Landmark to be demolished
One of the oldest businesses in the Carson Valley is about to close down – and be torn down.
The Carson Valley Meat Co. is scheduled for demolition in middle or late January.
“You won’t see this (Carson Valley Meat Co.) for long,” said owner Bill Mendes. “It will all be gone. It’s getting torn down.”
Mendes bought the company in 1965 and is not looking forward to the demolition.
“I don’t feel good about it,” he said. “It makes me feel awful bad. I guess maybe it’s a sign of the times or something. I don’t know. I feel kind of funny about it.”
Located behind Carson Valley Middle School in Gardnerville, Mendes’ five acres of land has been sold, and he said the new owner wants a level piece of land. But he knew two years ago this time would come, when the board of county commissioners approved a zoning change for the area around his ranch.
He said the zoning went from agricultural to residential, before the Chichester Estates Subdivision was built nearby. He was afraid, when the day came that houses bordered his fence, that families would not want to live next to a slaughterhouse and their complaints would shut him down.
“I just can’t believe the need for houses is so important they have to put them right up against the fence,” Mendes said. “They talk about saving the ranches. I don’t know how you can save the ranches when the land’s worth too much for building houses on it.”
Business has been slowly winding down. His coolers are still occupied by hanging hogs, goats, cattle and even hunters’ elk. But after the big job of the Serbian Christmas at Sharkey’s on Jan. 7, for which Mendes will be providing the meat, business will be coming to an end.
But closing down of small individually owned meat markets is not just a local situation. It’s a national trend.
Fallon has two small slaughter houses – the only ones left in all of Nevada. Like any other industry, Mendes said, large corporations have taken over the meat business. Three companies control 85 percent of cattle slaughtering in the United States.
“You’ll never get another chance to see one of these places. We do everything the old-fashioned way. We’re too antique,” he said. “Some companies kill 6-7,000 head of cattle a day. But that’s all they do – cattle or hogs or sheep. They don’t do all species, like we do.”
Mendes said his company even slaughtered an occasional buffalo for a man in San Diego. Carson Valley Meat Co. is the closest place he could have it taken.
A lot has changed in the nearly 33 years Mendes has operated the slaughterhouse.
“I always felt I was doing some good for the community when I built this place up,” Mendes said. “Part of it was here, but I put a lot of my hard work into this bugger. Now we have to tear it down. It’s kind of like penance.”
Mendes does not know how old the building is, but he said one of the posts on the building is dated 1915. Sam Imelli – who owned meat markets in Gardnerville, Carson City, Dayton, Virginia City and Reno – had it built sometime early in the 20th century. Mendes bought it from Fred Dangberg. It’s been a continuously running industry in Carson Valley since its creation. Fred Dressler, who died in 1996, Mendes said, had told him that it was the second longest operating business in the Valley.
“He was 97 when he passed away,” Mendes said. “He would have a pretty good idea.”
Although the building’s fate is determined, Mendes does not know what is next for him or his five employees.
“I’ve had lots of people ask me what I’m going to do,” Mendes said. “Well, this kind of business, as far as I’m concerned, is over. I don’t really know what retirement is. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
However, after 32 years in Douglas County and a lifetime in Nevada, Mendes has no plans to leave.
“I don’t know where else I could go,” he said.
Regardless of what Mendes does next, the Valley will be losing a long-standing, historic site.
“The deal is consummated. It’s going to be torn down and leveled out,” Mendes said. “I think it’s a dirty shame to see a building like this torn down, but we can’t do anything about it. It’s progress.”