Filed Under Businesses

Giraudo Building

Paul Giraudo's 1928 apartment building was the longtime home of Penguin Ice Cream.

The Giraudo Building was constructed in 1928 for Paul Giraudo, a Virginia City shopkeeper, from a design by Nevada’s premier architect at the time, Frederic DeLongchamps. The building featured two storefronts and one apartment on the ground floor, with six apartments upstairs. It was a popular address for divorce-seekers serving out their six weeks in the years when Reno reigned as the Divorce Capital of the World.

The darker bricks used on the building’s façade exemplify some popular decorative styles. The wide course running across the building’s midsection is laid in a soldier formation, in which the bricks are set upright. The wide borders surrounding the upstairs windows and forming smaller rectangles above them are set in a rowlock style, where bricks are laid on their narrow sides with the short ends exposed. The arched center doorway leading to the upstairs apartments adds an additional note of elegance.

The building’s first commercial tenant was Gunter’s Grocery, operated by Louis E. Gunter, who had been running a market just down the block at 745 South Virginia Street. His new grocery ran the entire length of the north side of the building, and opened despite being adjacent to the Piggly Wiggly, a chain grocery that had opened just two years earlier. That two markets could operate in such close proximity was a testament to the large number of houses in the area, which had yet to develop into a commercial district.

Through the years, various tenants occupied the ground floor. The larger commercial space on the building’s north side later became the Virginia Market, then the Seven Fifteen Bar (named for its address), Duncan’s Pub, and eventually, Shea’s Tavern. The smaller space on the south side, which fronted the downstairs apartment, served as a cleaner’s, a drug store, a rose shop, and for many years, Penguin Ice Cream, which reportedly served 4500 customers during its opening week in 1935. Perks included curbside service and free delivery for orders of a quart or more. The Penguin, with its familiar black-and-white checkered floor, eventually transformed into a full-fledged cafe, and following its closure in the 1980s, the space housed a series of restaurants including the original Luciano's, Sup, Midtown Eats, and Homegrown Gastropub.

Images

Commercial elegance
Commercial elegance The Giraudo Apartment building combines residential units with two commercial storefronts, a popular building form at the time of its construction in 1928. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015
Frederic DeLongchamps drawings
Frederic DeLongchamps drawings Prominent architect Frederic DeLongchamps designed the building, indicating on his drawings the precise placement and style of the facade's decorative brick. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Creator: Frederic DeLongchamps
Gunter's Grocery
Gunter's Grocery Louis E. Gunter was an experienced grocer when he opened a market in the new building in 1928. Plans for the grocery were reportedly approved by the National Retail Grocers' Association of the United States. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: September 20, 1928
Penguin Ice Cream ad
Penguin Ice Cream ad Longtime residents of the area fondly recall the Penguin's hand-packed ice cream and soda fountain. Later, the popular cafe also offered breakfast and lunch. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: June 22, 1935

Location

717 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Giraudo Building,” Reno Historical, accessed July 14, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/123.