Head above water

Fran Oppio

Photo By David Robert

Sierra Sport & Marine, 195 E. Glendale Ave., is owned by Fran Oppio and his son, John. Fran’s father opened the business in Reno in 1943. The business, on the corner of Glendale Avenue and East McCarran Boulevard, was flooded in the New Year’s Eve flood. Chest-deep water filled the building, and family and friends were still cleaning up three days later.

So, tell me about your business.

Our business is 65 years old. I’m second generation; my son’s the third. He would like to continue on with the store if we’re able to survive this. I’m not sure if we will or not.

Is there not FEMA money available for this kind of thing?

This is the third one we’ve been through. There’s low-interest FEMA money, but you still have to pay it back. It’s not like it’s free. I actually gambled this year—you could buy flood insurance, and I didn’t buy it this year.

Oh, no.

So it’s not like we’re going to get a big fat paycheck. We’ll be fighting this ourselves.

So what could people do to help, other than doing business here once you’ve reopened?

Well, you can see all of our friends are here to help us. We really appreciate that. I don’t know how. We have insurance, but because this is a flood … You pay them $10,000 a year, but when you need it, because it’s a flood, they don’t pay that.

I’ve heard people dismiss this flood as no big deal, but it appears to be very serious thing here.

You should have seen it yesterday. It’s very depressing. You have to be strong. Last time, about half the businesses around here were closed because of [the flood]. In those days, we had more people and more energy to devote. What we have now is about $2 million worth of product on the floor that’s wet. You can’t sell wet product.

Is it worthless now?

You do what you can. I’ve got my crew working as hard as they can to try to stave off rust and trying to get the machines back in running order before there’s any damage. That’s just the product, that’s got nothing to do with the store or the building or anything. It’s just a huge, giant snowball.

When did you first become aware of the rising waters?

I’m disappointed in the notice. If we’d had more warning, we could (have been) here. In the last two floods, we were down here working our butts off. Most of the people didn’t even know it was flooding in the other businesses. We’re one of the very few. We watch the river, and we try to see what we can see. Once the water is coming down the street, we have only about a half-hour before it’s 3 feet deep. McCarran (used to be) just a two-lane road. Every time they improve it, it’s better for traffic and worse for us because they build it up. The road works as a dam.

So where does the water go?

It gets about four and a half feet deep. Then it goes over the road.

This is horrible.

The state is immune. They build it, and then they’re not responsible after that. The other problem is the storm drains back up. So we have a pond here every time it floods. I’ve never sued anybody in my life, but I’m coming close to seeing what I can do. They made a pond of our business.