“I think it’s got a ton of potential,” Josh Thieriot says with a smile. “One of our mottos is ‘restore the past to preserve the future’ … and this is going to be one of those projects.” It’s a sun-soaked Thursday afternoon in mid-June and Thieriot, owner of Reno-based real estate investment firm Highway Ventures LLC, is gazing at his most recent investment: a dilapidated commercial building set at 900 E. 4th St. in Reno. From the outside, the 80-year-old structure — windows boarded up, roof beaten down — looks like a lingering eyesore stuck on Reno’s oft-ridiculed Fourth Street corridor. The average passerby may guess the building used to be an old rec center that lacked funding or a department store that went bust. Its history in the Biggest Little City runs much deeper than that. Constructed of brick and glass block, the building was built in 1940 by the Reno Brewing Company as its new bottling plant, according to the Historic Reno Preservation Society. For 17 years, the brewery bottled and labeled its products — namely its flagship Sierra Beer — inside. In 1957, after years of struggling to stay afloat, Reno Brewing Company cut off production for good.
Josh Thieriot, owner of Highway Ventures LLC, stands next to the original skylights that were removed from the old Reno Brewing Company bottling plant on June 10, 2021. New skylights will take their place during the restoration of the building. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW
In 1958, Joseph Hobson, of Frontier Land and Livestock, Inc., bought the plant with the intent of turning it into a casino. The project, however, never came to fruition. Decades later, Joseph Hobson’s son Spencer took over as owner of the property. Over the years, the building was leased out to a variety of businesses, from a concrete company to a plumbing supplier. Since 1989, the historic building, for the most part, has been vacant. ‘PAY TO PLAY’ Theiriot has plans to change that. As the owner of several commercial and residential properties on Fourth Street, Theiriot had his eye on the former Reno Brewing Company bottling plant for years. He said he was drawn to the “mid-century modern architecture” of the building, which runs 130 feet along Fourth Street and 100 feet deep along Morrill Street. Theiriot was especially attracted to the building’s interior, which consists of an expansive open room of some 13,000 square feet. Steel trusses stretch across the length of the space and reach up to the high ceiling. “Our understanding is this is the largest ClearSpan steel truss building in the state,” said Theiriot, referring to the design that eliminates the need for truss assembles and beams that are required by load-bearing walls in traditional wood construction.
Earlier this year, the original skylights were removed by crane from the roof of the old beer bottling plant on Fourth Street in Reno. Courtesy photo
The arched ceiling is dotted with evenly spaced sections — currently boarded up due to the construction on the roof — where large skylights will pour in vast amounts of sunshine during the daytime. “I really like the building, and I really like the history,” Theiriot said. His adoration was important enough that he wasn’t going to let it fall in the hands of someone who felt otherwise. In fact, he said, he caught wind last year a developer was looking to buy the historic property, only to tear it down and prop up apartments in its place. “When I heard that, it kind of opened my eyes a little bit and I realized I had to pay to play,” Theiriot said. “More living square footage is certainly something this city needs right now. But to do that here, I thought, would really be a shame.” And so, in February, Highway Ventures bought the building for $2.26 million, according to the Washoe County Assessor’s Office. “It was a high price to pay, but we’re not flippers of any sort,” Theiriot said. “We buy buildings, and the ones that we restore are always long-term investments. So, it’s going to take several years to pay for itself, but we're not in a hurry.” ‘THIS WILL ADD NEW LIFE’ So, what renovation plans does Theiriot have on tap for the old bottling plant?
The historic building that originally served as Reno Brewing Company bottling plant consists of an expansive room of some 13,000 square feet. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel
The Highway Ventures owner said his firm has zeroed in on turning the building into an open-air marketplace where vendors such as espresso bars, eateries and retail kiosks can live. He also envisions converting the property’s outside yard into a functional space for food trucks and outdoor shows, though he noted all plans are “purely conceptual right now.” “We really want to create a community,” Theiriot said. “I've always told myself, this building is what is what will bring people east of Wells (Avenue). And I know that our other customers on Fourth Street and other businesses are going to be excited, because it's going to bring more foot traffic and commerce down here. “If it's anything close to what I think it can be, or what I am envisioning, it’ll be a fantastic value to the community. It’s going to come back to life.” Theiriot said once they have their concept nailed down, they will be meeting with the City of Reno to figure out “what we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do.” Assuming there are no roadblocks along the way, Highway Ventures is anticipating the project will take up to 18 months before it would be finished. Meanwhile, the rest of this year will be spent restoring the building.
Crews work on removing and replacing the roof of the old Reno Brewing Company bottling plant on June 10, 2021. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel / NNBW
So far, crews have already “repointed” the building’s bricks, a process Theiriot described as “taking out the old, dried grout and adding new grout.” Broken glass blocks have also been replaced, he noted. As of mid-June, the building’s old roof was in the process of being removed and replaced. Its original skylights have also been plucked out and will eventually be restored with new ones to maintain the property’s natural light. Once the new roof and skylights are done, crews will work on cleaning up the inside of the building, and the design of the space will begin to take shape, he said. “I don’t want to put walls up in this building — this is the beauty of building,” Theiriot, standing inside the facility, said as he scans the spacious room. “And when these skylights are in, it’s going to be amazing.” Since Highway Ventures purchased the property earlier this year, Thieriot said the company has received numerous of calls and emails from residents wondering what the firm is planning to do with it. Many, he said, are concerned the historic building will be torn down. “Someone recently drove up asked, ‘what are you building? Are you going to tear it down?’” Thieriot said. “We said, ‘We’re not building anything, it’s already here, we’re just going to polish it up.’ “We want to reassure people that this part of Reno history isn't going away.”