News Briefs

gadZooks! Artists blossom in downtown Gardnerville

April 9, 2013 — 

There is a new business in downtown Gardnerville called gadZooks. The name itself is enough to inspire curiosity. The fact that the business is a new partnership between 10 well-known artists could easily convert that curiosity into foot traffic.

“We are a new business of artistic collaborations offering fine arts, collectibles, creative furnishings and vintage unusual objects,” the company said in its first press release.

On Thursday, gadZooks Vice President Margaret Biggs, a painter, and gadZooks Secretary Kas Monson, a stained glass artist, elaborated on their vision.

“We wanted to create something new and different,” said Monson. “It’s not just a gallery. It’s more. It’s a creative place.”

Biggs explained how the concept came to florescence about a year ago.

“It started with good friends just talking,” she said. “We wanted a place to do creative things. We know there are a lot of creative people in the community who wanted a place to show their work... Life is short, and we might as well jump to it.”

“You can talk about it the rest of your life, but if you don’t do it, then it never gets done,” added Monson.

The name, a throwback to early 20th Century exclamations, was a product of, first, a card came, during which Biggs made such an exclamation over a great hand, and then the word’s resurgence in a three-hour brainstorming session.

“Someone would say a name, and then we’d laugh and wonder if it had already been used somewhere else.” Monson said.

With a name chosen, the next step was finding a location. The squat brick building next to the town offices, literally feet from Main Street, happened to be available.

Built in 1945, the building has a storied history. Most recently, it was used as a florist and coffee shop. From the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, it was the home of Valley Insurance and Realty. Biggs’ father, Wilfred Jones, worked in that office.

“We’re trying to piece together a little history here,” Biggs said. “This building has been so many different things.”

“Everything fell into place,” said Monson. “We were looking at buildings, and this one came up for rent. It was just karma.”

The partners started refurbishing in mid-February, “repainting and scrubbing,” as Monson described it. Member Richard Sheldrew, a woodworker, installed rustic, reclaimed wood on the wall behind the counter. For an exhibit space, he arranged variegated slats on a sheet of plywood against a brick wall, extending the rustic look but allowing paintings to be hung. In another space, the building’s original trusswork looms above the displays. In this way, the interior reflects an interplay between antique, shabby chic and modern.

There are, of course, a variety of paintings from such mainstay artists as 90-year-old Marge Buttles. There’s pottery, jewelry, fused glass, quilts, antique furniture, and rare collectibles like a Tiffany Studios desk set ­— pretty much anything that falls under the banner of “a creative place.” In addition to founding members, there are works from roughly 20 consignors.

Because of its diversity, its wide appeal and reach in the community, gadZooks can only enhance ongoing revitalization efforts in the downtown corridor, Biggs contended.

“I think it dovetails into what both towns are doing to revitalize the downtown areas,” she said, as traffic rushed by the store windows. “With Walmarts on both sides of town, we really need to do something. The majority of the money we make goes back to the artists. That money is staying here in the community.”

GadZooks is located at 1411 Highway 395, Gardnerville. Regular business hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

A grand opening with live entertainment and refreshments is scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, call 782-9665 or visit www.gadzooksnv.com.

Housing market heats up

April 9, 2013 — 

After five years of stolid recession, the housing market in Carson Valley is heating up quickly in both sales of existing homes and new construction.

“It’s exceptional,” said Jim Valentine, an agent with Re/Max Realty Affiliates in Gardnerville. “It’s been sustained now for several months. It started turning in late November, early December. There is very little inventory. Properties priced well are selling within a day or two with multiple offers.”

Valentine described a bull market in which some buyers are panicking.

“It’s very competitive,” he said. “Buyers in some instances are frustrated, and we’re starting to see panic buying because people are worried they won’t get a home before things get too high.”

In the first quarter of 2013, the average sales price of a home in the East Fork Township, which stretches from the north end of the Valley to Topaz Lake, hit $275,327 — a 28 percent leap in value from the same quarter last year, when the average price was $215,410, and a 14 percent rise sequentially from the last quarter of 2012, which saw an average price of $241,461.

The latest figure represents the highest average sales price in any quarter since 2009.

Likewise, the median sales price in the first quarter of the year hit $224,200, compared to $169,950 in the same quarter last year and $190,000 in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Total sales in the East Fork Township for the first quarter came in at 157, compared to 163 in the same quarter last year, and 207 in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The decreasing number of sales may reflect the shrinking inventory in Carson Valley. A total of 806 sales in 2012, the highest annual number since 2005, helped clear bargain inventory off the market. Bank-owned homes are now harder to find, and, according to the Multiple Listing Service, many short sale properties priced below market value already have pending offers.

“As existing home sales and prices increase, inventory decreases, and pressure is created for new construction,” County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said in an email.

Housing projects stalled in the recession are now picking up steam. In the first quarter of this year, the county issued eight single-family residential building permits for the Ranch at Gardnerville, and five permits for the Monterra subdivision near Minden Elementary School.

In total, the county has issued 22 permits this year alone, including two at Jobs Peak Ranch, and one each at West Fork Vista, La Costa, Billy’s Road, Rocky Terrace, Saratoga Springs, Foothill Road, and the Ranchos.

For the fiscal year to date, which began in July, the county has issued 48 single-family permits, well below triple-digit highs seen in the real estate boom of the early millennium, but still 28 percent above a total of 38 permits issued in fiscal year 2011-12.

“We are already well above last year’s permits with another three months to go in the current fiscal year,” Mokrohisky said.

Valentine said that more buyers are turning to new construction.

