The Merchant Meeting held at the Canvas Cafe on Tuesday evening, June 26, was well attended with about 30 merchants and residents participating. Canvas Cafe owners Alexia Sober and Richard Oates were the organizers of the merchant led objections to the cancellation of the Ferrari Hill climb and continued their efforts by also sponsoring this meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to get a better understanding of the issues that the Merchants have with how the VCTC , RAD Strategies and Liquid Blue promote the Town, its events and more importantly the merchant-owned local establishments.

This meeting was a follow-on to the pre-VCTC meeting held on June 21st where 37 merchants met, also at the Canvas, to voice their concerns about the cancellation of the Ferrari Hill Climb. During the June VCTC meeting, the merchants also brought up other issues that they have with how the VCTC operates.

Alexia and Richard asked me to help with this particular meeting and I worked with them to plan the agenda and the process so that it would be productive in identifying and prioritizing the main issues and then to propose some recommendations to address them.

 All of the materials for this meeting are at the end of this article and you can  see the “raw” data collected

Arika Perry, St. Mary’s Executive Director, and newest member of the VCTC Commission was at the meeting to hear directly from the merchants what their concerns were as was Sam Toll who updated the merchants on the status of the Ferrari Hill Climb.

I facilitated and moderated the meeting and despite it being outdoors with high winds, having lots of competing noise from the street and having a large group of people with a lot to say, some very angry …..these folks pulled it off.

They identified the things that were working and the things that were not working with respect to how the VCTC does its job for them. A few of the items which they listed as working were that it was good to have a central group to plan events ( Liquid Blue), that the town was getting people up here who don’t normally come up, and that the merchants view the Train and Pipers events as being very well done.

The things that the merchants believe are not working seem to boil down to three main things.

The first being effective communications. The merchants don’t feel that they are asked or even informed about the details of events. They feel that the promotion currently being done isn’t focused enough on the local stores/venues and that communication between Executive Director Deny Dotson and the merchants is greatly lacking. This was a point of contention since Deny continues to say that he walks the boardwalk all the time. These merchants say that they rarely see or even speak with him.

The second issue was the direct competition that external food and merchandise vendors pose to the merchants. An example is having an ice cream vendor pitch their booth directly in front of Grand Ma’s Fudge who also serves ice cream. Another was putting ATM’s on the street outside when the stores have them inside and the external ATM steers customers away from coming into the stores. The merchants feel that they have lost revenues due to this competition.

The third issue was the lack of a visible bid process for the major vendors to VCTC ( Liquid Blue and RAD strategies). The merchants believe that there is a significant conflict of interest with RAD strategies as sole marketing and PR vendor to the VCTC since Deny and his wife own the company. There is also a belief that Deny has an interest in Liquid Blue.

In discussing what issues and recommendations they would bring to the attention to the VCTC Commission the merchants proposed the following:

They want direct representation on the VCTC either by creating a new seat or as a replacement of an existing member.

            -they want to participate in bid evaluation, event planning and vendor                       selection

They would like much improved Communications

            -need better communication WITHIN the merchant community

             -need to see more advertising featuring locals and local businesses

             -need more effective PR OUT ( i.e. promotion of VC at the airport)

Once the issues were identified the merchants defined what the next steps to this meeting would be.

The date for the next meeting was set for July 9th 6-7:30 at the Tahoe House.

At that time they will finalize the issues and recommendations to be brought to the July 12th VCTC meeting. They will also discuss if it is time to establish a more formal and ongoing organization.

I was happy to see so much done in so little time. It could have turned into torches and pitchforks but the group was more interested in moving forward and finding solutions.


Below are the meeting materials from the June 26th and the agenda for the next meeting on July 9th:

Agenda for Storey County Community Workshop

June 26, 2018

Welcome Alexia Sober-Richard Oates    5 min

Introduction Arika Perry     2 min

Hill Climb update Sam Toll      5-10 min

Process review and meeting Nicole Barde60 min

In order to be heard by the VCTC Board you need to define the issues/problems and come up with the top 2-3 things that you feel need to be addressed by the VCTC Board.

In order for the meeting to run smoothly and to accomplish this objective we need some simple ground rules

-Agree on Ground Rules for the meeting

-Group Discussion:

Why are you here –outcome of this meeting

What is working

What is not working…and top 3 we want to provide solutions for

Next Steps

Wrap-up Arika- Observations  5-15 min


-One Meeting

-only one person talking at a time

-make your point but be brief

-Everyone has the opportunity to speak

-no interrupting someone who has the floor

-let others have their time

-Respect everyone’s opinions

-all opinions are equal

-no personal attacks

-Disagree and commit

-all will discuss the issues then once a decision by the majority is made you can disagree with it but you need to support the decision

Nicole runs the process, participants run the content

Flip Chart transcription of the June 26, 2018 Merchant Meeting :


Ouster of Deny Dotson and Liquid Blue

Conversation with VCTC about who should represent us either thru a new seat or replacement of existing member ( Theresa volunteers)

Come together/next steps

Better place to meet

How to promote each other

Have no competition

Address Deny Dotson


It works for THEM…ie VCTC/RAD/Liquid Blue but not for us

Central group to plan events..Liquid Blue

Merchants and residents meeting to fix it

Getting people ( visitors) up here who don’t normally come up

Liquid Blue feedback loop to the VCTC


analysis, +/

Recent RAD hire is good.

Radio experience

The Train

Pipers Events

Merchant involvement


No bid vendors ( ie RAD/LB) ..we need two bids

Vendors ( ie food/goods) competing with us

No information on some events

Merchants being charged fees for booths at events, don’t know if its free or not

Conflict of interest LB ( need a party of 3 to represent the merchants)

Rules not clear about Liquid Blue

Mobile ATM machines compete with the merchants ( have signs directing people to the ones in the shops)

Closing the streets are a safety issue and keeps people from going to shops not at the center of town

Need to quantify the damage done as a result of the competition and due to blocking the streets

Need a better PA system

Contracts need to go out to bid yearly

There is nothing about VC in the Reno airport


Chili cook off—vendors were competing with merchants

Merchants not getting the money out front of the stores

Communications, advertising , posters

VCTC office doesn’t promote events that are not sponsored by THEM. Ie t-shirts etc

Parades begin and end at the Bucket, the rest of town gets nothing

Bar crawls….see people getting sick, urinating on the street

Don’t promote the merchants…we need to help each other

What is VCTC authority?

No music with parades…need to liven them up


Representation on the VCTC

-want to participate in bid evaluation, events and vendor selection


-need better communication WITHIN the merchant community

-need to see more advertising featuring locals and local businesses

-more effective PR OUT

Help Merchants to increase income

Non -Competition with merchants

Conflicts of Interests



Formal Organization formation


Meet before the Next VCTC meeting

Monday July 9 @ Tahoe House

Go to next VCTC Meeting with our issues

Nicole to document today’s meeting and get to merchants


Agenda for the July 9 Merchant Meeting at 6:00- 7:30 PM at the Tahoe House

Alexia Sober Richard Oates -Welcome     5 min

Nicole Barde-Review of June 26 meeting notes 45 min

-Clarify whats working/not working

-Firm up Top 3 with recommendations

-Define our objectives for the next VCTC Meeting

Next steps

-one and done?

-form a standing group-purpose/objectives?

-form a formal organization-purpose/objectives?

Arika Perry -Observations and Close

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