Boulder City Podcast

Nevada's most interesting small town


Podcast With Tara Bertoli, Boulder City Company Store

For Tara Bertoli, opening the Boulder City Co. Store was a labor of love. Her new store was a result of several years of planning, research, renovation and operations. The store has become a hub of downtown Boulder City with many loyal clients. Events include poetry readings and music.

For Tara Bertoli, opening the Boulder City Co. Store was a labor of love.

“I know in my heart I was meant to be running this store,” she says.

After a career in science, as a student, teacher and a saleswoman, Bertoli decided to become a stay-at-home mom to her second child.

“I got bored really quickly,” she laughs. And then she began dreaming of the Boulder City Co. Store.

As a native of Boulder City—well, almost; she arrived at 4 years of age when her father, a doctor, got a job at Boulder City Hospital—Bertoli was always attracted by the history of the town and staying involved in local business.

“I have always been a proponent of shopping local,” she says. “And there’s so much history here that people don’t know about. Of course they know about Hoover Dam, but I want people to stop at the store to understand what Boulder City is all about. I wanted Boulder City to have a brand that wasn’t just Hoover Dam. That was my goal.”

Bertoli is trying to recreate the original Boulder City Company Store, which operated in the 1930s under the auspices of the Six Companies that built the dam.

“The original store was at one time the largest department store in Nevada,” she says. “People from Las Vegas actually came to Boulder City to shop. And they didn’t want the men going to Vegas to meet women, gamble or drink, so they had everything that they needed in this town.”

This building that houses her store was actually a men’s store with a barber shop attached. It was privately owned. Its last iteration was as an antique store, with lots of small rooms and shelving. Bertoli says renovating the space was the exciting part.

“It was like a treasure hunt,” she says. “We removed two layers of dropped ceiling to reveal three sets of skylights that were untouched. The original timbers have been revealed and clear coated. The walls had pegboard over drywall nailed on two-by-fours and behind that was plaster with chicken wire in it. So we had to remove all that to get down to the original beautiful brick that you now see as our walls. And finally we dug through six layers of linoleum to get down to the original Hoover Dam concrete floors. There are no cracks, and we know how good they were at pouring concrete in those days.”

As a start-up business, Bertoli needed to get several loans, one a federal SBA loan, so her business plan had to be bullet proof. It was complicated and emotional, she says.

“Thank goodness I had two degrees and a tissue box,” she laughs. “I’d go to bed frustrated and get up the next morning and start over.”

Market research was important to the applications.

“Luckily,” she says, “the two businesses that sold souvenirs in town had recently closed, but not due to a lack of business, so that was a positive for me.”

The gift shop in the Hoover Dam Museum in the hotel had also closed, so Bertoli has reached an arrangement where she’ll sell the Hoover Dam items from her shop and give a cut to the museum.

With her store, Bertoli says it’s not just shopping local but hiring local.

“I have a definite preference for Boulder City residents,” she says. “We’re trying to support the economy here and we employ 14 local people. We’re proud of that.”

But Boulder City Co. Store isn’t just a coffee shop and a store. It’s an events center, a live performance venue and a community hub.

“We’ve had special events during the Dam Short Film Festival and other things,” says Bertoli. “We have weekly poetry readings and we’re considering live music outside on the patio.”

The focal point of the store is an old 1930s-era Desoto that her father dragged home in the mid-1980s and never got around to restoring. The car evokes the times that Bertoli is trying to recreate.

“We’re trying to teach people of my generation what Boulder City was like in those days,” she says. “The mass production of cars had just started so this Desoto is the perfect vehicle to make that connection.”