ELKO —Elko Daily Free Press readers gobbled up news of four restaurants, businesses changing hands or closing, the condemnation of buildings, celebrities, and anniversaries in 2017’s top 10 business stories.
Miguel Zamudio has been in the commercial food business since he was 13 years old, and now operates three restaurants in Elko. His most recent venture is Fresh Fare Bistro, which opened in early 2017.
Zamudio recognizes the trend that food has come full circle, beginning with a history thousands of years old where people ate local, to mass farming and importing and back again. Zamudio has contracted with local food producers to supply the restaurant with fresh meats, vegetables, eggs and other ingredients.
Although the restaurant is styled with an emphasis on local foods and an organic trend, meat and potato eaters will not be disappointed. Some of the specialties will include cheeseburgers, pot roast, steak and eggs, and comfort foods like macaroni and cheese.
“We pledge to always provide high quality ingredients,” Zamudio said.
Zamudio is also the owner of Himiko and Sweet Barrel, located on the Great Basin College campus.
Anamarie Lopategui and her husband, owners of Ogi Deli, are first-generation Basque Americans and they are proud of their heritage and the cuisine they grew up with. They opened the restaurant in early 2017 featuring recipes that highlight some family traditions including piperade: red pepper, garlic and onion grilled in olive oil.
Some of the ingredients for their sandwiches and other dishes come from the Basque region in Spain and France, including two kinds of sheep milk cheese. Jamon serano is a big favorite.
Lopategui says she has developed a good following in the area and even has regular customers who regularly travel across country and stop to eat and say hello every time.
Odeh’s Mediterranean Restaurant opened in March with a brand new cuisine to the delight of many Elkoans.
Odeh’s is owned and run by a family that has always dined on Middle Eastern food, after all, they are originally from Bethlehem.
“This is traditional food,” said Tony Odeh. “We are trying to serve food that is not like anything else in Elko.”
Early each day the family goes to the restaurant and begins working on fresh fare. They assemble almost everything from scratch. Large quantities of garbanzo beans are soaked and cooked, eventually destined to become hummus. Lamb and other meats are flavored with spices that the Odehs purchase directly from sources in Bethlehem and Las Vegas.
“The food is delicious and the people are friendly,” said Carolyn Trainer on Facebook. This is a nice change from the food choices around town. We will definitely be back.”
Elko native Jon Karr opened Dreez in early May, giving a classic dining location a new look and feel while offering contemporary and conventional cuisine for breakfast and lunch.
Karr and his wife, Audrey, enjoy eating out when they leave town. Some of the ideas for the menu come from those journeys and others come from his employees, a few who have come to the region from outside the community.
Folks around town have been questioning what the name of the restaurant stands for ever since Karr installed the sign on the building and began posting menu items and comments on Facebook.
“Audrey’s nickname as a softball player at Elko High School was Dreezer,” said Karr. “Her grandma would yell, “Go Dreezer!” at the softball games.”
King’s Variety store in Spring Creek closed in early 2017. The Idaho-based M.H. King Company closed all of its locations due to changes in the business environment, according to a February press release.
“With the advent of large-box retail stores and the internet, anyone with a computer can buy from millions of vendors around the world,” the press release stated. “Brick and mortar stores need feet and faces to survive as we have salaries, rents and other costs to cover. Unfortunately for us that is not the current landscape.”
Spring Creek King’s manager Yvonne Radabaugh said she was caught off guard by the announcement.
“I was shocked; I think all of us were. It was a complete surprise,” she said.
The store closed within a few months of the announcement, and the building remains vacant.
Ed and Jeannie Gillins retired as owners of Bodily’s Furniture, and the store’s last day under their ownership was Aug. 26.
The couple began co-managing Jeannie’s parents’ furniture business in 1973 and later became the fifth generation of owners. The store originated as the Stinson-Berger Furniture Co. before Jeannie’s family — the Bodily family, operating as C.B. Brown Co. — purchased it in 1963. The name was changed to Bodily’s Furniture in 1967.
Owning the business has been about more than helping shoppers find the right furniture. The couple lived their philosophy of shopping locally, supporting the community and attending Elko events.
“We’d like to thank our customers we’ve had. I’d like to thank them for their loyalty and friendship over the years,” Ed says. “We appreciate all our long-term employees for their loyalty, hard work and good work ethic. They’re as much a part of our success — or more — than Jeannie and I are.”
The business, including the name, Commercial Street building and warehouse, was purchased by Chris Sanders and reopened in early September. Sanders owns the Idaho-based Everton Mattress factory, makers of Therapedic-brand mattresses. For most of his tenure with the mattress company, he worked with the Gillinses as an account representative, as Bodily’s was — and is — a supplier of Therapedic mattresses.
“We felt the Bodily’s name resonated with Elko. It was an established store that we wanted to be a part of,” he said. “We were excited about that because it meant something in that area and has a great reputation.”
In a feature story about old buildings in Elko, readers learned what determines a condemned building.
Just because a building is boarded up does not mean it has been condemned, said Scott Wilkinson, assistant city manager.
“Condemnation of property is a big step,” Wilkinson said. “To do that is a very significant decision undertaken by the city.”
Covered windows are not a tell-tale sign that a building has come under the city’s scrutiny, Wilkinson said, but the property owner’s acknowledgement of a possible safety violation.