“We’ve seen many inquiries on vacant land,” he said. “We’re seeing people looking to new construction now when it wasn’t much of an option a few years ago. We’re getting to the point where, if there’s no resale left, people will be looking to build. I do believe we’ll see much more building this summer.”

Valentine said that changes in supply and demand have completely changed the dynamics of the market in a short period of time.

For example, he said, homeowners hesitant about selling in the past are now bewildered by the pace of the market.

“They’re afraid they won’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

But Valentine doesn’t believe the bull market will lead to another bubble.

“Listen to your agent, be patient, and make sure you get what you want,” he said.

Amodei touts importance of local control, private sector growth

April 5, 2013 — 

When it comes to promoting economic growth for communities like Douglas County, the federal government needs to be responsive, not reactive, to private sector interests, Congressman Mark Amodei, R-Nev., argued at GE Energy in Minden on Friday.

“You represent livable wages and benefits packages so people don’t have to rely on the emergency room for healthcare. You are the fabric of your community,” Amodei told a group of GE employees. “These things also generate tax collections without having to create new tax structures. We’re not going to get back to a balanced budget until the private sector gets going.”

Amodei toured the Minden plant after receiving the Manufacturing Legislative Excellence Award from the National Association of Manufacturers.

“What goes on in Washington has a profound effect on what goes on here in business,” said GE Bently Nevada General Manager Art Eunson, who presented the award to the congressman.

Eunson listed regulatory areas where Amodei’s support helped manufacturers, such as coal ash restrictions among power generators, shale gas and other unconventional energy exploration, and export/import bank financing, all of which, Eunson said, “were aimed at driving manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”

Amodei described his political support as “intuitive.” He said he wants stability and predictability in terms of regulation and tax structure. He emphasized streamlining and expediting federal permitting processes and also the sale of public lands near urban interfaces. The latter, he argued, could circumvent the lengthy lands bill process.

“No one wants bad water or air. No one wants irresponsible use of land or the destruction of animal species,” he said, “but it is possible to use natural resources in a responsible way.”

Good policy, he maintained, is allowing local control where possible, and, at the federal level, fostering collaboration and communication between applicants and permitting agencies.

An example of bad policy, he continued, was when FEMA adopted new flood insurance maps for Carson Valley watersheds in 2008, leading to a protracted legal battle.

“I don’t want to ever have one of my counties suing you (FEMA) again and have it turn out they’re right,” he said.

Referring to the Douglas County Lands Bill, Amodei said he prefers local parties solve any disputes before federal lawmakers act. He expects the bill to be introduced in the next 30-45 days and passed in the 113th Congress.

Amodei reiterated that land use and resource decisions should be based upon empirical evidence.

“Let’s not go into a resource issue for the sake of claiming political victory,” he said.

Austinpalooza raises more than $8,500

April 9, 2013 — 

The third annual Austinpalooza on Feb. 22 was a night of food, music and festivities that culminated in more than $8,500 in funds raised for Austin’s House and the Society of Women Engineers at the University Nevada, Reno.

The event, organized by GE’s Measurement and Control employees in Minden, was held at Jethro’s Bar and Grill in Gardnerville.

Both charities rely heavily on support from partners, like GE, to sustain operations.

“The services provided by both Austin’s House and the Society of Women Engineers are hugely beneficial to our Northern Nevada community,” said Ernest Carey, a GE employee and Austin’s House board member. “It is an honor and a privilege to support these great causes and have fun while doing it.”

This year’s event featured the music of five local bands along with food and drinks provided by Jethro’s. Several local businesses donated silent auction items and raffle prizes, including Allie & Friends, Carson Tahoe Chiropractic, Carson Valley Golf, Cruise Scape, David Walley’s, Dream Dinners, Fitzpatrick Performance Horses, GE Leaders of Tomorrow, Jenkins’ Cucina Rustica, Genoa Lakes Golf Course, Holly Whipple, K2 Pilates, NW Martial Arts, Silver Strikes Bowling Alley, Soaring NV, The Chocolate Shoppe, The Discovery Museum, and The Record-Courier

The money earned from the donations and ticket sales will be split among the two charities. Austin’s House, which provides emergency shelter for children in crisis, will receive more than $6,000, and the SWE, which provides scholarships to women studying engineering, will receive more than $2,700.

For more information about GE, visit www.ge-mcs.com.

For more information on Austin’s House, call 267-6711 or visit www.austinshouse.org

For more information about the Society of Women Engineers, visit www.swe.org or call (312) 596-5223.

American Family Insurance hosts open house Saturday

American Family Insurance Agency, under the leadership of Mike Eddy, will be hosting an open house 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 1560 Highway 395, Suite A, Minden.

The agency is inviting homeowners and renters alike to join them in welcoming the spring season.

The free event will feature information on various types of mortgage protection, home maintenance tips, ways to save money on insurance, raffle prizes and refreshments.

Home maintenance professionals will be on hand to answer questions on roofing, home security systems, and landscaping.

“A person’s home is one of the single largest investment they will ever make and is very much the center of their world,” said Eddy. “Springtime is a great time of year to review policies, dust off the cobwebs, invest in and beautify our homes. As a fun way to welcome spring, we will also be offering complimentary packets of wildflower seeds that folks can take home and enjoy planting in their gardens.”

For more information, call 783-9422.

Yarn store builds tight-knit community

April 2, 2013 — 

The colorful skeins of yarn stacked in the cubbies of a Minden Village suite represent a craft that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

For Gardnerville residents Jennifer Huntley and Kim Christensen, the skeins also represent the building blocks of Pioneer Yarn Company, which relocated to a 1,900-square-foot suite in February.

