An observation here last Sunday brought a half-a-dozen e-mails – we noted downtown construction had exposed a sign on the back wall of Reno Furniture’s store on Virginia Street, a sign in an alley that had been obscured for many years – first by Ford dealer Richardson-Lovelock, then by a temporary building that was recently razed.
The e-mail comments fell in two directions – when was the sign ever visible from any thoroughfare? And, obviously from old-timers: Wasn’t Reno’s Ford dealer once in the Reno Furniture building? One-by-one we’ll reconstruct that central downtown block, and here I’m playing with relatively ancient phone books, Polk City Directories and Sanborn Fire maps, which tend to differ from each other by a year or two. (There’s one of the reasons that I don’t venture back prior to World War II often in these pages…)
There are tracks toward a Ford dealership even before 1917 but fairly solid records of “Calavada Ford” operating in Reno, downtown in the 400 block of North Virginia Street. (I’ve written “Calavada” twice in the past and twice you read “Cal-Vada.” The former sold Fords, the latter Jeeps.) Calavada Ford operated in a building, brick, per the Sanborn map, that was a doorway south of Reno Furniture’s location at 432 N. Virginia. That dealership later moved to the corner of East Fourth and “University” Street, the present Center Street’s prewar name. In 1938 it was acquired by Richardson and Lovelock, and one of my old columns further describes those two fine guys. Reno Furniture’s alley sign that I wrote of was visible from 1940 until the dealership was significantly enlarged to the north, obscuring the sign (the block had been occupied by some stately single-family homes until 1955.) Rounding out the thought, Fred Bartlett bought the dealership in 1966, and Forest Lovelock joined veteran Reno auto dealer Pio Mastroianni.
The Reno Furniture building at 432 N. Virginia Street originally housed Reno Grocery, a wholesale grocer to the trade – that building tracking to 1923 on a Sanborn map.
Shifting gears slightly, I’ll scribe that while following a Citifare bus earlier this week, I noted a placard “80 years of Inez” over second line “70 years of the Halfway Club” with a photo of Mama herself alongside.
“This demands to be chronicled,” I thought to myself and turned east on Highway 40 toward the Halfway Club to investigate further. Sources inside that legendary lair spun the tale of a beautiful bundle of joy arriving in St. Mary’s on Feb. 11th of 1927, being named Inez by her parents John and Elvira Casale and being taken home to the present Halfway Club building where she would live during her childhood. It was then indeed halfway between Reno and Sparks, a fur piece from either, as it would remain until well into the 1950s.
The Casales would open an Italian deli specializing in raviolis in 1935, and in 1937 reopen as a restaurant where the by-then world-famous raviolis were served to travelers on the Lincoln Highway. Ines married Steamboat Stempeck in 1946 and continued making the best raviolis in the world (and now I’ll probably hear from Bruno Selmi in Gerlach. Well, they’re both damn good!) [note to out-of-area readers added here: Bruno owns “Bruno’s” (natch) in Gerlach (pop. 9) , a long hour north of Reno in the Black Rock Desert, but an obligatory drive for visitors and revered by locals for great raviolis and Italian food. And yeah, he let me have it (laughingly) over that “best ravioli” thing.]
Inez at 80 remains the popular grande dame of the local social and culinary landscape, still embracing the Halfway Club’s corporate mantra, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
I know the Sunday readers join me in sending her our best. Have a good week; it’s OK to scream if you hear “Danny Boy” one more time, and God bless America.
Photo credit of Inez Stempeck by Guy Clifton, RGJ
March 22 2007