Under the Arch: A DIY Guide to Reno
Back in 2009, at the Portland Zine Symposium, a convention for do-it-yourself indie publishers, zinesters Sarah Lillegard and Sarah Geo found themselves playing the unexpected roles of Reno ambassadors.
“Whenever people would find out that we were from Reno, they’d want to talk to us about it,” says Lillegard. It’s a position familiar to many well-traveled Renoites: Continually answering the same questions, “What do people in Reno really think of Reno 911?” and correcting the same geographical fallacies, “It must be cool to live really close to Vegas.”
“We were constantly repping Reno,” says Lillegard. “And it kind of made us realize how much we like it here.”
After the symposium, the pair decided to make Under the Arch: A DIY Guide to Reno, a pocket-sized, spiral-bound, 60-plus page guide to the Big Little, covering local restaurants, bars, thrift stores, tattoo parlors, parks, museums, day trips, and more. It’s a guide for visitors and for locals who want to get to know the town better.
The book features an eye-popping, full-color cover by local painter and tattoo artist Ron Rash, and single paragraph write-ups of more than a hundred local businesses and attractions.
Lillegard edited the guide, and she, Geo and assistant editor Felix Polanski did the bulk of the writing, though the book contains contributions from 15 local writers (including, full disclosure, two band mates of the author).
Lillegard established some ground rules for the guide from the onset. All the places featured in the book had to be affordable—it’s a DIY guide, after all—preferably locally owned, and all of the write-ups positive. It’s a grassroots promotional tool for Reno.
“If we didn’t like a place, we didn’t include it,” says Lillegard. “Which isn’t to say that if you weren’t included we don’t like you—there were many reasons that places didn’t make it in. They might have been too expensive, or we might have just not known about them.”
Under the Arch is the first offering of the Go for Broke Collective, a loose-knit organization of local artists, crafters and zinesters. Lillegard says they’re currently working on the paperwork to become a nonprofit, and procuring a space for a craft supply co-op.
“The name, Go For Broke, ties into Reno, with gaming, but it’s also about really putting in the elbow grease and working hard,” says Lillegard.
Lillegard and Geo both say that creating the guide taught them a lot about Reno.
“Going to a business and knowing that you’re going to write about it, changes everything,” says Geo. “You learn more when you’re there purposefully gathering knowledge. … People work hard to get where they are. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit in this town. The businesses that are surviving in this economy, the owners are very passionate about what they do, and they have a drive to succeed.”
“I went from thinking about moving to being seriously committed to Reno,” says Lillegard.
“We already loved Reno, but now it’s more intimate,” says Geo. “It’s like we know all the dirty secrets. It’s like having sex with Reno. Seriously. Balls deep.”