Pledge drive aims to keep local cafe open

For nearly two decades, Deux Gros Nez has been a unique part of Reno’s cultural life.

The offbeat cafe, which opened in 1985, introduced many locals to caffeinated beverages like cappuccinos and “bovines” (lattes) years before the coffeehouse craze of the 1990s. It’s eclectic decor, laid-back atmosphere and creative menu has been a winning combination with Reno residents young and old.

But after a year of trying to sell the cafe, it appears owner Tim Healion is ready to retire his espresso machine and pack up his celebrated bicycle jersey collection. Healion said he’s ready for a change and wants to pursue other interests, as well as spend more time with his family.

But to those who are upset at the thought of losing their favorite hangout, there’s still a chance to keep the Deux open.

Cafe regular Bill Thornton is organizing a drive to turn the coffeehouse into a co-op. By joining Club Deux Gros Nez, members would agree to fund the business for two years at $4,000 per month ($48,000 per year). The funds would be used to purchase the equity of the business, provide base compensation for the new general manager and cover all other expenses, including “financial incentives” for the staff.

The goal at the end of two years is to reduce the top bracket club membership from $200 per month to $100 per month. If enough members join, a board of directors will form with Healion as chairman of the board, a position he will hold for two years.

The club needs at least 20 people to join as members at a minimum of $200 a month. Additional pledges at less than that amount will also be welcomed.

Thornton, a member of the Club Cal Neva-Virginian’s Board of Directors, said he appreciates what Healion has brought to Reno, and he wants to ensure the coffeehouse remains an integral part of the city’s cultural soul, as well as maintain its quirky personality.

Healion said he likes the idea and sees Club Deux Gros Nez as the “new Old Reno Club.” But it won’t be an exclusive club, he assured. The coffee shop will still be open to the public and stay the same cafe locals have grown to love. Members may get benefits like special parties or, as the pledge sheet says, “The right to claim to be a savior of Deux Gros Nez.”

“It will be a loose-knit association without a lot of rules and with a lot of warm fuzzies,” Thornton said.

Healion said he’s pretty confident the membership drive will be successful, but if it isn’t, his mind is made up.

“If it doesn’t come together, I’m closing the place,” he said.

Until then, he’s looking forward to the annual Tour de Nez, the coffeehouse’s annual bicycling event and anniversary party. Cyclists from around the world come to participate in this unusual bike race through Reno. For non-participants, there’s food, live music and belly dancing to keep the crowds entertained. The June 16 event will also mark the last day people can sign up for membership in Club Deux Gros Nez.

"We’ll see if the community spirit is there to [keep it open]," Thornton said.