Huntley is the owner, Christensen the general manager.

“The challenge now is bringing in new customers,” Huntley said on Friday. “How do we find new people and teach them to knit and crochet? How do we get more young people involved?”

Like many who frequent her store, Huntley learned the craft as a child.

“It’s something we all did when we were young,” she said. “Then our families got in the way, raising our own kids, and we started again when we were older.”

Huntley, originally from East Bay, spent 35 years in the mortgage industry, more specifically in the field of credit risk. She retired in 2004 and moved to Gardnerville with her husband.

“The beauty,” Huntley said when asked why they’d moved. “Both my husband and I were raised in small farming communities in California.”

Huntley still works as a part-time consultant for a legal firm in Chicago; she’s an expert witness in mortgage fraud cases. But yarn became her passion when Pioneer Yarn first opened in 2005.

“Knitters and crocheters spent many happy years stitching incredible projects,” she said. “I have been a customer since the store opened and progressed from a beginner to an ‘almost’ expert.”

At the end of last year, the store’s previous owners, Wayne and Cherita Dujardin, announced they were moving to Washington state.

“I didn’t want the store to go away,” said Huntley. “I haven’t done retail before, but I really thought I could use my 35 years of business skills and make a go of it.”

In January, Huntley purchased the business assets, retained the expertise of Christensen, and moved the store just south to the Minden Village. The two women, along with two additional sales associates, have the benefit of a loyal customer base — avid practitioners of an age-old craft.

The challenge, as mentioned before, is turning the next generation onto yarn.

“It’s a great way to pass the time and keep your hands busy,” said Christensen. “It’s a great exercise for the mind, too.”

Like Huntley, Christensen hails from a different industry. She worked 15 years as an exposition manager, planning large conventions and trade shows across the country for several different trade organizations.

The experience has carried over nicely to Pioneer Yarn. Her layout and interior displays catch the eye.

“I was retired as well when I saw Pioneer Yarn and stopped in,” she said. “I’ve worked here since.”

The two women explained that knitting, which uses a pair of needles, and crocheting, which uses a single hook, are both valid techniques for making hats, gloves, socks and sweaters.

“The yarn’s the same,” said Huntley, “but we probably see more knitters.”

They argued that the hobby is not only good for mind and body, but also one’s pocket book.

“People think we’re expensive, but we’re not,” said Huntley. “We’re not Walmart. We don’t sell yarn by the pound. But we have a wide selection of yarn and a wide range of prices. You can make a pair of socks for $8, or you can make a pair of socks for $40.”

“We see a lot of homemade gifts,” added Christensen. “Especially when the economy turned, we saw a lot of people stay with their hobby.”

Above all, Huntley and Christensen want to create a sense of community. In the corner of their new store sit a sofa and two armchairs. Beside the furniture is a bookshelf stacked with binders, each full of knitting and crocheting patterns. There’s also free wireless Internet.

Besides instructional classes, the shop hosts a free “group therapy” session every Thursday, 3-5 p.m., during which visitors can sit, chat, swap ideas, and work on projects.

“If you come in, buy yarn, pick out a pattern, and then go home and get stuck, you can always come back in, and our sales staff will make sure you get it,” said Huntley. “There’s a real sense here of wanting to make sure everyone is really successful.”

A grand opening for the new store is scheduled for Friday and Saturday during regular business hours, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

There will be hourly raffles, free workshops with local designer Romi Hill from noon to 3 p.m. on both days, a spinning presentation of local wool by Marilyn Elligott from 10 a.m. to noon on both days, and refreshments.

There also will be a chance to sign up for the Charity Knitting Club, which makes hats for local charities, with the goal of reaching 100 hats by Sept. 1.

Located at 1653 Lucerne Street, Suite B, Pioneer Yarn Company’s regular business hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday.

For more information, call 392-3336 or visit www.pioneeryarn.com.

City National literacy grants total more than $96,000

April 2, 2013 — 

City National Bank has awarded 110 Reading is the Way Up grants totaling more than $96,000 to support literacy-based projects at elementary, middle and high schools in Nevada, California, New York and Georgia.

Two Carson Valley schools received grants.

Reading is the Way Up is a literacy initiative through which City National has donated more than 170,000 books to elementary school libraries and awarded nearly 750 teacher grants to enhance literacy totaling more $600,000 since the program’s inception in 2002.

The grants, ranging from $500 to $1,500, will help augment or expand literacy projects that were judged to be creative and engaging, and that would have a tangible effect on student achievement. The winning programs are expected to directly improve literacy to more than 15,000 students in 108 schools.

The educators receiving literacy grants were selected from among the many full-time teachers, librarians, administrators and school media specialists who submitted an online application.

“We wanted to do something special for our 2012-13 literacy grant program since it marked the 10th anniversary of our literacy program, and we believe we achieved our goal,” said Carolyn Rodriguez, vice president and manager of Reading is the Way Up for City National. “This year’s program awarded a record number of grants to the most educators and schools in the history of the program, which ultimately improves the educational experience for both educators and students.”

Local grant recipients include Kelley Welykholowa, from Scarselli Elementary, for “Kan-do Kin-dle Kids,” and Katharine Shipley, Douglas High School, for “Kindles to Increase Literacy.”

For more information, visit www.readingisthewayup.org.

City National Bank is the wholly owned subsidiary of City National Corporation (NYSE: CYN). It is backed by $28.6 billion in total assets, and provides banking, investment and trust services through 78 offices, including 16 regional centers, in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, Nevada, New York City, Nashville and Atlanta. The company and its investment affiliates manage or administer $56.7 billion in client investment assets, including $38.2 billion under direct management.

