Dani DeRosa, the Sierra Nevada Ally’s Civic Action Coordinator, interviews activists, business leaders, students, and artists to talk about civic engagement, public service, the marketplace, and the arts.
High ceilings and a bright, open space welcome you into the galley. A local artist painted the interior walls. The handmade coffee tables are in the shape of Nevada.
Jet Cafe is owned by Megan O’Reilly and Maurice Harold with their toy poodle Josephine. O’Reilly’s hair is a bright teal. She wears a handmade necklace.
According to Harold, “we started in Megan’s spare bedroom and it very quickly spilled out into the hallway and then into the living room.
“That was when we realized we needed to figure something out. About six months in we had already built it up to the brim.”
According to O’Reilly, “we had equipment in our bathroom/storage area because it was just too much.”
“So if anybody else needed to use the bathroom, they’re just gonna have to wait,” said Harold.
In the beginning, O’Reilly and Harold acquired a lease on a building on California Avenue, near Downtown Reno, but outgrew the space in just six months.
“So we have been in this (E. 4th Street) location since June of 2019. Just in time for the world to end. We started the business in September of 2015. So we’re right about seven years in.”
4th Street has always had an image problem: the street that Renoites were cautioned to avoid. The stereotype includes seedy motels, street people, and transients. The Street’s reputation dates back to the early 1900s. Now, 4th Street is in the process of changing, partially because of gentrification.
Fortunately, the street still has a rebellious vibe and remains a staple for Reno’s punk rock music scene, such as hosting the legendary band, At the Drive In.
Pitch Black Printing
The printing partners started out wanting to help their artist friends who had to cross their fingers hoping what they’d ordered online came out the way they wanted. Demand grew to include banners for conventions, stickers, and business cards.
“(We are) an artwork, reproduction, and photography printer. And that was all we were ever going to do.”
Today the bulk of Pitch Black Printing’s sales come from commercial work. Their experience working with artists gives this work a different look to help them stand out from the competition.
Jet Cafe features a new artist monthly. They also offer greeting cards and enamel pins. I bought one of a coyote smoking a cigarette and a friend got me a pin based on David Fambrough’s iconic Reno Volkswagen scarab sculpture.
“We wanted to do a Reno pin, like an enamel pin. But we didn’t want to do an arch or anything like that. Which, those things are fine. But we kind of wanted something that real people who lived here would recognize. Those deep cuts.
“Yeah, exactly. Something that not everyone would know. And we did that kind of on purpose. And we thought it was fun. And people seem to really like it. So I feel like I don’t want Reno to forget its roots.
“And that has a large part to do with where we’re located right now to was when we were when we knew that we had outgrown our space and needed to find new space. We had specifically targeted this area over on East 4th because Reno’s evolving a lot. But it’s also still got a lot of grit. And we wanted to maintain that rather than go somewhere that didn’t feel like Reno. It’s still very much Reno down here in a way that kind of embraces some of the diversity and demographics, and geographically.
“I feel like Reno is kind of a, I don’t know, I guess blue-collar town is a good way to describe it, you know? And I don’t think Reno should forget that.”
O’Reilly said, “We’re still the Wild West, right?”
“Exactly,” Harold agreed.
Alan Kaplan was one of their first clients and was recently featured in a dark Jim Henson and comic-themed display. According to O’Reilly, Kaplan’s day job was working as a production artist at Customink. He now works for Pokémon.
“It’s been really cool to just watch him evolve.”
“We’ve gotten to do some really cool stuff,” O’Reilly said. “We hosted an artist’s very first art show, with a reception on her 21st birthday. She sold her first painting to someone she didn’t know. It was so cool to watch that whole process and she was so thrilled. She was taking pictures next to the sold sign and was just all excited that it was you know, it’s great the support from family and friends for an artist but when you reach someone you don’t know it’s like yeah, there’s that next level that helps to keep them going. And that’s what we need: more artists all the time, everywhere.
“I think it’s easy to get discouraged. It gets challenging to continue to produce when you’re hearing (negativity). We really like to be a space that’s more encouraging and accepting. We show some artists that may not get into some other galleries. But you’ve got to start somewhere. And if you don’t start with a little bit of encouragement you don’t know what somebody can evolve into.”
How O’Reilly and Harold feel about Reno’s changes over the last several years.
“I think what it needs is people who see the potential and are pleased with the fact that some others are noticing but also are protective of maintaining what we already have here and what’s so special about Reno.
“It kind of has led both of us to want to have more of a voice in how things evolve too, and kind of just raise our hands and go but wait, let’s make sure we’re still protecting, you know, people who were here first and cultures who were here first and that kind of thing and make sure that we’re not gentrifying in a way that whitewashes what’s so special about here. I mean, I think Midtown is a prime example of that, where Midtown changed so fast,” said Harold.
“And I think by the time people realized that it was changing so fast, it was too late, it already changed.
“And there are some great businesses in Midtown, I’m not trying to bully knock Midtown. Everyone knew that that was going to be a good part of town to be in.
“But you know, for better or worse, it is what it is now. And I think now everybody wants to kind of take the reins a little bit harder. And I think that’s why 4th Street is such a good example of the businesses that are already down here that are kind of taking control of that as opposed to outside forces just doing it.
“We don’t want to let it happen to us. We want to be involved in what’s happening.”
You’ll find the duo and their space to be relaxed and welcoming. If you’re looking for a place to show your art for the first time, they are very approachable. Go ahead and get on the list. When I was breaking into selling my own handmade jewelry and art I would have been pleased to find a place like Jet Cafe.
Follow Jet Cafe on social media or stop in to keep up on their events. They participate in neighborhood drink walks and last year had an event with NIghtmare on Fourth Street for Halloween.
Jet Cafe and Pitch Black Printing Co.
700 E 4th St. #A
Reno, NV 89512
Dani DeRosa is the Sierra Nevada Ally’s Civic Action Coordinator. She is a multimedia journalist from Sparks, Nevada driven to serve stigmatized and underserved populations and has done so in both healthcare and as a grassroots events coordinator. She’s led entrepreneurial workshops with both The Holland Project and Reno Bike Project.
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