The once dirt country lane from which Kietzke got its name is now home to numerous car dealerships.
The new Champion store measures 80,000 square feet under one roof. The salient feature is the 5,500-square-foot showroom. The glass-enclosed showroom includes an indoor delivery area. Traditionally, new cars were delivered outside the building, but with all the new technology on the vehicles today, delivery time has been greatly extended. Now, customers are treated to an environment that is impervious to outside weather conditions.
In the days before Kietzke Lane became known as “auto row,” car dealerships were scattered willy-nilly about the tiny town of Reno. I can recall when Johnson Chevrolet was located at the corner of South Virginia and Court streets. I remember it well because I purchased my first auto there: a ’37 Studebaker for $50. Scott Motors was located about half a block to the south on Virginia Street. Up the street, behind the Tower Theatre was the home of Winkel Motors on Center Street. A little farther to the south was the Lincoln Mercury dealership and Bill Harrah’s Modern Classic Motors, which later became Dick Diamond’s Dodge dealership. Richardson-Lovelock’s Ford dealership was on the corner of Fourth and Center streets, while the Chrysler store was located on Island Avenue, now the site of the Courthouse Annex. The Jeep store was on West Fourth Street close to where the Sundowner now stands. During this early era, a good friend, Max Dodge, worked for Richardson Lovelock Ford. On his business card the tagline was “The only Dodge selling Fords in Reno.”
The new Champion store joins Nissan of Reno (which currently is rebuilding), the recently renovated Honda and Dodge dealerships and the upscale Hyundai store. One of the most dominant features of Kietzke’s makeover is the giant parking garage that is the most notable feature of Toyota’s new facility. According to recent reports, the next major building project on Kietzke will be the remodel of the old Winkel facility, now known as Reno Cadillac GMC Buick.
Abetting Kietzke’s expansion is the fact that several dealerships opted to go south on Virginia Street. The largest of these was Bill Pearce’s triumvirate of Porsche, BMW and Volvo. The three-part store recently became the adjoining home of Mini of Reno. Across the street from Bill Pearce are the new Acura store and the refurbished Mercedes Benz dealership. Heading north on Virginia we can find Reno Mazda Kia, Findlay Audi, Lithia Volkswagen and Scott Motors. Mill Street is still the home of Lexus of Reno and Lithia Chrysler Jeep. Tooling back down Kietzke we find Lithia Subaru and one of Reno’s pioneer dealerships in Jones West Ford. I still remember the day that the late Dick West showed me the giant scenic photos he had just purchased for the showroom. A little faded, they still grace the walls today. I identified with Dick on another basis when he informed me that when he played basketball at the University of Nevada, Reno he had worn the number 7 jersey. It was the same itchy, blue, woolen jersey that was assigned to me when I arrived at the U.
Getting back to the Champion remodel, owner Jack Stanko noted that the new design was in keeping with the GM mandate that all dealerships have a similar façade.
It is a little-known fact that new car dealers are the second largest generator of taxes to the state of Nevada. Currently, the auto industry is gaining slightly in sales and is projected to have a far better year than 2011. With housing still in the doldrums and the casino industry flat-lining, perhaps the auto industry will be first out of the recession. The main reason is there is a pent-up demand for new vehicles, based on the age of dealer trade-ins. Due to high gas prices, smaller vehicles such as compacts and sub-compacts are the hottest items. Hybrids are also enjoying a jump in sales.
Interesting news out of Washington D.C. this week revealed that people are making their car payment ahead of their rent and credit card payments. This is mute testimony to the fact that we are a nation on wheels. The auto is as essential to the average American as his right or left foot.
Probably it was President Dwight Eisenhower who jump-started our love of motorized transportation when he inaugurated our national freeway system that was inspired by what he had seen in Europe.
Perhaps UNR head basketball coach David Carter can find some solace in the fact that the Stanford five, which humiliated his Wolf Pack, won the NIT by virtually the same margin by which they defeated the Silver and Blue. By comparing the scores of the two games, Nevada gained some form of respectability. Now that the college basketball season is over, with Kentucky reigning as the best hoops team in America, we can all look forward to the 2012-2013 season. Kentucky is especially memorable to me because my high school coach, Joe Gusweiler, was an All-American when he played there. He followed his college career by touring with a professional team ala the Harlem Globetrotters that was called The House of David. Their distinctive appearance was caused by the fact they all had to wear bushy beards.
Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.