For more information, visit cnb.com.

Creating a vision for downtown

April 2, 2013 — 

Where there’s a plan, there’s a will, Minden Town Manager Jenifer Davidson said last week about the future of Carson Valley’s historic downtowns.

She was referring to the Valley Vision project, one of 12 projects identified in Douglas County’s Economic Vitality Plan, and for which public workshops begin Monday.

Development of the plan has a price tag of approximately $70,000, with a third being funded by the county and towns, and the remaining funds coming from private stakeholders.

Proponents hope the visioning process will pull together discrete elements of the Valley’s pioneer towns and produce a workable plan toward shared prosperity — a plan that better integrates downtown Gardnerville and Minden, preserves and strengthens historic cores, and addresses critical issues such as traffic, parking and pedestrian suitability.

“I have every confidence that if we come up with a good vision and the community gets behind it, then those people who need to step up to make the vision a reality will step up,” said County Manager Steve Mokrohisky. “One investment begets another investment. It creates momentum.”

Mokrohisky, Davidson, Gardnerville Town Manager Tom Dallaire, Genoa Town Manager Sheryl Gonzales, and Design Workshop Principal Stephanie Grigsby meet on March 28 to discuss the vision process and what backers hope to achieve.

Mokrohisky framed the issue with a common perception among the public, that “both sides of town are bookended by Walmarts now.”

“The question we have to ask is what we do between the Walmarts,” he said.

“The middle is filled in with people from the private sector who care very much about the history of the towns,” added Davidson.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that the will exists to get something done. The question is how and to what extent.

The problem

“Part of the purpose of developing this vision is the recognition that everyone is tired of watching semis roll through town destined for another place,” said Mokrohisky.

Although the towns themselves and nonprofit groups like Main Street Gardnerville have been working for years to beautify streetscapes, “there is still a 5-lane state highway cutting through the downtown corridor,” Mokrohisky said.

How can traffic be slowed on Highway 395? How can public parking be improved and better designated? How can sidewalks, benches, plazas, kiosks and other amenities be improved, maximized or funded in the first place? These are questions facing the towns.

Each town, though, has specific problems.

Davidson mentioned the Minden Gateway Center and how the town is working to improve its curb appeal, that “wow factor.”

Dallaire talked about pedestrian access, making downtown Gardnerville safer and more walkable.

Both acknowledged the hard work of getting support, securing funds and pooling resources.

“It’s a long-term plan,” Dallaire said. “I think funding will come in small chunks.”

“We need people willing to take risks and invest in a sense of place and destination,” Mokrohisky said. “We don’t want to change what we have. We want to enhance what we have.”

The solution

Five years ago, the Town of Genoa implemented a strategic plan that called for significant improvements, such as underground utilities, a plaza, pavers, parking, kiosks, and a pedestrian trail to Walley’s Hot Springs.

This summer, visitors to the town will discover its new look. Construction on the last projects are scheduled to wrap up by the end of June.

“You can imagine how businesses are impacted,” said Gonzales, describing construction. “But these improvements really underscore and strengthen the experience in downtown Genoa.”

Mokrohisky called Genoa “the best example of taking a vision and putting into reality.”

“The trail (Vista Trail) is just packed with people,” he said. “It serves as that connection between services, businesses and amenities to create a destination. We can’t create history. The history’s already there. We just need to create that connection linking people together to have an experience.”

In terms of redevelopment, Genoa may be closer to the finish line than Minden and Gardnerville. It benefitted from $2 million in redevelopment funds, to which the Valley’s two central towns don’t have access.

But Minden and Gardnerville have other means: serious investors, state grants, and a veritable army of volunteers.

Mokrohisky said the solution is to expand the coalition and “identify common purpose, common vision, and move forward.”

“The government is not the solution to all challenges, but it can be part of the solution,” he said. “We have greater success if the public works with the private sector in a true partnership.”

Case in point: the Martin Slough Trail, which will connect Lampe Park and Jake’s Wetland. Parts of the trail have been completed, right-of-way secured, and an application for grant funding submitted to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

But local governments aren’t alone. Carson Valley Inn is building out a section of the trail, and the Ranch at Gardnerville has dedicated open space.

“If you build it, they will come,” Davidson said.

The process

The visioning process began last fall and has garnered about 50 stakeholders, from government officials to business owners and residents. The Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce will act as the “conduit” agency, collecting funds and contracting with Design Workshop.

Grigsby said the Valley Vision will take, at most, six months to complete. Public workshops scheduled for April 8-10 in Minden will “illustrate what the plan means in terms of physical improvements.”

During the first meeting on April 8, the public is invited between 1:30 and 3 p.m. to discuss elements with planners and designers as they actively map the area and develop a vision. At 5 p.m. the same night, there will be an open house.

On April 9, from noon to 1:30 p.m., the public will have another chance to contribute to the process. On April 10, from 3:30-6 p.m., there will be a presentation summarizing progress thus far.

Grigsby said Design Workshop has an in-house illustrator who can turn around renderings within a few days.

“It’s a chance to see ideas come to life pretty quickly, get feedback and generate conversation,” she said.

Any contributions from the public will be combined into a document, reviewed and refined by stakeholders, then brought back through another round of workshops before being presented to local governments for adoption.

A similar process recently played out at Lake Tahoe for the South Shore Vision, which enlisted the help of towns, counties, business owners, and Design Workshop.

The South Shore Vision focuses on transforming a gaming-based economy into a recreation- and amenities-based destination.

