years and take a licensing test before earning the official title of architect.
He plans to begin taking the nine-part exam in May or June.
In the meantime, he cannot work on any project that is 5,000 square feet or more nor do any commercial work due to structural issues.
Even though he may not have the title of architect yet, Allisma has been keeping busy.
In November 2002, Allisma, along with partners attorney Nick Hogan and sushi chef Tom Buder, opened Blue - Sushi Sake Grill.
Located at 144th and Maple streets, Blue looks like something out of Los Angeles or San Francisco.
As its name hints, the core color in the restaurant's design is blue.
"Blue is just a color name, but when I think of 'blue' I think of soothing and I think of water and I think of the ocean and the sky," Allisma says. "It just seems right."
When designing the establishment, Allisma says he was "trying to get a coastal feel in the Midwest."
He sums up the design of the restaurant as "coastal abstraction."
When working on Blue and other design projects, Allisma uses computer models, which he calls "one of the best tools possible."
Allisma enjoys seeing the positive reactions to his creations from his clients.
"You can tell when they're hyped about projects," he says. "I enjoy it when I see people get excited about it."
Allisma plans to continue to design various projects.
"I want to get more into development and I'd really like to do more restaurants or more entertainment things," he says.
He encourages those interested in the field to intern early on.
"It just may be running errands, but see what goes on in the office, what kind of job you're going to be doing," Allisma says. "That will prove to yourself if that's what you really want to be doing."