The November opening of Armando & Sons Butcher Shop in the Village at Rancharrah is the culmination of a 20-year long dream of having a retail location for owners Chris and Joanne Flocchini.
The Flocchinis moved to Reno from San Francisco in 2000 to help run Sierra Meats, the Flocchini family business. Although the couple always wanted to establish a dedicated retail operation, the stars just never aligned.
Prior to the opening of Armando & Sons — named after family patriarch Armando Flocchini — retail customers had to visit Sierra Meat’s 50,000-square-foot warehouse on Capital Boulevard to purchase meat, seafood and other fare.
Courtesy Armando & Sons Butcher Shop
Joanne and Chris Flocchini
“We had no retail presence to speak of other than people buying things in the office and going around to the back of the warehouse to pick it up,” Chris Flocchini told NNBW in a recent interview at the company’s sparkling new butcher shop. “It was not ideal from a consumer value proposition.”
After leaving the Bay Area and establishing a foothold in Northern Nevada, the Flocchinis were often asked by their friends how they could purchase steaks from Sierra Meats, Joanne Flocchini said.
“Everyone knew we were in the meat and seafood business, but we just weren’t set up for retail,” she said. “We would do special orders for our friends, and I would always tell Chris that we should open a butcher shop. That’s how we started dreaming about it.”
Chris Flocchini said his wife peppered him multiple times each year about the need to open a butcher shop. He never found a truly great location, and he also had some trepidation about stepping into a retail operation – Sierra Meats sells wholesale to casinos, restaurants and other institutions.
“I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around it,” Chris Flocchini said. “I didn’t want to jump into something not really knowing how to do it, so I always told her that if I find the right person I would do it and put all my effort into it.”
Over the years Flocchini asked various restaurant customers about the right person, and that guy eventually turned out to be Eric Halstead, a customer who operated Village Meats in Incline Village with his wife, Danielle, for nearly two decades.
Courtesy Armando & Sons Butcher Shop
Flocchini said he and Halstead hashed out a plan to open a butcher shop in Reno that harkened back to the old-world style butcher shops found across Europe. If the new venture proves successful, the Flocchinis’ may roll out the concept in other western states where it already operates, such as Seattle and Denver.
“If we can make a go of this, we could potentially open more of them,” he said. “It’s going to take us a while to prove the model, and we will learn a lot. If we are successful, and we can improve upon it, this could be considered a test.”
The dream of a direct-to-consumer operation was hastened by the pandemic. Sierra Meat’s revenue plummeted after retail businesses and casinos were shuttered in April 2020. Armando & Sons Butcher Shop was originally scheduled to open in March, but delays pushed back the opening date more than six months.
And opening the butcher shop didn’t come without its fair share of challenges.
The first issue that cropped up was convincing the Halsteads to leave their longtime home at Lake Tahoe and move to Reno, Flocchini said. Another issue was finding the right location. After a friend suggested Rancharrah, the Flocchinis and Halstead leased one of the last vacant spaces at the upscale development that opened in 2021.
The Flocchinis hired a designer to make their dreams a reality for the 2,400-square-foot space, but after eight weeks that firm backed out. BCV Architecture + Interiors of San Francisco was brought in to complete interior design.
Chris Flocchini said he sent an email to BCV that told his family’s story and described his vision for an old-school but modern butcher shop, and BCV quickly jumped on board.
“Joanne likes to say that they interviewed us,” Flocchini said.
“To take four walls and tell someone your vision and have them create that space – it turned out so nice and we love it,” Joanne Flocchini added.
Supply chain delays also delayed the opening by several months. Ordering the meat cases proved extremely onerous – one company couldn’t deliver them for a year, while another had a seven-month lead time. The 10-inch wood plank flooring specified for the interior also had a 12-month lead time, so the Flocchinis compromised with a smaller width that was readily available.
Devcon Construction, which built Rancharrah for owner Tolles Development Company, performed the tenant improvements at Armando & Sons Butcher Shop.
“It was a lot of heavy lifting getting open, and it took so much time and energy, especially with the challenges we faced,” Chris Flocchini said. “First and foremost, we want to create an amazing consumer experience that people in Reno have had in other places or if they have had it here it wasn’t as often as they would have liked.
“We also want to create an incredible value proposition for people who walk through the door,” he added. “We have been here for 20 years, and we just made the decision that Reno is ready for this type of business and the beautiful environment inside Rancharrah that we have created.”
Armando & Sons Butcher Shop employs eight, including owner and general manager Halstead and head chef Aaron Zendner. Sierra Meats, meanwhile, employs about 90, with another 20 working at the company’s sausage-making facility in Carson City. Chris Flocchini told NNBW he stepped away from daily management of Sierra Meats in 2020 and now works as vice chairman of Armand Agra, the holding company for Sierra Meats.
Five years ago the family divested 75 percent of the company to Founders Food Group of Vancouver. Flocchini said the decision was made to help Sierra Meats continue to grow as well as provide cashouts for some family members who were nearing retirement.
“We had family members who were shareholders who were getting toward the end of their careers, and we wanted to make right by them in terms of realizing some of the value we have created in the business,” he said.
Founders Food Group brought some much-needed capital, as well as operational and growth expertise, Flocchini said.
“Their main business model is to work with founders and family members,” he said. They are a family business and they want to partner with other family businesses when possible.”
Sierra Meats and associated business entities such as Flocchini Family Provisions, Durham Ranch, and MacDonald Meats, operate under the Armand Agra holding company. Armand Agra is named after family patriarch Armando Flocchini Sr., a calf skinner and butcher from San Francisco who purchased Durham Meat in the early 1930s. The family continued to acquire small meat companies and butcher shops over the years, Flocchini said, and acquired Sierra Meat in 1986.