The revitalization efforts weren’t without controversy. A proposal to reroute traffic around the casino core sparked debate amid the business community.

Mokrohisky said the county has learned from that process and, regarding the Valley, “will do all that engagement up front.”

“Those contributing understand that something has to change in the environment of the downtown corridor,” he said. “We’ve seen larger businesses down to smaller businesses agree that now’s the time.”

Cash mob at Cheshire Antiques Saturday

April 2, 2013 — 

Main Street Gardnerville continues its cash mob economic stimulus campaign at Cheshire Antiques on Saturday.

Cash mobs are part of a new movement aimed at supporting local businesses and rebuilding communities. Cash mobbers join together and commit to spending $10-20 at a predetermined local business.

Locals are asked to join the Facebook group, Main Street Gardnerville Cash Mob, then invite their friends to do the same. A business is selected via random drawing of Main Street Gardnerville business members.

The next cash mob will take place Saturday at Cheshire Antiques, 1423 Highway 395. Mobbers can show up anytime during regular business hours, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and commit to investing $10-20 back into the local economy.

Karen and Richard Campbell opened Cheshire Antiques in January of 2005. They opened the first 6,000 square feet of the store with only a handful of dealers. The store now encompasses two buildings, totaling more than 12,000 square feet, with 50-plus dealers.

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, when a consumer spends $100 in a locally owned business, $45 of it stays in the community. When that same $100 is spent in a national chain store, only $13 stays local.

For more information, call 782-8027 or visit www.mainstreetgardnerville.org.

Economic recovery on the way but not finished

March 28, 2013 — 

If the local economy was on life support two and a half years ago, then it’s now a patient in recovery, regaining strength daily but still years from optimal health.

That was the impression imparted Tuesday night at the Douglas County Economic Vitality Showcase, where government officials, business leaders and nonprofit groups convened to assess the county’s economic progress.

County Commission Chairman Greg Lynn referred to the Economic Vitality Strategy and Action Plan enacted in the fall of 2010 as “our own mini-stimulus.”

“When we kicked off our economic vitality efforts, we were in bad shape,” he said.

In the face of unprecedented foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment, the plan took aim at three areas of growth: distinctive downtowns, outdoor lifestyle and recreation, and education and workforce. It enumerated 12 specific projects within those focus areas and called for private sector champions to lead collaborative teams for each cause.

More than two years later, some of those projects can be checked off the list, such as the Douglas County Community and Senior Center, which broke ground last fall. Other projects are literally underway, such as the reconstruction of downtown Genoa, which includes a new pedestrian trail from Walley’s Hot Springs.

Leaders have also made progress in diversifying the employment base. Not only have new retailers and restaurants opened in downtown districts in the wake of the recession, but a number of small- and medium-sized companies, many niche manufacturers, have relocated to the area since the plan was implemented.

This month alone, economic development officials announced that four more firms were planning to relocate to Carson Valley. Together, they’re expected to create more than 100 jobs.

“We set out a vision and a set of goals,” said County Manager Steve Mokrohisky. “We’ve engaged the community in this effort, and we’re making progress.”

Several business owners explained how the county-wide effort had spurred growth in their own operations.

Willy Webb, owner of the Genoa Bar and president of the Greater Genoa Business Association, said the town’s new trail system has already been attracting new customers.

“All of the sudden I’m seeing a lot of mountain bikes,” he said. “There’s a whole new stream of revenue and people coming down.”

Rick Ackerson, owner of No Place Like Home Senior Care, used a $15,000 low-interest loan from Main Street Gardnerville’s revolving loan fund to “jump start” his business.

In 2011, when he moved his administrative operations into the former Water Co. building on Highway 395, the business employed 14 people. Now, Ackerson said, No Place Like Home employs more than 60 people.

“It’s really an honor to have great caregivers and be able to care for seniors in our community,” he said.

Laurie Harden, owner of SoaringNV at the Minden-Tahoe Airport, described how her business had moved last summer from a hangar without plumbing to an office suite with amenities and a view. The company also has been working with the county to become a fuel supplier.

“We want to be the best glider school in the galaxy,” she said. “Minden is one of the top places to go soaring. People come from all over the world to get Minden stamped in their logbook.”

A.J. Frels, executive director of the Carson Valley Visitors Authority, and Dorrie Caldana, president of the Main Street Gardnerville Board of Directors, agreed that the inhabitants of Carson Valley make such progress possible.

Caldana pointed to the hundred volunteers who form the base of the Main Street Gardnerville revitalization program.

“That’s about $300,000 worth of work since our inception,” she said.

“Honestly, I think our greatest asset is the people in the Valley who pull together to make things happen,” Frels said. “I’m overwhelmed everyday by the people here, and the investment they put into this area to make it prosper.”

Mokrohisky likewise praised volunteers for their hard work. At the same time, he warned that the effort is not finished. The county still suffers from high unemployment, lagging property values, and aging infrastructure.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We’re not done.”

Whitaker named to high council

March 26, 2013 — 

Waddell & Reed, Inc. has announced that Jeff Whitaker, financial advisor in the company’s Minden office, has been named to Waddell & Reed’s 2013 President’s Council, one of the highest honors for the firm’s financial advisors.

Comprising only 12 of the approximately 1,800 Waddell & Reed financial advisors nationwide, the President’s Council is named annually based on an analysis of investment, insurance, and financial planning sales generated by the advisor.

This is the ninth time that Whitaker has earned the honor.

As a member of the council, Whitaker will meet periodically with firm management and other advisors, discussing ongoing goals, management issues, products, and client service issues.

