The summer of 1978 is not generally thought of as a bright spot in the city’s history. Six casinos opened that summer, drawing job seekers from all over the nation. The city suddenly was hit with horrendous traffic problems, the sewage treatment plant ran out of capacity, and people were living in their cars. Not everyone stayed once they arrived, but one who did was Dan Earl of Sundance Books.
Where are you from?
The Oregon coast.
How did you get to Nevada?
By way of Los Angeles. I got a degree in chemistry from Oregon State University, practiced my field for a number of years in Southern California, decided that wasn’t the life for me. I had a friend who had moved to Reno. This was, you may recall, in 1978, when they built the Sahara, Circus Circus, the MGM. And they said all you need to do is be a living, breathing soul, and you can go to work in the casino businesses and make a ton of money. And I did that for, I don’t know, 10 years, and then my then-wife and I put our money together and established the bookstore.
So you not only went from a big urban area to a smaller one, but you also wanted to get away from your line of work?
The corporate life was—the line of work I was in wasn’t the safest. We were dealing with fuming nitric acid, boiling sulfuric acid, heavy metals and all sorts of stuff like that.
The summer of ‘78 wasn’t exactly the best for quality of life in this valley. Did you feel any of that?
I was new, it was different, so I didn’t feel it yes or no. That was, what, 25 or almost 30 years ago, and Reno was a lot smaller then compared to what it is now. … You remember the big boom in ‘78 when the MGM and all of that came in. In fact, they were trying to make the casinos build housing apartments. That’s how [those] riverfront apartments right along Wells got started.
Once you were here, what kept you here?
It’s not a bad place to live. The weather is just about perfect. You actually have seasons. But it’s sunny and, for me—I’m not going to say I’m affected with seasonal disorders or whatever, but I really enjoy sunshine, and there was plenty of sunshine here, and so that’s what convinced me to stay, I guess.
Small bookstores are under siege from big box stores.
Indeed so. That, but worse is the Internet. That’s our main threat. We could live with the big boxes down at the end of town down there, but our worse competition, our worse portent for the future is the Internet.
How much of a drain?
I can’t quantify it, but if you’re looking at … 10 years ago in a realistic way, you look at the Amazon and the rest of the book business, then compared to now, and it’s whatever it is—some number of billion dollars … whether it be big boxes or little boxes, that’s taken away from both. … [If it’s] 10 billion dollars a year, that could go to either us or the big box stores.
Do you think you’ll be doing what you’re doing now in 10 years?
Oh, I think so. I think we are a viable, important, valued part of the community here in Reno.