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Rustic, mid-century, industrial: Micano Home focuses on sustainability and style

By Nora Tarte

Sam Sprague, 58, created his first piece of artwork when he opened his maker store Micano Home in Midtown in 2003.

It was a leap of faith, opening the South Virginia storefront after departing a lucrative career designing displays for Custom Truck. And it all kind of happened on a whim.

As Sprague tells the story, a designer walked into Custom Truck and asked who made the displays. When Sprague responded that he did, she asked him out to lunch the next day. Convincing him of his unrealized talents as a “linear genius,” it took Sprague two weeks before quitting his job and committing to opening his own design store.

Called a maker shop, Micano is unlike any other. Looking to the antique stores and upscale lighting business near his purchased South Virginia building, he settled on a home décor store that fit a niche, focused on purchased and resold rustic goods. It eventually transformed into a space to support local artists with downcycled and upcycled goods.

Sprague’s stand-out piece currently in the shop is a shelf, at right, that has the tree of life with two faces included in the design. Image: Nora Tarte / This Is Reno

More than 30% of inventory comes from local artists and 95% is made from recycled materials. His success and support of the maker movement, he says, is proof to others that art like this sells and a business like his can be successful.

Sprague’s personal art style fuels the inventory, using a lot of heavy metals and woods to turn out lasting pieces that can be best described as mid-century modern or industrial. He likes the (made up) word “reusefulness” to describe his décor, made almost entirely from donated or found old pieces.

“I can make a lamp [out of an old blender],” Sprague boasts.

While he used to dumpster dive and go to junkyards to get his materials, Sprague now relies mostly on donated items, including musical instruments, old tool boxes, benches, garden pieces and electrical items. “We do really well with parts of things,” he says.

Some of his favorite items include bars made from the front of old Jeeps, using ancient farm equipment to make them one of a kind. “We do a lot of bars,” he says. “Reno is kind of a drinking town.” 

He also likes making shelves, including a (currently for sale) stand-out piece handmade with an image of the organic tree of life that twists into two faces when viewed from different directions, which he says offers a more upscale vision of his art. 

The alley at Micano Home, where at any given time artists can be working on pieces for sale in the shop. Image: Nora Tarte / This Is Reno

“Part of [the] character is the construction,” Sprague says of Micano’s goods. He also adds he can tell buyers where every plank of wood used in their piece came from, which makes the bigger works good conversation starters.

Occasionally Sprague has to buy the odd end from a manufacturer, but when doing so he stays true to his brand by only purchasing those that have been repurposed. 

“Very rarely is something brand new from here,” he says, estimating maybe five pieces in his packed store in total don that designation.

While Sprague is one of the main artists at Micano, he’s not the only local artist contributing to inventory. Local jewelers and ceramicists also sell goods. What makes it unique is not just that they are what Sprague calls “blue collar artists” often from Nevada, but that their jewelry may also be made completely from recycled tires.

At any given time, there are three to four other artists making pieces not just for Micano, but at Micano. Sprague typically finds them through word of mouth or advertisements in the local paper. The artists are welcome to use any of the collected materials or equipment Sprague has on site and then he pays them a fair price for artwork when it is complete. 

The curated items range from water features made from rusted milk jugs to colorful garden art flown in from Mexico, constructed from recycled washers and dryers.

His most popular sales, he says, are lighting and garden art.

While the majority of the artwork is upcycled from donated “junk,” some of the furniture in the store comes from downcycling newer items to improve their quality and give them a rustic touch, including tv consoles and media cabinets.

With nearly 20 years under his belt, Micano has grown and the small shop is bursting at the seams with water features, colorful garden animals, throwback items including characters like Betty Boop and even a touch of neon. His items that sell best, he says, have a Nevada component to them.

Art on display outside of Micano Home in Midtown Reno, Nev. Image: Nora Tarte / This Is Reno

“It’s not normal for blue collar artists… to open up a handmade art gallery on a main street [in] America,” Sprague says. And he’s proud of how far the business has come after launching it on a little more than a dream and some newly found confidence.

In addition to what’s on display, Sprague routinely ships large pieces nationally, many of which are custom designs. The majority of his clientele, he says, comes from California or other tourists on vacation for big events like Hot August Nights.

With Nevada deep rooted in his artwork – both the materials and the design – he’d admittedly like to see more locals in his shop. There’s no pressure to buy anything, he insists, just come in and take a look. About half of the time they are open—Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.—there are artists making pieces right there in the alleyway. “It’s a very low-key feel,” he says. “We’re just making art.”

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