Rebuilding Reno one Project at a Time

So you may have heard a thing or two about this Reno Rebuild Project; it has been causing quite a stir. Two weeks ago I took a few minutes to sit down with co-creator Michael Connolly and find out about the men pushing this awesome grass-roots Reno revival. One question that I always love to ask is, “how the heck did you get to where you are today?”
Co-creators of the Reno Rebuild Project Michael Connolly and Chris Kahl went to Reno High School together and have known each other for 20+ years. About 15 years ago Chris and Michael met Zach Cage, a Reed High graduate. Michael and Zach co-own Sierra Tap House and Legends (by Whole Foods) and today the trio (Chris, Zach, and Michael) co-owns, Ole Bridge Pub and will be opening the new Brewer’s Cabinet this summer (p.s. this place looks awesome!).

Michael and Zach got their start in the early 2000’s when they turned a decent profit building a few residential investment properties in Fernley. Soon after, they began the prowl around Reno looking for a business to purchase and run. After meeting a local business broker (who specializes specifically in the buying and selling of local businesses) Michael & Zach found Legends Sports Bar & Grill looking for a buyer. The two of them liked the fun little sports bar, and begged and barrowed from friends and family to pool together enough money to make an offer.

And so began the tale of three young men, one bar, and a city looking for its Heros.

One day while walking along the Truckee downtown Michael and Zach noticed an old chapel space available for rent right on the river; a prime spot for a bar. They had been talking about how great it would be to start a business downtown and with some hard work and good-ol-fassion elbow grease they turned that dirty, old brick chapel space into today’s Sierra Tap House right along the river walk (where I met Michael). The boys weren’t interested in offering $1 drinks to draw mostly college students; instead they stuck to their legendary roots of sports bar. Big flat-screen TV’s, in and outside seating, micro-brews on tap, and a great connection with the kitchen upstairs make this a go-to classy hang out on any weekend.

Soon thereafter Michael and Zach teamed up with high school buddy Chris for the Ole Bridge Pub and now the Brewer’s Cabinet.

The Brewer’s Cabinet
After chatting Michael up for a while I was lucky enough to get an exclusive tour of the Brewer’s Cabinet (formerly the location of Chocolate Bar Reno on Arlington & California) before it opens this summer. Brewer’s Cabinet is definitely shaping up to be a great spot. Brewer’s Cabinet was birthed out of the “Home-brew competition” charity event that Michael, Chris and Zach have had a few years running now. Michael told me that one of the entries for the competition that won two years in a row will definitely be one of the main-stays at the new brewery.

The feel is definitely an urban take on old-Tahoe blended with funky-party barn: classy and upbeat; yet mellow at the same time. The hand-milled tables and benches are shaped from reclaimed Angora Lakes Fire wood from South Lake Tahoe. “Its going to be a small brewing operation,” Michael said, “and I’m going to be leaving it up to my two brewmasters to decide what to make, but we’re hoping to have a great mix of beers all year round.” Two weeks ago most of the brewing tanks, barrel holders, and refrigeration space was in place and Michael told me they were talking of creating their own garden next to the brewery where they will grow some local hops and herbs. Local boys doing great things locally, I love it!

Taking it to the Next Level

With all their local successes, it was only natural to think, “How can we help take this to the next level?” Well as the thought goes (and I tend to agree), “The more local great businesses we have downtown, the greater the health of our little city, the better we will all do (jobs, places to shop, eat drink, more trade = more better :) ).” Now it is true, through life and business, that connections and relationships are what truly pull you through and make the greatest difference in getting things done.

Well a number of years back Chris Kahl’s dad started a non-profit called Care Chest (which provides medical instruments for Northern Nevadans in need), and Michael and Chris serve as board members. “Why not work the local nonprofit route of economic development for our little town?,” they thought.

The trio teamed up with Community Foundation Bank
to create and manage the Reno Rebuild Project fund which will provide a low interest loans to help other local Nevadans start local businesses just like Michael, Chris, and Zach have (preferably downtown and midtown). What a great effort by a bunch of great local guys. If you have a couple minutes, check out their website at

The Reno Rebuild Project

The Reno Rebuild Project is a concept of the owners of Legends Grill, Sports & Spirits, The Sierra Tap House, Ole Bridge Pub, and the Brewer’s Cabinet. Local boys who grew up in this town. In 2012, they recognized a community need that they passionately hope to fill.

The recession, big corporate business, and the financial industry’s refusal to make small business loans have all contributed to the demise of Reno’s small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit that had resonated throughout our city for so long.

We hope to help solve this problem. This is our commitment to our community and to our fellow citizens: beginning in 2012, our four businesses will donate $0.05 cents of everything and anything sold at each location to the Reno Rebuild Project Fund. With these contributions, the fund will continue to grow, and once a year (beginning in 2013), we will select one idea from a Reno-based individual to receive a small business loan to make his or her dream a reality. This loan will be low-interest with all principal and interest returning to the fund to help it grow for the next small business. This fund will only be used toward non-franchise, small, local businesses.

All money will stay in our community supporting the local economy and helping to rebuild our community – one small business at a time.