Whitaker has been a professional in the financial services industry for 33 years, joining Waddell & Reed in 1979.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in financial planning from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, Colo.

He is a Certified Financial Planner.

Founded in 1937, Waddell & Reed has more than 160 offices nationwide. The company offers an array of investment products and services, as well as a variety of insurance products through arrangements with outside insurance companies.

For more information, call Whitaker at 782-5061.

Curves wraps up food drive

Curves International launched its 15th annual food drive on March 11 and challenged club members in the U.S. and Canada to meet a goal of 100,000 donations during the two-week period ending March 23.

Each club, including Curves of Gardnerville, asked its members to donate bags of nonperishable food or cash to support their local community food bank.

With the goal in sight, Curves International was planning to donate 10 percent of March 2013 profits to Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit organization that ensures impoverished elementary school children are fed on the weekends throughout the school year.

“This year’s theme, ‘feed the need,’ really represents both what we want to accomplish with this year’s food drive and what we do as a business,” said a Curves of Gardnerville staff member. “We want to help feed local families and school children who would otherwise go hungry on the weekends, and we also want to ‘feed the need’ of local women seeking a health and fitness program that fits their busy lifestyle.”

Since its inception, the total contributions to local food banks from the annual food drive exceed 75 million pounds of food, according to Curves Vice President of Marketing Mike Raymond.

“Each year, we encourage our clubs and members to donate even more than the year before,” he said. “Our annual food drive is a great way for members and their communities to fill a real need by restocking the shelves in local food pantries across the U.S. and Canada during a time when they are usually low.”

For more information about Curves of Gardnerville, located at 1540 Highway 395, call 782-3350 or email caseyobraun@yahoo.com.

For more information about Curves, visit www.curves.com.

WISE meets Thursday

Women Inspiring Service and Education will be holding their monthly meeting and luncheon on Thursday at Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

The monthly meeting is an opportunity for members and guests to meet, greet, and network. In addition to lunch, the event features a speaker or an activity designed to help participants and their businesses grow.

This month’s activity involves crafting a 30-second commercial. Member of the month is Trish Vo of Optima Advertising & Promotional Products.

Check-in time is from 11-11:30 a.m. The meeting begins at 11:45 a.m. and ends promptly at 1 p.m. Cost is $17 for members, $20 for guests.

For further information, contact Pamela Mann, WISE vice president, at (775) 220-4474 or vicepresident@nvwise.org.

Job readiness seminar April 10-12

March 26, 2013 — 

Those still struggling to find work in a slowly recovering economy can sign up for a job readiness seminar to be held April 10-12 at Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

Presented By Douglas County’s Employment, Training and Job Development Program, participants in the seminar will receive hands-on, expert advice from employment professionals on the workplace readiness skills that employers seek in qualified applicants, résumé preparation, organizing and managing job searches, the essentials of networking, using social media, improving interviewing skills and effective post-interview follow-up.

Pre-registration is required. The three-day seminar is free and includes lunch. Daily check-in is 8:30 a.m. The seminar runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m. April 10 and 11, and 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. April 12.

The Employment Program assists Douglas County residents who wish to enhance their marketability and become more competitive in a tough job market.

For more information, or to reserve a seat, call 782-9825.

Checking county’s vitals

March 21, 2013 — 

In the middle of the Great Recession, Douglas County officials came together to come up with ways to strengthen the county’s economy.

Focusing on those things that make the county different, they determined a dozen projects.

On Tuesday, the public is invited to review the progress made on implementing the plan at the Douglas County Economic Vitality Showcase 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden.

A brief presentation will be made at 5:30 p.m.

The event, which is set in an open house format, is designed to give businesses, residents, and community members the opportunity to learn more about the many projects under way and progress made since the plan’s adoption in September 2010.

The projects, based on public-private-nonprofit partnerships, focus in three areas: revitalizing historic downtowns, capitalizing on outdoor recreation and lifestyle, and improving innovation, education and workforce.

“We are really seeing results from many of our project teams,” said Douglas County Commission Chairman Greg Lynn. “Since the plan’s kick-off, a net of eight new businesses located in Genoa and 38 in Main Street Gardnerville. Twenty new miles of multiuse trails were added including the new Genoa Vista Trail and the first phase of the new Stateline Trail.

“At the Minden-Tahoe Airport, there are two new businesses, four expansions and 21 additional employees. And, of course, it was one of our project teams that identified a site and funding for the soon-to-be constructed Community & Senior Center.”

Showcase attendees will have an opportunity to learn about the many ways they can become involved in activities and nonprofits that support the work of the project teams and implementation of the plan. Economic Vitality project champions and team members will be on hand to showcase their progress and answer questions.

Douglas County Job Development coordinators and other economic development partner organizations will be at the event to discuss their business and economic related activities and services. Those include the Business Council of Douglas County, Business Resource Innovation Center, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, Connect Nevada, Nevada Industry Excellence, Nevada Small Business Development Center, Northern Nevada Development Authority, Service Corps of Retired Executives, Western Nevada Development District, Western Nevada College, USDA Rural Development, U.S. Small Businesses Administration, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

The event is free to the public. Those who plan to attend to should RSVP to the County Manager’s Office at (775) 782-9821, or dbeam@co.douglas.nv.us.

Rolling out the red carpet for digital movies

March 19, 2013 — 

A life-long film buff and former industry executive is taking Carson Valley’s only movie theater into the digital age.

Jim Sheehan, along with two business partners, purchased Minden’s Ironwood Cinemas out of bankruptcy last year. The way he talks about his investment, in light of the film industry itself, there’s no way forward but digitalization.

