toast of the town

THE SHEA DYNASTY 
Entrepreneurial family makes a "Shea-borhood" in Midtown Reno. 

WRITTEN BY SANDRA MACIAS
PHOTOS BY CANDICE VIVIEN

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Siblings Lacey, Spencer, and Nicki Shea stand in front of Spencer’s latest endeavor, Homegrown Gastropub in Midtown Reno

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No way could Jerry Shea have guessed he’d turn into an entrepreneur. And no way could he have predicted that three of his children — Nicki, Lacey, and Spencer Shea — would follow in his footsteps.

His legacy began in the early ‘70s when Jerry, a motorcycle cop with the Reno Police Department, was hit by a drunk driver. He sustained horrific injuries and multiple fractures. He spent two months in the hospital, time enough to ponder what to do next. Disabled, he retired from the RPD and switched gears: He bought a building and opened a bar.

“He opens a bar for people to drink, when he himself was hit by a drunk driver,” Spencer says, chuckling at the irony before adding, “and he doesn’t drink.”

First and biggest

The bar was the legendary Del Mar Station, a nightclub that dominated the corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and South Virginia Street from 1974 to 2000. Performers the likes of Kansas, Kid Rock, and Whitesnake played there, and B.B. King made surprise appearances when he passed through town to other gigs. It had a long run from 1974 to 2000, when Shea sold the building.

“Del Mar was a big deal,” says Jerry, 71, a first-generation Nevadan who is now semi-retired. “It had the capacity to hold 1,000 people, open seven nights with national bands. It was busy, busy.” 

Del Mar was for adults only until his daughter Lacey, budding entrepreneur at age 13, started hosting “all-age shows” featuring matinee live music and non-alcoholic drinks. 

“I served sodas and learned to mix virgin strawberry daiquiris,” Lacey says, laughing. 

In the early ‘90s, the 715 Club (named for its address), up South Virginia Street from Del Mar, was getting rowdy, constantly needing help from Del Mar’s security staff, Jerry recalls. Tired of the problem, he offered to lease the club. 

“No,” said the proprietor, but he would sell.

“I made an offer on a lark,” Jerry says, “and all of a sudden, I owned another building.” 

(For the record, the building, built in 1928, was designed by Frederic DeLongchamps, a renowned Nevada architect. Shea still owns the historic building, which is home to the tavern and Homegrown Gastropub.)

New tavern

The 715 Club became Shea’s Tavern, and in 2021, it celebrates its 30th anniversary. It’s a no-frills bar with ashtrays, a stage, and a pool table. It hasn’t changed much over the years, with the exception of a new stage — Spencer built it from milk crates and plywood — the end of the free, freshly made popcorn it used to offer, and the addition of music on weekends.

Each sibling has taken a turn as bartender there. Lacey has made it her career. She’s the manager and late-shift bartender, aka “the graveyard girl.”

“I love my job and Shea’s,” she says, sincerely. “I have a passion for it, like my dad did. I want to carry on his legacy.” 

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The gastropub’s comfort food offerings include natural smoked Gouda and organic Cheddar mac and cheese

Fresh Food Concept

Next door, at Homegrown Gastropub — offering healthy, house-made food — is owner Spencer. A busy guy, Spencer not only manages his year-old restaurant, but also recently opened another venue at the Tesla Gigafactory near Fernley.

He began his food business in a food truck with a menu of freshly prepared, organic meals, which visited only two clients, Tesla and The Eddy on Sierra Street in Downtown Reno. But it was short-lived. Three months in, the truck’s engine blew on the road to Tesla. He sold his truck and opened Homegrown.

But not instantly. He remodeled the space first. Upstairs, where there was an apartment, he tore down walls for more dining space and lit it with a chandelier bought on eBay. He cleared the basement, making extra kitchen storage and added a pizza oven.

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Wild Alaskan pan-seared salmon served with organic green harissa, organic lemon couscous, and sautéed organic green beans

In May, sister Nicki, who was on La Famiglia’s staff for more than 10 years and a recent partner, left the Reno Italian restaurant to join her brother. She manages Homegrown’s catering business and helps with her brother’s new café, open exclusively to employees at Tesla and Panasonic Energy of North America in Reno.

There’s so much history in those 45 years on South Virginia Street’s 700 block — in the “Shea-borhood,” as Lacey calls it. From the “Tenderloin of Reno,” as the area was known in a rougher age, to gentrified Midtown, the Shea family has seen it all and still is going strong.

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Chef Sean Studds presents Korean street tacos with pork from Homegrown Gastropub

Sandra Macias, longtime Reno-based food writer, wondered about the Shea family history. Did their ancestors immigrate to the United States during Ireland’s potato famine in the mid-1800s or something? Patriarch Jerry Shea shakes his head no, and Spencer says his sister did “that Ancestry.com thing. We are more German than Irish.” 

The family patriarch then corrects that: “We are 35 percent Irish, 35 percent German.” 

“OK,” Spencer says. “Then just say we are Renoite-American.”

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Colin West and Ariel Rearick of Lake Tahoe share a kiss at the gastropub’s bar

 

Shea’s Tavern
715 S. Virginia St., Reno
775-786-4774 • Sheastavern.com 

Homegrown Gastropub
719 S. Virginia St., Reno
775-683-9989 • Homegrowngastropub.com 

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