Carson City businesses optimistic about new year

Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant at the Carson Mall on Jan. 2. Francisco’s is leaving the location at the end of April, but Carson Mall operator/owner Carrington Company hopes to have it filled with another business. The Minden Francisco’s will remain open.

Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant at the Carson Mall on Jan. 2. Francisco’s is leaving the location at the end of April, but Carson Mall operator/owner Carrington Company hopes to have it filled with another business. The Minden Francisco’s will remain open. Photo by Scott Neuffer.

Coming off a rough couple of years and heading into the unknown of a new year, Carson City business owners still are willing to invest.

“I think this year is going to be great,” said Damon Kreizenbeck, owner of Firehouse Subs off Highway 50 and the newly opened Big Chicken off East William Street. “I am very optimistic.”

Kreizenbeck didn’t sugarcoat the COVID-19 pandemic, the bird flu outbreak that contributed to higher poultry prices, or inflation in general. He called the last couple of years “brutal.”

“We’ve kept our heads above water the last two years,” Kreizenbeck said.

Yet, there are signs optimism in the new year is justified.

Kreizenbeck said he recently hired more than 50 employees for Big Chicken in Carson, counting as many as 78 applicants in one day.

“People want to work now, and it’s good. I enjoy that, and I love watching people succeed,” he said, adding that Big Chicken founder Shaquille O’Neal likely drew interest as well.  

Kreizenbeck, a Carson resident, has grown business steadily in the fast-casual food space. He is planning to open a Big Chicken and Firehouse Subs in Minden toward summertime and already has one Firehouse location in Sparks and two in Reno.

“2015 was our first one (Firehouse) here in Carson,” he said. “We started here. We live here, so our first Big Chicken is here.”

Unlike the future Minden location, the Carson Big Chicken has a full bar, what Kreizenbeck hopes will turn into the “neighborhood bar.” “Boozy” milkshakes are on the menu, and customers can add shots to any shakes they want, he said.

“You know, it’s January, and it’s cold out. We’re going to see,” he said. “We’re going to see if we’re that neighborhood bar and if we are, then we’ll keep a chef on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We’ll probably close the front of the restaurant in terms of these two dining rooms, and we’ll just have seating in the bar and sports on and whatever else.”

Kreizenbeck seemed prepared for any vagaries the new year brings.

“I just feel like the product we’re offering here…I think it’s an awesome product,” he said.

Scott Neuffer / Nevada Appeal

Carson City restaurateur Damon Kreizenbeck with Big Chicken Corporate Chef Robert Ryan behind the bar of the newly opened Big Chicken on E. William Street on Jan. 8.



Nationally, inflation was 3.1 percent for the last 12 months ending in November, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. That’s down from a high of 9.1 percent in June 2022.

In Carson City, unemployment was 4.1 percent in November, according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. The last report for taxable sales for the capital city was for the month of October, as compiled by the Nevada Department of Taxation. It shows taxable sales rising 7.3 percent from the same month the previous year, a jump from $134.2 million to about $144 million.

The biggest taxable sales category for the city — motor vehicles and parts — was up 7.8 percent in October. The food services and drinking places category was also up 5.1 percent, and building material and garden equipment and supplies was up 10.1 percent. The category of general merchandise stores, however, was down 3.1 percent in October.

Despite some positive trends, businesses have been struggling with higher interest rates and the lingering effects of inflation.

Holly Wade, executive director of the research center at the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a Dec. 27 press release: “More small business owners report that higher interest rates are impacting business operations. Even with financing concerns, small business owners have expectations for a solid holiday season but aren’t confident in their local or national economy going into the new year.”

In December, the NFIB surveyed businesses about issues affecting them.

“Small business owners have been navigating higher interest rates since the Federal Reserve started hiking in March 2022, but have been increasingly affected by higher rates over the last six months,” according to the NFIB survey report.  

There is hope interest rates will fall in the new year as the Federal Reserve considers future rate cuts, the Associated Press reported last month.

Interest rates and types of business loans vary, but for December, the average small business loan rate was 7 to 9 percent for a traditional bank loan and 3 to 40 percent for a line of credit, according to Lending Tree.

Carson City Big Chicken owner Damon Kreizenbeck, Big Chicken Corporate Trainer Carlos Collier, and Carson Big Chicken staff members Nikki Bouvier-Harbach and Ashley Wood.  



A spate of restaurant closures in Carson toward the end of 2023 didn’t do much to brighten the local economic outlook. Among the closures were Buffalo Wild Wings, Arnulfo’s Mexican Food and Johnny Rocket’s.

Francisco’s Mexican Restaurant also will be leaving the Carson Mall at the end of April. The business operator chose not to renew the lease, according to the restaurant’s manager. However, the owner of the mall, the Carrington Company, believes a new tenant will step in as restaurant infrastructure is ready.

“I don’t foresee there being any downtime in the space,” Garret Jacobs, leasing executive for Carrington, told the Appeal.

Jacobs discussed the challenge of trying to invigorate the entire retail space without “stepping on the toes of existing tenants.”

“It’s an expensive world, and things are only getting more expensive,” he said.

Nevertheless, Jacobs was optimistic about the new year. He pointed out the mall is 98 percent occupied, and he attributed this to Carrington being competitive and flexible as a landlord. He said Carrington operates 5-10-year leases with about 10-percent step increases every five years in line with industry standards. He said the step increases are “far below inflation on average.”

“We’d rather keep it (the mall) full and let our tenants be profitable and happy,” he said.

While brick-and-mortar retail has been hit hard over the past decade, not to mention restaurants, Jacobs said Carson Mall is holding its own, and growing. Case in point: a drive-thru ATM is planned for the property this year.

“We’re still building,” he emphasized. “We’re still reinvesting.”


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