Filed Under Businesses

Benetti Block

The five storefronts opened amid a post-World War II building boom.

March of 1946 marked the greatest building boom in the history of Washoe County. Just six months after the close of the Second World War, forty major construction projects were underway in the Reno-Sparks area, including the Mapes Hotel, the Trinity Episcopal Church, and a new wing on the Washoe County Courthouse.

Also in the works was a new single-story commercial building at the corner of South Virginia and Arroyo Streets, financed by Italian-born Louis Benetti. With five storefronts spanning the addresses from 1274 to 1298, the reinforced concrete building represented a sizeable investment of $45,000. Its style is a simplified Art Moderne with greenish-blue tile-covered "engaged" columns separating each unit.

The first of the storefronts to open was Martins’ Furs, on the southernmost end, run by brothers Theodore and Melvin Martin. Builders and Farmer’s Hardware anchored the building’s northern end for the next twenty years with its model electric Lionel train in the basement. Filling out the row were a cleaners, the Ma Rue Beauty Salon, and Molini’s Fountain, a popular family restaurant.

Within the next two years, Reno Frozen Food Lockers (later renamed the Ponderosa Meat Company) was built to the building’s north and Landrum’s Diner just south of Arroyo, with the Sprouse-Reitz store joining the Washoe Market across the street. The cluster of shops and services formed a busy little commercial and dining district.

One of Reno’s most inclusive bars, The Chute, operated at no. 1278 from 1981 to 1990. The block was later home to a number of antique and secondhand stores, including the Thrift Bazaar, Eileen’s Attic, and Julie’s Collectibles.

Images

Benetti Block The Benetti Block turned 70 years old in 2016. Its row of storefronts remains as charming as ever, offering a variety of businesses and services. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015
Hi-De-Ho Club The Hi-De-Ho Club occupied the block's southernmost space for a brief time in 1956-1957. The sign on the building's rooftop points to the Suburban Motel, which was located further east on Arroyo Street. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1956
Street widening, 1965 At the time of the street widening project to accommodate increasing traffic, the block's businesses included Builders and Farmers Hardware, Troy's Cocktail Lounge, and New York Cleaners. The Sewell's Supermarket visible across the way opened in 1959. Source: Nevada Department of Transportation Date: 1965
Molini's Fountain, 1947 Mae Molini opened her family's namesake diner at 1292 South Virginia Street in February of 1947, with her sons Howard and John Molini serving as hosts. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: March 1, 1947
The Chute In the mid-eighties, The Chute was a well-known western-themed gay bar that operated its own T-shirt shop next door. Source: Nevada Historical Society Date: ca. 1985
Sierra Nevada Chocolate Co. The five storefronts have identical inset entrances flanked by large display windows. Creator: Alicia Barber Date: 2015

Location

1286 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Benetti Block,” Reno Historical, accessed October 4, 2023, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/137.