A Homey Feel Getting Displaced by Uncertainties
The Mandala Massage Supply & Apothecary, among the best smelling shops in Reno, has a sign thanking patrons for keeping it local, asking for Facebook, Google and Yelp reviews. For owner Lisa, an expert in herbal science, it’s a battle full of uncertainties and rising rents. When we met her, she told us her lease would be up in July.
“This building I am in right now was sold twice while I was renting it, without me even knowing it, without the previous owner even asking if I wanted to purchase it. So, so far this place has had three owners and so I recently called the current owner, which I've only met once. I’ve never see him…. I doubt he knows what I actually do here. I don't even think he knows of the improvements I've done here. We fixed this place up. It was just a white dirty box and we've put thousands of dollars into it. And when I signed a lease from the first owners, I signed a lease that had two more three year options to renew my lease and it would not go over a 5% increase. And so I thought I was safe,” she said.
She says she thinks the current owner will instead do a total do over on her lease.
“It bewilders me, because I've been a good tenant. I've improved this place and there are many things wrong with the building that have not been fixed and he does not seem to be interested in fixing them. And, so I'm just a little scared right now because I don't know what's going to happen because he wants to renew the whole lease and not follow the lease that I actually signed,” Lisa said.
Advocating Some Rent Control
Lisa said it’s very sad to see so many small, locally owned, unique businesses like her own having to shut down because of high rent.
“There should definitely be some kind of rent increase control,” she said. “I was in Midtown, and they raised my rent 70% there all at once and there was no way I was going to pay for that with no improvements on their part. And I left Midtown and came to Wells Avenue. Reno needs those small little mom and pop shops for it to be fun for people to walk the streets. And for some reason Reno fails in that department and has for a while in my opinion,” she said.
Her base monthly payment which is for rent, sewage and water is a little over $800. “If you add energy which costs $75 to $120 and of course phone and internet another $110, I pay roughly $1130 a month,” she said. “The building is also falling apart and the last two owners have done no improvements.” Her husband has been her handyman.
Tired of Being Bullied by Property Owners
Lisa says she hopes her new property owner will have a change of heart but if not she says she may have to close down her business.
“He’s left me hanging, so I have no idea what's going to happen here. If the rent is increased too much, I will be very frustrated and angry and will think about closing down because I am tired of … being bullied by property owners,” she said.
Affecting Her Housing As Well
Lisa says she doesn’t like current trends in Reno, including the demolition of motels, which she says she believes is causing more homelessness. She says her own house rent was recently raised a staggering 75%.
“Luckily my husband and I were able to move, but this property owner of the house I was renting for 12 years, doesn't even live in the country. And he saw Zillow's estimates and thought his house was worth 75% more.”
If her business can no longer be a storefront, she said it would also be Reno’s loss.
“They will be losing something that was created by a Reno native, someone that grew up here. They will be losing out on, definitely a different kind of business because there's no other shop like this… All these people buying their essential oils and aroma therapy needs here are going to be shopping online and that's going to take them away and the money from Reno of course, and just something homegrown. They're going to be taking that away. Something that you know was made by hand from the very last drop from our neon sign to our wooden signs to our products. They're going to be taking all that away …”
She wishes property owners would listen to their renters.
“I really hope that you are a part of the community… Get involved with the smaller business owners that you're renting to. You are a part of it. You're the very umbrella of it and you need to see what's going on. You need to see what people are building in your places of rent and hear them out and be nice to them. “