The transformation of South Virginia Street from a quiet residential neighborhood into a thriving business district was well underway by 1946, when Edward F. Hale financed the construction of a modest brick commercial building next door to the fire station at California Avenue. Hale was a heavy equipment distributor from Hayward, California who had long counted a number of Reno businesses among his clients. When the war ended, the pent-up demand for new household appliances spurred him to open a retail store in Reno, and the double occupancy building allowed him to earn money from an additional tenant on the north side.
When the building opened in December 1946, that tenant was the Modern Music Center, founded by local musicians and music teachers Earle Hultberg and Robert O’Briant. The forerunner of Maytan Music, the center offered musical instruments, sheet music and accessories, professional instruction, and five sound-proof studios for practice and recording. In 1953, it moved to larger quarters, the old Martha Wingfield House at 735 South Center Street. By then, Hale had gone out of business, and Farmers Insurance had moved in next door.
Replacing the music store was Modern Radio and TV, operated by Jerry Cobb. Cobb was an early radio pioneer, a proponent of applying “Frequency Modulation” technology to radio broadcasting. He had petitioned without success to operate an FM station out of his private home, and in 1953, founded KNEV, Nevada’s first successful FM station, in a studio behind his television and radio sales room. The station’s proximity to the firehouse came in handy, as the telephone pole housing the station’s antennas occasionally caught fire, prompting brief breaks in transmission to extinguish the flames.
KNEV moved to Kietzke Lane in 1964, and the building went through a number of tenants. The north side housed a series of restaurants, from Festina’s (known for its pizza pie) to the Asian-inspired Imperial Restaurant (where a scene from the 1973 Walter Matthau movie Charley Varrick was filmed), to Starbucks Coffee, and eventually the Truckee Bagel Company. On the south side, a series of retail stores culminated in the establishment of Ceol Irish Pub in 2008.