Ryan Stark was a longtime Reno resident, familiar to locals because of his involvement in the local music scene and because he worked as a barista at Bibo Coffee Co. for its first six years. He moved to Oakland eight years ago and opened Black Spring Coffee Co. there three years ago. The coffee shop was a regular destination for many people who died in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.
What’s the mood like in Oakland?
Around here, it’s very surreal. Many of those people who passed in the fire came into the shop. … So there’s a lot of grieving and healing specifically around Black Spring. … [W]e lost out on dozens of faces that we normally see every day. And some were friends. Joey Casio—I’ve known him since, like, 2004. It’s a very surreal vibe. There’s a lot of love happening. There are a lot of people who were acquaintances before who are now on hugging terms. There’s not really an instruction manual anywhere for how to navigate losing that many people one night. You wake up the next morning, and all these people are gone.
I’m sorry for your loss and the loss for the whole community there. Tell me about the fundraiser.
January to February, Black Spring is doing an art fundraiser. We usually have a different artist every month, but I pushed everything back to get this thing going just to get some more funds for people to navigate this really, really tricky situation. And already the response has been insane. I’ve gotten calls from people in New York, D.C., Boston. … The first one to contact me was [Reno photographer] Chris Carnel. But I actually hit up the Holland Project, and said rather than me hitting up all my artist friends in Reno, it would be a good idea for the Holland Project to do a similar thing if they were into it. And they seemed to like that idea.
This is a change of speed, but what’s the feeling about a Las Vegas billionaire trying to steal the football team from Oakland?
I guess I do have a unique perspective on this because I know Nevadans and Oaklanders. Nobody here wants the Raiders to go. And nobody in Nevada really is passionate about having them in Vegas. … There is such an insane following of the Raiders here locally. To such a ridiculous point. People don’t just paint their faces. It’s like a football Gwar. We’re talking skulls on football pads painted silver and black. It just looks like jock Gwar. And it’s not just five weirdos. It’s hundreds and hundreds. … It’s really phenomenal, and not something that Vegas would be able to mimic. If it moves to Vegas it would be very clear that it’s something to benefit the very few and not what either community really wants. … Can I just add something?
Since all of these people have died at Ghost Ship … before we’ve even been able to bury our friends and loved ones, all landlords are using this as an excuse to evict all people who have group houses. And the person who ran Ghost Ship was not someone I liked very much personally, but I feel like he’s being scapegoated as the person who should be held responsible when there’s a larger issue that’s coming to Reno with all of the tech industry moving from here to there, with people not having access to safe and affordable housing. And this fire is a very specific outcome of the housing crisis. … All of these people who have to deal with funerals and everything like that also have to navigate three-day notices to find another place to live. And there’s no rent control in Reno. And all these tech people are moving to Reno, so this type of thing is coming.