The Ponderosa Meat Company had its start in 1947 as Reno Frozen Food Lockers. Brothers-in-law George L. Siri, Sr. and Willie Carano opened the butchering business and frozen locker plant after partnering for years at downtown’s Silver State Bakery, which they sold to Frank Welsh in 1946. Siri purchased the land and topped the business operation with four small one-bedroom apartments.
Their new venture was perfectly timed for the postwar era, enabling customers to rent lockers to store food that could not fit in the typical home freezer. Advertised as the “Most Modern Frozen Food Plant in the West,” the building contained 972 lockers, each six cubic feet in size. In addition, the business offered butcher service, aging and chill rooms for meat, and cold storage for fur coats and accessories.
Siri’s son, George L. Siri, Jr. bought his father’s interest in the business after returning from service in the U.S. Navy in 1954, and for a short time, he and his wife, Sue, lived in apartment #4 upstairs.
The deer hunting season, generally September to the end of November, brought an enormous annual surge of business—at one point bringing in more than 2,000 deer in a single year. As Siri, Jr. recalls, “We hired extra help, usually a butcher, a deer skinner, one or two women meat wrappers and a cleanup crew.” Many area ranchers also brought in their beef for processing.
In 1973, Siri and Carano sold the business to Don O’Day and Bruno Mastelotto and left to help run the family’s new Eldorado Hotel-Casino. Finding that the casino business wasn’t for him, Siri partnered with O’Day and Mastelotto in 1974 to create the Ponderosa Meat Company.
The new corporation entered into the wholesale meat business with restaurants, casinos, and other clients, prompting an expansion of the building on the Holcomb Avenue side and a gradual phasing out of the rental lockers. Today, the company is a full-service retail and wholesale butcher shop run by members of its founding families.