Revitalization of downtown Minden, or Gardnerville, wouldn't be possible without people willing to take a chance on a new business.
Pasquale “Papa” Cioffi is one of those people. At age 66, he is silver-haired, pithy, charming. After a lifetime in the states, he still talks with a smoky Latin accent.
“I think it will just work out great,” he said Friday while standing inside his newest venture — and Minden's newest attraction — the Corner Bar. “It's very comfortable in here.”
The bar is located inside the historical Farmers Bank building at the corner of Fourth Street and Esmeralda Ave. The building was constructed in 1908 and has been used as a doctor's office, post office, market and cafe. For the last three years, it has sat empty.
“To me, it's a part of history,” Cioffi said. “Since I opened, everybody seems to be doing a little better. I think it's good for the town and for me. The Town of Minden needed this.”
Cioffi immigrated to the U.S. when he was 23 years old. He'd lived in Naples until the age of five and then moved to Argentina. He spent 19 years in South America, his Italian giving way to Spanish, before relocating to California in 1970.
As daughter Tomacina (one of four daughters) put it in a 2009 speech to the Sierra Nevada Republican Women, Cioffi “came to this country with little more than a dream, strong work ethic and a good head on his shoulders.”
While in Southern California, he trained to be a barber. With long hair the new trend, however, he ended up washing dishes at Two Guys from Italy in north Hollywood. It was in the same franchise that he worked his way up — from food prep to cook to manager. By the age of 26, he was an owner.
In 1974, Cioffi moved to Lake Tahoe, bringing Two Guys from Italy with him. Although he settled in Gardnerville in 1980, he ran his South Shore restaurant for 16 years.
In 1991, he opened Two Guys from Italy in downtown Gardnerville, staffing it with family members. The restaurant thrived for two decades.
Last winter, the family announced they were closing Two Guys from Italy due to poor economic conditions. Restaurateur Mark Mecham has since launched Lentines in the same building.
“Now, I need this to make a living,” Cioffi said, explaining how he'd come out of retirement.
He said an opportunity presented itself this year when friend Sarah Lawrence purchased the bank building. After the interior was renovated — rustic flooring, avocado-green walls, movie star portraits — Cioffi and girlfriend Pam Radka opened The Corner Bar. Their first day of business was July 20.
“It's been pretty good,” Cioffi said. “I can't complain.”
The Corner Bar offers several beers on tap, including Stella Artois and Samuel Adams, as well as a light menu. Patrons can order shrimp cocktail, a jumbo chili-cheese dog, a variety of sandwiches, and personal-size pizzas. The 4th Street pizza is made of spinach and garlic, the P & P pepperoni and pepperoncini.
Cioffi wants his bar to be different. He's converted the building's old-timey vault into a game room.
“I want a mature, friendly bar,” he said. “Some young kids don't know how to drink. They take shot after shot, and either pass out or start fighting. This is a neighborhood bar, where we all know each other, and where you'll see people you haven't seen for a while.”
Located at 1596 Esmeralda Ave., Minden, The Corner Bar is open daily from 11 a.m. to closing.
For more information, call 782-4897.