Submitted by Karl Breckenridge
Ten items or less, and other myths…
Last time we met I spoke of refrigeration, the lack of which dictated a large number of mom-and-pop stores in Reno and Sparks. Let’s mosey around town and revisit a few stores.
You probably think this is easy – just go through the 1950 City Directory, right? It don’t work that way, boys and girls. Many listings are just “B. Akert” or “J. Barnes,” and it takes a little scratching around to find it was “Akert’s Market” and “Barnes’ Cash Grocery.” I’m gravitating toward the names they were known by in 1950, when the mom-and-pops last proliferated.
The southeast quadrant of our Reno was populating close to South Virginia and Wells, only then starting to sprawl south of Vassar. Washburn’s Market was on Wilson Street, later a radio shop. Kearns’ was far southeast at Kirman and Vassar by the new Veterans’ Memorial School. A couple on South Wells Avenue – a redundant address in 1950, as there was no North Wells Avenue – Reid’s, and Polli’s a little further south. Glubrecht’s was far south on Wrondel near Hubbard Way, and as I recall there was a chinchilla farm across the street. With a name like Glubrecht’s it has to be good.
At the south end of Wells Avenue at South Virginia was Black’s, a fairly comprehensive market with a butcher shop. A little to the south at Linden was the Twentieth Century Market, next door to Harris Meat, owned by Len Harris who would later be mayor of Reno. The Old Orchard Market across from the present Park Lane Center lasted well into the 1960s; to the north was the Mt. Rose at 711 South Virginia. The Farmer’s Market was exactly that, a little north of the Old Orchard by the present Peppermill, serving retail customers and wholesale to other Reno markets.
Southwest Reno wasn’t exactly overdeveloped in 1950 – picture the town with no Plumb Lane east of Arlington Avenue and little development west of Hunter Lake Drive. We found the Corner Market at Hunter Lake and Mayberry. The California Avenue Market was the venerable grocery in that part of town, a full market with a popular butcher shop that went well into the 1970s – owner George Minor, later Charlie Bradley, finally Fred Antoniazzi – the legends of lambchops.
A kid named Karl Breckenridge the Elder delivered groceries for them on a bicycle with a huge basket in the early 1930s. (It should be mentioned that most of these markets survived by running an efficient and speedy delivery trade, filling a good percentage of their orders by phone. Ergo, some stores were called “cash grocery” – no delivery, cash on the barrelhead, no charge accounts.)
Still in the southwest was Clark’s Market, east on California Avenue in what would become Powell’s Drugs at Humboldt. To the south, Collier’s, on Mt. Rose Street by the present 7-Eleven, and the Lander Street Market, which closed in 2002 near Mount Rose School, after new owners shut it down for too long, and it lost its zoning “grandfather” status.
I mentioned Akert’s Market on East Fourth and Alameda (North Wells) Avenue, where the Akerts’ son Ben learned the grocery trade decades before opening Ben’s Discount Liquors. On East Sixth was Meffley’s, further out was Mathisen’s, later rebuilt and enlarged as Mathisen’s Catering Hall. On East Fourth was the Lincoln, and Pinky’s (for the Pincolini family).
Downtown, where a lot of people worked and then shopped on the way home, was Ring-Lee with one store on Mill Street and the other in the block now occupied by the 50 West Liberty Plaza. In that Liberty block also was a Safeway, and Frank’s on the corner of Sierra. Safeway had another store in the classic brick building that remains on the southeast corner of North Virginia and Fifth Street that opened before WWII as a Skaggs-Safeway. That store would survive until the Sewell family opened their “super-store” in 1948 across Virginia Street, that building in turn demolished in 1995 to make room for the Silver Legacy.
Lemaire’s was a block north of Sewell’s on Virginia; Louie Piazzo’s was across the tracks to the south in a space later occupied by The Sportsman (across Virginia from the present Eldorado.) The Reno Public Market was on East Second at Lake. A little larger than the mom-and-pops were the Eagle Thriftys (later acquired by Raley’s), the aforementioned-Sewell’s, and the Games family’s Washoe Market, still all downtown. There remains a little confusion in town caused by the California Market across from Piazzo’s – often being confused with the California Avenue Market named above,
Let’s stop and take a breath….
Now we’re nearing the Sparks neighborhoods, so we’ll pick up the beat there and stop in the express lane of the Stop ‘n Go on the corner of East Fourth and Coney Island/Galletti Way, then I’ll say this one last time and you’ll never have to read it again in a This is Reno column: When we’re recalling the old days, the present Victorian Avenue shall forever be known as B Street.
Down the road to Sparks, in no particular order, we have Kellison’s on B Street, a block from Baker’s Grocery and butcher shop, and I once joked that in my final print column, I would publish for you all the photo of the side of Baker’s 1951 Chevy panel delivery truck. The top line of their motto painted on the truck started “You can beat our prices,” and the lower line started, “but you can’t beat ….,” and here I remind you that they were also a butcher shop.
And no one ever told them…
“Conductor Heights” – the residential area south of the S.P. tracks – was well served by Gomes’ Grocery on South 17th Street (now Rock Boulevard). On Prater and 15th Street was Kendall’s, nearby the Wright Way Market. How could we forget the Midget Mart on B near 2nd Street – one of the earliest “mini stores” and still in business today as “Litke’s,” and tied with the Wright Way market as the two oldest markets in Sparks.
All together we go now, west along Highway 40 but we can’t stop for coffee at the Gold-n-Silver because it won’t be built for seven more years. (Some reader will probably suggest Hale’s Drug’s fountain at West Fourth and Vine, for the best hamburgers in town in 1950.)
I’ve mentioned the Santa Claus Market, the Cottage and Quilici’s. I can say with consummate authority that they all sold one hell of a lot of Bazooka bubble gum, licorice ropes and banana Popsicles after school.
Ralston Street? You bet – three markets I know of: the Ralston Market at the foot of the hill by West Sixth Street [gone], Maynard’s/The University at Tenth Street, (now the Pub-and-Sub, Sigma Nu fraternity’s beer garden branch office) and the Hilltop Market a block to the north of Maynard’s.
On West Fourth Street, Reno’s apartment row, the Elmwood Market at 435 West Fourth and Churchill’s across Highway 40 from old Reno High (in 1950, a year later Central Jr. High, now the Sundowner site.) Barnes’ Cash Grocery, a block to the west on the ol’ Lincoln Highway.
On West Second Street, (Brickie) Hansen’s Market, across from Bello’s tamale factory, best in the west. Vanoni’s Market was further west at Arletta iSands Resort we find the Porta family’s market, stocking every manner of pasta for the “little Italy” district north on Washington Street. Lee Green, née Lina Porta, the wife of our favorite Central Jr. High vice-principal Chet Green, threatened to skin me alive for once calling it the first Porta Subs.
The U of Nevada’s faculty enclave: Rommelfanger’s, way north by College Drive, and DuPratt’s, nearer downtown at Sierra and West Sixth. That was the town’s only Rommelfanger’s, by the way. On College Drive, or maybe the planet.
The Ferrari family’s Food Store on West Second and West Street deserves mention, but that’s getting out of today’s mom-and-pop category into a bigger market. We’ll probably revisit this topic again. But for now, see you next time; yes, Jody Rice is still aboard but tied up teaching her Pilates classes as we return to Governor Steve’s normal, but she’ll be back here writing again when things settle down.
See you soon, and ‘til then, be safe, huh?
Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally.
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