Wilkinson said the city has heard criticism regarding vacant buildings that look “unsightly,” notably the building on the corner of Idaho and Fourth streets that fell into disuse years ago when Diana’s Fine Jewelry closed.
“It may be unsightly, but it’s a big step to declare it a nuisance,” Wilkinson said. “You need to truly have a hazard.”
The story also covered city policies and procedures regarding condemned buildings.
If residents or a neighbor notices a hazard or a notice, they can submit a written complaint to the city, which then follows up on the grievance and contacts the property owner.
When a building becomes a nuisance in the eyes of the city, it does not mean it is automatically condemned, Wilkinson said. “It’s a totally different action on the part of the city between declaring a nuisance and condemning a building.”
Wilkinson said since he joined the city in 2005, there has been only one condemned residential structure, on Morse Lane, that was “ready to fall down” and had become a gathering place for transients.
Because of the high cost to remodel structures, Wilkinson explained the city was unable to repurpose the old Elko Police Station or find an investor to purchase the building. It was demolished Nov. 3.
Bringing old structures back to life is preferable, Wilkinson said, referring to a recent revitalization of historic downtown buildings on Commercial Street and the renovation of the Henderson Bank Building.
“Those are great projects,” Wilkinson said. “Those [buildings] were made to last for 150 years.”
The community was star struck this spring when the Sinclair gas station on Idaho Street was transformed into the scene of a television commercial when NASCAR driver Michael Self and a camera crew set up their equipment.
Dennis Haggard, who owns the station at 1790 Idaho St., said Sinclair’s marketing team contacted him a couple of weeks earlier to see if he would be interested in the company using his location as the set for its latest advertisement.
Haggard said he was initially surprised the company wanted to use his store until they explained that the setting of the gas station was exactly what they were looking for.
The commercial not only featured a real race car, but it also featured a real race car driver. Self made an appearance in the commercial for the company that sponsors his car.
Haggard said it was an honor to have his store be the scene of something that required that much work.
“It was a nice honor that they recognize smaller cities and towns,” he said. “I know it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors but it’ll be nice to see how it turns out. It was a lot of work for a 30-second commercial.”
The gas station has since returned to serving cars that are not built for the race track but Haggard said he expected questions from customers who noticed the filming.
“I’m sure a lot of people want to know what was going on,” he said. “It’s not often you see a NASCAR sitting at a gas pump.”
This October, stockman and cart pusher Richard Bochman entered his 20th year as an associate of Walmart, and Elko readers applauded as Bochman reached this milestone despite living with a learning disability he’s been diagnosed with since childhood.
“When it comes to my disability, I basically learn things a lot slower than other people,” Bochman explained. “Working for one company for so long has had its moments and difficulties, but I believe I’ve been blessed and God has given me the ability to help people even with where I’m at.”
Bochman prides himself in his ability and opportunities to care for customers, whether it’s helping people take their purchases to their cars or by offering a simple hello.
“I like to encourage people whenever I can because no matter what your mental abilities are, we all have the ability to understand and help each other,” he said.
Bochman said he was excited to celebrate his two decades of employment at the retail store with his wife of 22 years, Cami, and with his Walmart co-workers who love having him on the team.
Change has been the name of the game for the Red Lion Hotel & Casino, and on its 35th anniversary in December, longtime staff members reflected on the past and the future.
There has been “constant change, which is good,” said Director of Engineering Ruben Garcia, who has worked there for 35 years. “It’s had its highs and lows, for sure.”
The Red Lion opened on the north side of Idaho Street in 1982 under the purview of Red Lion founder Tod McClaskey. He also owned the Gold Country Inn, the High Desert Inn, Holiday Inn Express and the Thunderbird Motel in Elko, along with about 50 hotels across the West.
Garcia and Ellen Bird, now director of gaming who started as a “change girl” 35 years ago, remember the property’s opening day on about Dec. 17 that first year. They describe how all the corporate personnel, including McClaskey, were there for the big event — some even helping clean in their business suits right along the hotel and casino staff.
At its peak, employees numbered about 600 and now total more than 400, said Angela Fraser, director of marketing for Play Elko Properties. Forty people have worked at the Red Lion for 20-plus years and more than 60 for 10-plus years. Joining the roster of those with Red Lion since the opening day are engineering assistant Manuel Villegas, housekeeper Maria de Jesus Cortez and pit dealer Tenne Bagby.
“We have retained quite the history of employees here,” Fraser said. “Some of our employees are actually families.”
The property’s owners are also family. In 2006, Las Vegas-based father-son duo Larry J. and Larry D. Woolf of the casino management and consulting company Navegante Group purchased the Red Lion. The senior Woolf started the group in about 1995. The son serves as the CEO of properties including of Elko’s Red Lion, and Marcus Suan is the vice president of operations. Navegante also owns the Gold Country Inn, High Desert Inn and the Chevron station at the corner of Idaho Street and East Jennings Way.
McClaskey “was definitely a pioneer in the hotel industry, and the Woolfs are pioneers in the gaming industry, so it’s a good marriage,” Fraser said.
The Red Lion and the other Elko properties are expected to continue seeing changes as the Woolfs take an interest in the community.
“The Woolfs, they have put a lot of money back into the properties, which is nice,” Garcia said. That’s why they continue to look as good as they do. They strive and really take pride in ownership, and it shows.”