Truckee history: Liquor store offers a new twist on a longtime location
June 14, 2015
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Like a trendy new cocktail, a newly restored historic Truckee liquor store is blending hints of the contemporary while paying tribute to its roots.
Zander's Spirits, Etc. officially opened for business at the end of February 2015 at 11008 Donner Pass Road, but the history of the space goes back more than a generation.
Offering up a collection of craft spirits, wines and beers, owners Bill Auldridge and Tina Stull are hoping their assortment of fares attracts a growing niche market interested in something a little less mainstream.
"We're just trying really heard to have things that Safeway doesn't," Stull said.
While the store itself is young, locals started paying attention to Auldridge's and Stull's renovations when they decided several weeks ago to restore the business's nearly 70-year-old iconic sign.
'IT HAS A TRUCKEE FEELING'
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It all started with a crane, Stull recalled.
"When we started lifting the sign off of the building, people wanted to know if we were going to tear the place down," Stull said.
Instead, Stull's parents, longtime Truckee residents and store namesakes Klaus and Gisela Zander, decided to invest their own money to restore the sign to its original neon luster.
The decision would come with some conditions made by Truckee Town Council, Klaus said. The sign, originally an addition made to the building in the 1940s, was in poor condition, Klaus said.
"We went back (to the council), requested permission and went through the various approvals to get the sign restored," Klaus said.
Council members approved the request on the condition it would be restored using the original neon color and paint scheme, he said.
The Zanders employed the help of one of Stull's friends, Nathan Lizotte, to come up with a color scheme that closely resembled the original sign.
"(He) came up with a bunch of close color schemes that he had to bring back to the council," Klaus said.
Eventually, the council agreed upon a scheme and gave approval for the project to continue, Klaus said.
"It has a Truckee feeling, and we went out of our way to make that happen," Klaus said.
STEEPED IN HISTORY
As for the restored space, it was renovated using wood gathered from old area barns to cover the walls.
"It's not your typical liquor store," Klaus said. "We wanted to be a little different, to have a little of that history of Truckee."
The store, in fact, is steeped in that Truckee history.
The building that hosts Zander's was originally constructed in the late 1940s and named the Gateway Shopping Center by owner Richard Joseph, according to the Truckee Donner Historical Society.
The space that would eventually become Zander's was leased to Eldon Tonini the same year the building was constructed. Tonini would name the space the "Gateway Bottle Shop."
Robert Zirbel took over the lease for Tonini in 1969, renaming it "Zirbel's Gateway Bottle Shop," which opened in 1971. Both former proprietors would use the space to sell assorted spirits, wines and beers.
Zirbel would run the shop until he retired in 1979.
The space would change hands a number of times in the period between Zirbel and Stull and Auldridge. It was briefly co-owned by Dane Skutt, who would go on to help establish Mountain Hardware.
The space was then turned into Gateway Deli, then Tea Pot Pottery & Crafts, before finally coming under the leadership of Stull and Auldridge.
"It's great to have a liquor store there again," Zirbel said this week.
FOCUSING ON WHAT'S POPULAR
It wasn't until Stull and Auldridge purchased the space that the business would see a thorough restoration, however.
"The store was ripped apart and gutted," Stull said. "Hardwood floors and barn wood walls were added."
The decision to turn the space into a craft spirits store came from what Stull was seeing in the market.
"Craft beers and craft spirits are really popular right now, so we're focusing on those that don't appeal to mass markets," Stull said.
However, Stull isn't trying to limit her clientele by selling just niche products. One can still expect to find an assortment of mainstream libations as well, she said.
She's excited about how many craft distilleries there are on the market, though.
"It's really interesting how many small batch cocktail mixes are coming back," she said, noting the resurgence in liqueurs like Campari and variously flavored bitters.
Zander's Spirits, Etc. is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.
And if you stop in, chances are Stull will be there.
"I'm working about 95 hours per week," she said. "I'm here from 9:30 to 9:30 every day."