From 1948 to 1974, the two-story brick building at 1052 South Virginia Street was known across Reno as the home of the Hansel & Gretel clothing store, offering “quality clothes for children.” Upstairs were the Solari Apartments, named for Camill Solari, who financed the building’s construction in 1938. It was designed by the prestigious architectural firm of Frederic DeLongchamps and George O'Brien.
At the time, Solari lived in a modest house that long stood next door at 1042 South Virginia Street. By the 1930s, he was known as Reno’s “Decorator De Luxe.” Born in Switzerland in 1897, Solari had immigrated to the United States in 1914, and after working for a time in the railroad shops, started a painting, papering, and decorating business. Quickly, he won praise as a true craftsman, becoming the decorator of choice for commercial and residential projects across town. Eventually he partnered with prominent business owners and real estate developers including Dick Graves and Norman Biltz.
Solari’s commercial building served as half investment property and half storage space for his growing painting operation, C. Solari & Sons. The ground floor featured two storefronts and one apartment, with a paint warehouse on the Holcomb Avenue side and six more apartments upstairs. The building is constructed of concrete and multicolored brick, with decorative courses of contrasting pressed brick bands near the top of the front façade, and rows of brick headers bordering the door and window openings and corner edges.
Local residents fondly remember purchasing everything from Catholic school uniforms to Easter dresses and fancy coats at Hansel & Gretel. Known for stocking hard-to-find shoe sizes, the owners used an x-ray machine to ensure a precise fit.
Prior to the children’s clothing store, the ground floor housed other tenants including a beauty salon and a furniture dealer. Lee and Donna Erickson purchased Hansel & Gretel in 1969, and in 1974, moved the business south to Moana Lane. Camill Solari died in 1976, and the apartments were later renamed Ciraolo Apartments.
An adult movie theater took over the building in the mid-1970s, after Virginia Street was displaced as the main north-south highway through town and most retail moved to the newer shopping malls and commercial strips. At some point, an addition to the south side of the building housed a club called Le Cabaret, which was topped by one of the larger-than-life showgirl figures from downtown’s Primadonna Club. Most of that addition was later removed, but the original 1938 brick structure, with its beautiful decorative brick, remains intact.