The Reno Pet Food Market opened at 745 South Virginia Street in the midst of the Second World War, as grain and meat rationing strained production for many pet food manufacturers. In response, the entrepreneurial Combs family cooked up a special vitamin loaf for cats and dogs from a recipe featuring wild horse meat, powdered milk, ground carrots, soy bean and corn meals, all cooked onsite in a giant steam pressure cooker. The full-service market also offered fresh cuts of meat, pet care products and accessories, free delivery, and even a drive-through window.
Rachael Combs ran the place while the men of the family served their country during the war. Upon their return, an ad reassured the public, “To those who inquired as to whether the Reno Pet Food Market has changed hands, we are happy to say it has not—we are merely giving the girls who carried on so ably in our absence a well-deserved rest.” At various times, the store sold puppies, kittens, turtles, birds, and even Shetland ponies.
The building itself long predated the Combs’ shop, having opened in 1923 as a grocery operated by Ruel O. James and then by Louis E. Gunter. In 1928, Gunter opened a new market just up the street inside the Giraudo Apartment building, and the vacancy was filled by Ruth’s Bakery and then Oden Cyclery until the Combs family opened their store in 1943. It finally closed its doors in 1975.
The second storefront, 743 South Virginia, was the home of Dick Lusetti’s home appliance store from the 1940s to the 1980s. Before that, it housed a donut shop run by Jack Heric, and even earlier, Elmer Brown’s cleaners. From the start, Lusetti did a brisk business, capitalizing on postwar consumer demand for everything from the new automatic washing machines to deep freezers. Since the 1980s, various businesses have operated in the twin commercial spaces.