Big retail arrives in force |

Big retail arrives in force

by Joey Crandall, Staff Writer

Whatever way you look at it, the face of Douglas County business changed dramatically in 2003.

While Carson Valley residents said hello to exciting new faces with names like Best Buy and Cost Plus, they also bid farewell to several old friends in the C.O.D. Motor Company and the Country Club Restaurant.

Gas prices soared above $2 per gallon in March, and then again in late August before dropping back. Theories on the fluctuations abounded, ranging from a broken pipeline in Arizona to the War in Iraq.

The proposed gross receipts tax kept small business owners on the edge of their seats through all 120 days and two special sessions of the state legislature. In the end, it was a two percent payroll tax on banks and a 0.7 percent payroll tax on other businesses that passed through.

Over and over again, business leaders and economists batted the same issue batted around in conversation: Finding a balance between small retailers and big brand names.

The dynamic was perhaps best illustrated during a presentation at the 10th annual Douglas County Critical Issues Conference.

An full house at the Carson Valley Inn’s Shannon Ballroom listened intently to South Lake Tahoe economist Carl Ribaudo’s presentation on “How to survive the big boxes.”

Ribaudo encouraged small business owners to capitalize on the increased traffic brought in by the brand names by finding a retail niche within the community.

Industrial development near the Minden-Tahoe Airport boomed with the addition of the Starbucks Regional Roasting Plant, and Patmont Motor Works, the makers of the Go-Ped scooters.

Energy efficiency became a surprisingly quick-growing issue after state legislation afforded funding for the development of new technologies. An August demonstration on electricity and other energies created out of the combustion of bio-mass drew a large crowd at the Full Circle Compost. A Southern California company announced plans to survey the Pine Nut Mountains for wind energy capacity and several governing districts within the county began looking at how to power their facilities with sustainable energy.

So, while debate continued on about growth and development, another year passed. It brought with it the kind of variety in new business that Carson Valley seems to achieve best — anything from plans for a fine-dining restaurant on Esmeralda to a mobile dog grooming business.

Some of the biggest stories of the year, in no particular order, were:


The planned 321,000-square-foot complex in north Douglas County brought with it rumors of every type of store from Nordstroms to Trader Joe’s.

Instead, the plaza brought in big brand names such as Best Buy, Cost Plus World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, Borders books, PETCO, Michael’s, Marshall’s, Play-it-again sports, Pier 1 Imports and Payless Shoes.

In-N-Out Burger announced in June that it had been issued building permits for an outpad at the plaza. Old Navy, Cold Stone Creamery and Taqueira La Salsa all plan on opening in 2004.

Cost Plus became the first store to open at the plaza in early August, followed closely by Bed Bath & Beyond and Michael’s.

“The (new) retail down here hasn’t just changed your world,” said South Lake Tahoe economist Carl Ribaudo at the Critical Issues Conference in October. “It has rocked our world. I can’t tell you how many South Lake Tahoe families plan their weekends around shopping in Carson City. We now enjoy the full Carson Valley weekend.

“Douglas County is not this sleepy little burg in the middle of the Nevada desert. You guys have become a big, big player down here and you are impacting a lot of folks.”


The Starbucks Regional Roasting Plant opened its doors shortly after the first of the year, although an official ceremony dedicated the building in March. Officials purchased land near the Minden-Tahoe Airport for $4.6 million and constructed a $40 million, 360,000-square-foot facility, one of the company’s three plants in the United States.

The Douglas County plant was built to produce between 60 million and 100 million pounds in a year, providing the majority of product for the Southwestern United States.


While business boomed in North County, a 20,000-square-foot shopping center at Lampe Corners changed the complexion of business in south Gardnerville.

The shopping center, located behind the AM/PM at Highway 395 and Waterloo Lane, brought with it a Subway sandwich shop, The Quilt House, Shear Heaven salon and Da Spa, Park Place Vitamins, Cook’s Pantry and the Book Den bookstore.


At the Critical Issues Conference, Bill Eadington, director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, noted Douglas County’s potential to be a strong, thriving economy.

He said, however, that state decision-makers must figure out a way to broaden the tax base to take some of the burden off of the gaming industry.

With a growing threat from Indian Gaming in Northern California, Eadington mentioned that Nevada’s gaming industry is on the decline.

He said that traditional gaming cannot be the long-term core of Northern Nevada’s economy.

Sands Regent announced in February that it would drop its plans for a Minden casino project that had been slated for the northeast corner of Highway 395 and Highway 88. Plans for the casino, which would have employed between 400 and 600 employees, were originally announced in July 2001.

In August, the Washoe Tribe and the Holder Hospitality Group announced plans to develop a casino and RV park in northern Carson Valley.

The project, entitled the Golden Feather Casino, initially will call for a 15,000-square-foot casino with 200 slots, a bar, a lounge area and a restaurant. The project is to be located on a 25-acre portion of 71 acres owned by the tribe just north of the Silver City RV Park & Resort on the east side of Highway 395 and south of Indian Hills. Casino planners hope to expand to a 40,000-square-foot facility with 900 slot machines in the future.

November 2003 marked the 20th anniversary of the Carson Valley Inn’s groundbreaking. Sharkey’s also had a big month in November, bringing in new general manager Tony Pinocchio and opening new banquet facilities upstairs.


If anything, motorists traveling through Douglas County will know exactly where they are from now on.

Signs welcoming traffic to Carson Valley were erected in October at the north end of Highway 395, just below Home Depot and on the south end just outside of the Corley Ranch.

Sunset park, a mini-retreat constructed on the border between Gardnerville and Minden to host a sign distinguishing the border for motorists, was completed in the spring.


Several longtime Carson Valley dynasties changed hands in 2003.

The C.O.D. Motor Company changed hands in early December. Dennis Plummer and Mike Tiehm bought the assets, including the sales and parts departments of the longtime family-owned Minden company from Don, Marlena and Robb Hellwinkel.

The Hellwinkels retained the building and the land for lease.

Carson Valley’s first radio station, KGVM, also sold. Jerry Evans, a Maine businessman, bought the from Lloyd Higuera for $850,000. While Evans will not officially take charge of the station until Feb. 1, 2004, he and his family moved to Genoa in August. Higuera initially bought the station in 1985.

– Joey Crandall can be reached at or (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.