by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s an idea that is lighter on inventory at the moment and heavy on what it could grow into in the near future.
The Nevada Unique Store has been open just a few months on Highway 395 in Gardnerville (just across from where Toler Avenue spits onto Highway 395 at Gardnerville Elementary School), but already the buzz is spreading about what could become one of the more unique endeavors in town.
Currently, it serves as a storefront where local vendors of food and wares, local artists and local crafters can have their products sold.
“It’s truly a community effort,” Nevada Unique owner Larry Rice said. “I organized it, and I man it, but these folks come in and make it happen. That’s really the driving force behind everything I’m trying to do, is these nice, hard-working folks that are just trying to create good products to subsidize their families and grow their businesses. I wanted an outlet for them to be able to showcase their work.”
You can’t miss the sign, presented in bold, warm hues of Nevada sunset on Highway 395, but the store itself is set back pretty well behind a large parking area that once served as a used car lot.
The battle there has been in helping drive-by traffic make the leap to the back lot.
Rice has helped bridge that gap by conducting a weekly farmers market in the parking lot on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“People will come in to the farmers market and it’s a chance to tell them about the store,” he said. “They’ll ask where the store is, and what it is about, and I can just point to it and tell them all about it.
“The farmers market was as busy as it has ever been last Saturday. It’ll grow gradually. It’s a brand new idea, but we are getting the same people coming back each week and word is starting to get out.
“We’ll continue it through the rest of the season and then work real hard over the winter to grow it into a full-blown farmers market. There’s definitely plenty of room for it.”
While the premise is simple, the long-term vision for the property will quickly grow more complex.
Rice, who also currently runs Best Barbecue Catering Company, is remodeling the back of the building in order to open up the Sierra Gourmet Grill and Wine Bar in October or November. That will move the entirety of the Nevada Unique Store to the front portion of building.
“It’s a concept I really like about Cracker Barrel restaurants,” Rice said. “They have a huge retail area and you walk through it to get to the restaurant. I’m going to condense that down, and you end up walking through the Nevada Unique Store to get to a Nevada unique restaurant.”
The Sierra Gourmet Grill will feature Santa Maria grilling, where meat is prepared with a dry rub and grilled over oak coals.
“As far as I know, it’d be the only restaurant in the area to use that method,” Rice said.
He’d be using his award-winning dry rubs, and ingredients from many of the local vendors already featured in the Nevada Unique Store.
“We had our first end of the month Sunday brunch here last week and it was very successful in terms of the response we got about the food,” Rice said. “A lot of the vendors that have food here, we featured on the menu.
“The overall attitude and atmosphere just contributes to the experience. People love this idea, they support it. And the vendors within the store support each other.”
Currently, featured vendors include Sierra Nevada Gourmet Meats, Italian Hearts pasta and Sauces, Lattin Farms jams and jellies, Tillie’s Olives, Sierra Gourmet Foods and Rice’s own barbecue rubs and sauces, among others.
“We’ll feature as many Nevada products as we can on the menu, and then, if you like it, you can go to the retail section and buy some to take home with you,” Rice said. “We want to continuously be adding more local businesses. There’s a lot of room for growth.”
And that goes for the greater property, which measures in at an acre and a half, as well.
Rice said he hopes to develop an arrangement for an on-site garden and greenhouse in the coming year. Along with that, he’d like to add a fish farm to raise trout and tilapia.
“I love that idea of having the food on site, ready to be harvested,” he said. “You can’t get much more fresh than that. It would add so much to the overall experience too. There are restaurants in cities that have rooftop planting beds, but that’s not a lot. We could have a pretty big garden out here that become an attraction in itself and helps stock the farmers market.
“It’s rare to be able to have the kind of space for that on a downtown Main Street lot. That’s what we’re fortunate to have here.”
The Nevada Unique Store is located at 1378 Highway 395. Its hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and then the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. farmers market on Saturdays.
Any vendors interested in being a part of the store can e-mail email@example.com.