“The industry is going digital,” Sheehan said in an interview Thursday. “I think there will be no more film by the end of 2013. You either have to convert to digital or close your doors. There’s no in between.”

He wasn’t exaggerating. Four outdated film projectors sat on the pavement on the north side of the theater on Thursday. Four more were in the days-long process of being removed and disassembled for parts.

“They’re dinosaurs right now,” Sheehan said, standing over the relics. “There is a lot of money here in scrap.”

Nearby, a crew of film technicians was carefully unloading digital projectors off a freight truck. By the printing of this article, Sheehan planned to have installed eight digital projectors and two 3-D screens at a cost of roughly $500,000.

“From all standpoints, digital is cheaper, more efficient and better than film,” he said. “The public can tell the difference.”

The making of a film buff

Sheehan’s life story seems like the stuff of movies. He became an usher at the age of 18 and, in a way, never left the theater.

He was a college freshman at the time, studying history at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.

“I made a dollar an hour,” he said. “The year was 1965. It was good money in those days. Halfway through a history degree, I realized I would like running the theater, so I switched to business.”

It turns out the company he was working for, General Cinema, was on the verge of becoming a national chain. After graduating, Sheehan “volunteered” to move to California, where the company had been building several new theaters. He was 22 when he became assistant manager of a new facility in Hayward, Calif., quickly working his way up to manager.

In 1972, totally enthralled by the movie-going experience, he pounced on an opening in L.A. The position was for a film buyer — the person who negotiates with distributors, selects and books films for the big screen. Sheehan spent five years in the position, ascending to General Cinema’s western vice president of film.

In 1977, he made the jump to Mann Theaters, becoming president and chief operating officer of the large regional chain. For the next two decades, he worked similar leadership roles on both the exhibition and distribution side of the film industry, all along nurturing a desire to start his own company.

“I wanted to go out on my own, buying, developing and operating my own theaters,” he said.

In 2005, Sheehan realized his dream. He opened his first two theaters in the Bay Area. As business grew, so did his holdings. He owned five theaters in California when he decided to sell more than two years ago. His wife had passed away, and he decided to focus on his two Internet businesses, Wild Birds Forever and Candles Forever, which he still operates.

But he couldn’t resist the lure of the silver screen, especially when a unique opportunity presented itself:

“This place (Ironwood) was 4-5 months from closing if Silver Point Capital hadn’t come through the bankruptcy and hadn’t lined things up the way they did.”

Opportunity knocks

Ironwood Cinemas opened its doors in 1998, just when Hollywood was entering a new era of movie-making. Blockbusters that year included “Armageddon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “There’s Something about Mary.” But behind the scenes, technological changes were dramatically shaping the industry. DVDs began replacing VHS tapes, and digital cameras began replacing film.

In 2007, Galaxy Theaters at Casino Fandango opened its doors in south Carson City. It was a $15 million project, a 10-screen digital multiplex with stadium seating.

Looking back on that time, Sheehan said Ironwood Cinemas, still relying on traditional film projectors, took a huge hit and never really recovered.

“It lost that high school audience that was within walking distance to the theater,” he said.

In 2011, Ironwood Cinemas went into bankruptcy. Connecticut-based Silver Point Capital acquired the operation, but, as Sheehan pointed out, “didn’t know anything about theaters and didn’t want to learn.”

“They gave me a call out of the blue,” he remembered. “They asked me if I knew the theater. I said it was a beautiful theater in a great town, but the rent was high. They asked me what it would take to get me in there. I gave them a figure, what I was willing to pay for rent, and there was silence on the other side.”

That silence translated to acquiescence. Sheehan and two other partners formed Fog City Cinemas, doing business as Ironwood Cinemas, to operate the new business.

Bill Longen hails from San Francisco, where the company originated, and handles “the tech side” of the firm. Richard Blacklock hails from Los Angeles and is the company’s programmer and film buyer.

After the sale, Sheehan relocated to Minden to be managing partner. Silver Point also offered the building.

“We’re still in escrow,” said Sheehan. “Fourteen months we’ve been here, and we’ve made small changes. The theater was in good shape, but we did upgrade the sound system and the concessions stand. We steam cleaned the carpets and seats and put in new light bulbs and new tile. In the industry, we call that the low-hanging fruit.”

The high-hanging fruit was digital conversion.

“Every time we play digital rather than film, the film company saves a lot of money, about $900,” Sheehan said.

As part of a national digitalization campaign, the movie industry has been offering a rebate program that pays small exhibitors approximately $705 for each digital film played. Given the standard lease time of 2-6 weeks per title, Sheehan estimated Fog City Cinema will recoup the cost of the conversion within six years.

Going forward, Sheehan said, Ironwood Cinemas will be in a good position to compete with Galaxy or any other digital operation, especially with gas approaching $4 a gallon.

“We only have one chance to impress people,” he said.

A changing industry

If Sheehan, a veritable film veteran, is nostalgic about film projectors, film reels, and spot-riddled screens, he doesn’t show it. He passionately argued that digital is better on every front.

“Film is made out of polyester,” he said. “After six weeks, it’s scratched. Against the heat of a 2,500-watt Xenon bulb, it does fade. It’s like leaving your car on the beach for two years.”

Besides durability, digital filmmaking is more economical all around, Sheehan continued.

“It’s economical for studios to release movies in digital, and it’s economical for directors to film digitally. Directors are constantly going through miles of film that will never be used,” he said.

He argued digital is even better for independent and art-house filmmakers, who can record their movie on a hard drive for about $400 versus $1,300 for a film print.

For exhibitors, it means getting 2-D and 3-D discs together, with Spanish subtitles already included, compared to purchasing separate prints for each showing.

