South Virginia Street was the site of many manufacturing operations in the mid-20th century, but the aromas from this one may have fueled the most snack attacks. It was the Circus Potato Chip Factory, constructed in 1936 as the De Somma Potato Chip Co.
The company was founded by a native of Napoli, Italy named James De Somma and his wife, Nellie. The couple lived in the small house next door with their daughter, Filomena. Their signature Circus Potato Chips were made daily and sold fresh in area grocery stories with a “giant bag” going for 19 cents in 1939. They were also served at many local restaurants, and the company’s popcorn was enjoyed everywhere from bars to baseball games.
The couple divorced in 1945 and sold the company, which continued operation under the name of the Circus Potato Chip Co. New owners Herman and Truman Christ in turn sold the company to the Frito Company of Dallas, Texas in 1959. Production of Circus Potato Chips was discontinued, and the Christs became local representatives for the Frito Company and its line of Crispie potato chips.
In the years to follow, occupants of the building included Thrif-Tee Seat Covers and, beginning in 1979, Ceccarelli’s Formal Wear. August Ceccarelli had been working in the garment business in Reno since 1961 and had opened his first tailor shop at 322 Vine Street in 1968. He expanded into tuxedo rental with a move to 677 S. Virginia Street, and with his final relocation to this site, added dry cleaning and sales of a full line of formal wear including wedding dresses. The Ceccarelli family sold the building in 2004 but its longstanding garment tradition continues today as Alterations Connection.