Retailers, cafes springing to life in midtown Reno

Retail redevelopment continues to make a strong push in midtown Reno the area located on South Virginia Street from California Avenue to Mt. Rose Street.

New restaurants in the midtown area include Midtown Eats, Kreme and Sup, which recently moved from the small space now occupied by Midtown Eats into a space triple its former location.

Other newer businesses to the midtown area include Plato's Closet and Clothes Mentor, which opened in January, as well as Craft Wine and Beer at South Virginia and Martin streets and Hub Coffee Co. at 26 Cheney Street.

Carter Bros. Ace Hardware opened at 1215 South Virginia in mid-2008, while Zephyr Books opened in a large space anchoring the south end of the midtown corridor at 1501 S. Virginia St. in 2007.

And developer Bernie Carter of the investment firm Dacole plans to capitalize on midtown movement by erecting 17 new retail shops at South Virginia and Thoma streets. Dacole also is renovating the old Coco Boom/Del Mar Station building across the street. Construction on both sites is underway.

The many new retail developments join an eclectic core of longtime businesses that include several tattoo parlors, a furniture store, many specialty boutiques and even some residences.

Ivan Fontana, who opened Midtown Eats in August with his wife, Sadie Bonnett, says one of the reasons he chose the midtown area was because of its favorable rental rates as compared to the downtown core. His location, though small the eatery seats between 33 and 35 patrons also had a successful track record.

"It used to be Luciano's back in the day, and it has always been a good location," Fontana says. "It seems like there has been good luck here."

"We just noticed that there are more and more businesses moving in, and this area is going to be the new downtown," he adds. "It is becoming more of a destination, and more importantly it is a neighborhood spot. This is going to be a really hopping spot in five years."

Sup owners Kasey and Christian Christensen also scouted locations in downtown for their expanded restaurant, but they chose to move less than 100 yards from their old spot in order to stay in the midtown area. Rents downtown, Kasey Christensen says, were about 25 to 50 percent higher than the midtown area, which allowed the couple to expand their location using only personal finances.

Sup re-opened in July and is enjoying extremely favorable returns, Christensen says.

"It has been a huge jump for us, something we have been trying to do the last two years," she says.

In the four years that Sup has been open, Christensen says the midtown corridor has undergone many positive changes.

"It was kind of an under-utilized part of Virginia Street," she says. "It is an area where you have a lot of businesses and working lunch crowd. It has the potential for growth and for bringing the character of our community out."

Perhaps the biggest boost to the area is the proposed development by Dacole, which plans to add more than 50,000 square feet of new retail space. Carter, Dacole's president, says that the addition of many family-owned businesses in midtown will strengthen the developing sense of community in the area.

The yet-to-be-named development also includes a plaza and a privately maintained street cutting from South Virginia to Center Street, which will allow the owners to hold special events such as farmer's markets or perhaps craft fairs and sidewalk sales.

Although several of the new retail establishments are expected to be restaurants and small eateries, Sup's Christensen says the competition will be good for all businesses in the midtown area.

"I like the fact of creating a place and an area where people will come to. It creates a real feeling of community and gives people a place to go that isn't surrounded by casinos."

Adds Carter, whose brother, Tim, runs Ace Hardware: "What is happening in this corridor is extremely positive. Keep in mind that we are the guys that opened a hardware store in 2008, so we are masters of timing the absolute worst time. It is not going gangbusters, but they are making it work."

Pete Wallish, economic development manager for city manager's office with the City of Reno, says the redevelopment of the midtown area completes the puzzle of redevelopment downtown and in the Old Southwest.

"It is especially encouraging in the current economy," Wallish says. "Midtown is a fantastic opportunity for the city of Reno; it is a neighborhood that is transforming through continued redevelopment and adding job creation. The great availability of commercial buildings positions the midtown area for endless redevelopment opportunities."

The City of Reno also has plans to beautify the midtown area through the South Virginia Streetscape Design Standards. The goal of the plan is to make South Virginia Street more pedestrian friendly by adding larger sidewalks, streetlamps, planters and benches, Wallish says. Engineering firm Wood Rodgers submitted tentative plans for the standards to the city council for review in early October and is revising the standards before submitting them to the city's planning commission.

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