“The savings are enormous,” Sheehan said.

When asked if traditional film still produces higher quality shots, as some auteurs have argued, Sheehan pointed out the highly specialized, German-made port glass that will be installed in front of every digital projector.

“It’s about $1,000 a pane,” he said. “But the quality of color going through the screen is incredible. The blues are bluer, the reds are redder.”

Yet despite every advantage, digital technology cannot save a bad movie, Sheehan pivoted with a grin.

“It all comes down to one thing,” he said. “Bad movies are bad movies. Good movies are good movies. The industry is getting better. They’re not just making movies that appeal to teenage girls and boys. They’ve realized baby boomers are starting to go to the movies more often.”

Record ticket sales in recent years also belie the notion that home viewing is replacing the multiplex. It’s an argument Sheehan has heard before.

“Theatrical movies are the engine that pulls the entire ancillary chain of Netflix, DVDs, all that,” he said confidently.

Plus, there’s another draw:

“We think we have the best popcorn in the Valley,” Sheehan said. “Apart from the fact that we use the best raw corn available, we cook the kernels in coconut oil and don’t over season the corn. We also pop our corn fresh at least three times a day, and more as needed on the weekends.”

Ironwood Cinemas is located at 1760 Highway 395 in Minden. For more information, call 782-7469 or visit ironwoodcinemas.com.

GE makes $10,000 donation to Boys & Girls Club

April 9, 2013 — 

For the third year, GE Measurement & Control has sponsored the Boys & Girls Club of Carson Valley, this year by donating $10,000 for operations and programs.

The organization provides care and guidance to 500 children of the Carson Valley and “is critical to the development and success to the community’s youth.”

“We’re honored to be a supporter of this great organization which brings happiness, support and life skills to many children in the Carson Valley,” said Landon Boyer, Boys & Girls Club board member and product manager at Bently Nevada, the product line headquartered in Minden. “Through the work that the Boys & Girls Club does, the children in our community are given opportunities to succeed and grow in many ways.”

“We are ever grateful for the generous support of our larger community including GE,” said Renea Louie, charter board member and first vice president of the club. Their donations over the last several years and partnership make the work of the club possible. Each contribution helps to make a profound impact on the programming, facilities and, most importantly, our ability to improve the lives of the members.

“Our doors are open every day, providing a safe space for the children to learn and grow. We also keep our annual membership fees low, and no child is turned away because of an inability to pay. In order to support these efforts, continue the ambitious programming and provide fun, unforgettable opportunities like field trips and summer camps, we need the entire community’s support, and GE leads the way in setting the example and taking care of its community.”

Art Eunson, general manager of Bently Nevada, commented on the continued support of GE employees.

“Our employees are strong supporters of the youth in Douglas County, whether it be through donations, volunteering or sharing their time and expertise with community groups,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be able to partner with the Boys & Girls Club to enhance this commitment to community and children.”

GE Measurement & Control is an innovator in advanced, sensor-based measurement, nondestructive testing and inspection, control and condition monitoring, delivering accuracy, productivity and safety to a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, power generation, aerospace, transportation and healthcare. It has more than 40 facilities in 25 countries and is part of GE Energy, which provides efficient energy solutions for its customers.

For more information, visit www.ge-mcs.com.

Edward Jones ranks fourth in top workplaces

The financial services firm Edward Jones recently was named the No. 4 small company on the Nevada Top Workplaces ranking, according to four Carson Valley Edward Jones financial advisors.

Edward Jones has 60 branches all over Nevada. The firm is growing, adding branches and seeking new financial advisors who are interested in operating an entrepreneurial office with the support and benefits of one of the oldest and largest firms in the industry.

The ranking was based on an employer inventory of practices and an anonymous survey of employees, who were asked to agree or disagree with dozens of statements about the firm, teamwork and their individual experience at the firm.

This was Edward Jones’ first entry in the Nevada Top Workplaces competition.

For more information, visit www.edwardjones.com.

Nevada nonprofits receive $3.2 million from Smith’s

Smith’s Food & Drug has released its 2012 report highlighting donations of $10 million worth of cash and products given to more than 2,200 nonprofit organizations in seven western states of Smith’s operations.

The total includes $3.2 million contributed to 315 schools and nonprofit charities in Nevada.

The company’s charitable giving program known as “Neighbor to Neighbor” provided an average donation of nearly $75,000 per store location throughout Smith’s seven western states of operation. The support also includes contributions from the Kroger Foundation, Smith’s parent company, suppliers, associates and customers through in-store fundraising promotions.

Smith’s assistance is primarily focused in the following areas: fighting hunger, supporting K-12 education, children’s hospitals, promoting women’s health, primarily breast cancer, the development of minorities and women and support for local grassroots organizations. The report summarizes the company’s social philanthropy and lists specific organizations by state supported last year. The 2012 report is available online at www.smithscommunity.com.

“Having partners like Smith’s who are committed to helping those in our community is priceless,” said Brian Burton, CEO and president of Three Square Food Bank. “Their generous donations help us provide wholesome, nutritious food to those less fortunate.”

“Our associates help us to reach out in meaningful ways within the community,” said Mark Tuffin, Smith’s president. “We work with both our vendors and customers to support many nonprofit organizations in their service to others.”

Smith’s is a division of the Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR), one of the nation’s largest retail grocers. From its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, Smith’s manages 131 stores and 75 fuel centers throughout Nevada, New Mexico Utah, Wyoming, Montana, northern Arizona and southern Idaho.

For more information, visit www.smithsfoodanddrug.com.

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