Nevada’s Big Smoky Valley is deceptive. To someone passing through, it might appear that the only residents are a handful of ranchers and some cattle. For the 2,000 families that live there, it can be challenging to maintain a sense of community pride, as well as stay connected with your neighbors, when everyone is separated by miles of land.
When Beatriz “Bea” Wing Fisher and her husband Steve Fisher, co-owners of Bea’s Hardware in Round Mountain, looked out into the valley they didn’t just see wide open spaces, they saw an opportunity.
Looking at maps of the valley, they noticed immediately that most were severely outdated and did little to highlight the numerous local businesses in the area. The Valley needed a visual aid to help guide tourists and new residents to stores, restaurants and other hidden gems like the Hickison Petroglyphs, Toquima Cave and Jefferson Ghost Town. They also wanted to feature the incredible canyons, unusual wildlife and abandoned mines that make the Valley such a special place.
Bea said her husband was the driving force in consulting with the Smoky Valley Business Group, and then commissioning an artist to create a new map, one that would reflect the lively spirit of the Valley.
“Our philosophy was how can we give something to the community? I’m a marketing and publicity guy, so I met with the Smoky Valley Business Group and they said we need a map. The maps that were available didn’t give people any idea what the area was about,” Steve says. “I had an artist in mind, so I acted as the creative director. We wanted to highlight the local businesses and attractions in a fun, animated way, and we got them to participate and help fund it.”
What started as a simple map grew into a community project that brought the residents of Big Smoky Valley closer together. The map includes a list of local businesses and attractions with contact information. Customers flocked to Bea’s Hardware to get their copy along with their hardware needs.
For a while, Bea’s Hardware ran a Facebook promotion for the map—mention the Facebook ad and get a free framed 11×17 copy of the map. They sell a rolled-up version for $2 and it’s been a hot seller. Round Mountain Gold Mine began handing out the map to all new employees, while tourists love the map’s offbeat characterization of Smoky Valley.
“We’ve had people travel from 100 miles away to get a map, because they’ve heard how neat it is. It was cool to see so many businesses using it,” Steve notes. He adds that they have given out and sold more than 100 maps since the Do it Best store opened last August.
In the vastness of the Big Smoky Valley, Bea’s Hardware has found a way to, quite literally, put themselves on the map.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, so we knew a typical bricks and mortar store wouldn’t cut it,” Steve explains. “There are lots of hardware stores in Fallon, but it’s 240 miles roundtrip from Round Mountain, so we sell feed, lumber and plumbing, not just the usual hardware items.”
The Fishers also operate an adjacent seven-slot RV park, which attracts customers to the 1,000-square-foot store looking for RV parts and hardware items. “We listened to what the people weren’t getting from other businesses in the area. There weren’t a lot of restaurants, so we offer food, drinks and snacks. Next, we’re planning to open a little restaurant offering pulled pork sandwiches and breakfast burritos,” Steve says.
Steve and Bea also have a 1,300-square-foot warehouse, which is used to store wood pellets and specialized feed for llamas, horses, dogs and even camels. Everyone in the area uses wood pellets for heating, so Bea sets up truck runs to deliver wood pellets to dozens of customers.
“When you don’t have a lot of capital and you’re in an area without a lot of people, you have to figure out how to be successful with a small store and lots of unique niches—that’s what Bea and I have done,” says Steve, who previously lived and worked in Los Angeles for 30 years.
Bea used to be a project manager at Hilton and then worked in finance at Disney, but she also had experience working at an independent hardware store in Nevada. “Bea just has a feel for what people need and knows what to carry in the store,” Steve says. “We’re already in the black with the business and we’re just getting started.”