LOVE FOR SALE: Bruno Throws in the Towel

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo by Consumptionblog

Photo by Consumptionblog

Big news in Gerlach this week as real estate magnate Bruno Selmi, the Ted Turner of Northern Nevada, puts Bruno’s Country Club up for sale at a whopping 1.5 million dollars. The property is well-maintained and consists of a bar, a restaurant, a 53-unit motel, and a mobile home/RV park.

Selmi came alone to America on a boat from Italy at a tender age, leaving the post-war Old World behind for a life of better prospects. He wandered the States, picking up odd jobs and cooking for a living, until he settled in Gerlach and opened a restaurant.

After his first venue in Gerlach burned down, he opened Bruno’s Country Club in 1953, and has presided over the place (and the town) with little to no competition to worry about ever since. Selmi has gone from success to success in the intervening years; he must own at least half the businesses in town, and they say as a commercial entity, he was second only to the railroad for decades. When Burning Man moved from a San Francisco beach to the Black Rock Desert, Bruno got pushed to third place, at least seasonally, but his business interests began to boom.

If you had to guess what the secret to Bruno Selmi’s success might be, luck would no doubt figure prominently in your mind, but you would be slighting the man for his hard work and thrift. He still drives the Jeep Cherokee he bought new in the ’80s – the receipt is on the wall in his restaurant – and he never misses a day of work at the Country Club. He even tends the bar from time to time. . . and Bruno Selmi is a multimillionaire.

The townsfolk of Gerlach seem to love him and his place. “Bruno’s a genuine Gerlach icon,” one tells me. “He likes to play surly, but he’s a good guy. He throws free chukar bird feeds for the locals in season, and lots of us come together to make ravioli for him by hand. It’s sort of a town tradition. He’s like our unofficial mayor.”

Bruno and friends enjoy some world-famous ravioli. Photo: RenoJohn

Bruno and friends enjoy some world-famous ravioli. Photo: RenoJohn

Thanks to Burning Man and the annual gathering and diaspora of burners from all around the globe, the ravioli at Bruno’s place – a hundred miles from anywhere, in a town with a population under five hundred – is genuinely world-famous. The service is notorious, too, but Bruno is cherished for his cantankerous demeanor. One Yelper described the place as “an oasis in the desert” with “a dash of Stockholm syndrome.”

With all the turmoil, secrecy, and misinformation swirling around the Burning Man event, it’s hard to say what the sale of Bruno’s Country Club portends. There has already been some talk online to the effect that Bruno must know something; speculation is that Burning Man will be moving soon, and Bruno is getting out while the getting is good. As an explanation it sounds legit enough, but unnecessary: Bruno Selmi is no longer a young man, and it seems perfectly reasonable for him to want to retire. Indeed, the real estate listing at BizBuySell contains an entry that says simply “Reason Selling: Retirement.”

No matter how you slice it, it’s the end of an era. . . and who will feed DPW?

11 comments on “LOVE FOR SALE: Bruno Throws in the Towel

  1. Pingback: Analysis: 2014 Burning Man Project Financials | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Bruno is a good man. I worked in Winnemucca in the ’70s, and my work often took me to Gerlach. I had many meals and spent many nights at Bruno’s. He was always will to help if one got in a bind, and was very generous.

    Buona fortuna, Bruno e’ ci vediamo!

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  3. I have strong memories of when we lived in Gerlach in the early 70″s. Bruno is a very well liked person. I am sad to see him go. When we lived there, we always had to move into town off the ranch when the generator went out. We always stayed at Bruno’s hotel. I haven’t seen him in years, but I remember him as a very loving and caring person. If I had the money I would buy it but unfortunately my husband and I do not have it. I Love You Bruno! Best of luck in what you do!

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  4. In 1992, I took the train to Reno from Seattle. I then pedaled my bicycle from Reno all the way up to Empire/Gerlach and to the Black Rock Desert to join up for some land sailing. I was poor, no car, no “google maps/Earth” to explore with. In those days you just had to get yourself there and explore manually. Bruno gave me a free room for 3 nights because my knees were swollen from overuse. He told me he used to be an avid cyclist himself when he was young. I will always be grateful for Bruno’s generosity and his time sharing his stories with me. I came a stranger, I left feeling like a friend. I miss him a lot. 😦

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    • I lived in Empire, just 6 miles from Gerlach after I went to work for U S Gypsum. I came by train from The Univ of Illinois for interviews. My interview trip included drinks at Bruno’s, meeting Bruno and someone pointing out the bullet hole in the ceiling, did not find out what happened. I lived in Empire for three years and had drinks at Bruno’s several times a month. Hope to visit the area soon.

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  5. Pingback: The Poor Man’s Burning Man 4: The Shower of Tower | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

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