Bittersweet doesn’t quite cover the emotions Skip Thurman feels about closing Thurman’s Ranch House bar and restaurant on Sept. 11.
But it comes close.
“Terrible,” he said about how it feels to let go of what came to be his life’s work running the Ranch House at 2943 U.S. Highway 50. “You can’t believe the remorse I have since I sold the property.” He said he will miss wonderful people he met over the years his parents and then he owned the Basque-style restaurant.
The upside, however, is the joy coming from a chance to see his grandchildren more often. He has two in Georgia and one in Texas, so running a restaurant meant that joy had been sporadic until now. And, of course, economic times for small restaurants aren’t what they used to be.
“You know what the recession has done to everybody,” he said. Then he reopened the window on his bittersweet turmoil: “I’m going to see my grandkids, (but) I’m going to miss the people so badly.”
Go back a ways and such people included Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, among several politicos who came into the place.
“O’Callaghan was here all the time,” Thurman said. Gov. Robert List was another, but non-political people too numerous to list also will be missed by the imminent retiree.
Thurman’s entry into the business was a fluke. His parents, who formerly had the small casino known as the Silver Slipper downtown, got out of that business and his father, Len, looked forward to a life of leisure.
“My dad went fishin’ and my mom bought a restaurant,” Thurman said. His mom was Eleanor, and Skip said she put Len back to work making marvellous soups for Ranch House patrons. One night a bartender didn’t show, so Skip’s mom called him in to help. He was a bookkeeper at the time and told her he didn’t know how to tend bar.
“She said, ‘I’ll teach you’,” Thurman said.
The rest, as they say, is history. Thurman learned a thing or two about barkeeping and that famous Basque drink, the Picon Punch. He said his Basque-style restaurant and Picon-making might be dwarfed by the likes of JT’s in Gardnerville, but he was the man in Carson City.
“In Carson,” he said, pride in his voice, “I am the Picon king.”
The restaurant on the south side of U.S. 50 just east of the I-580 overpass is decorated outside with wagon wheels and inside with a host of Jim Beam automobile decanters.
It first was operated by others under different names, but in 1973 it re-opened as Len Thurman’s Ranch House, later becoming Thurman’s Ranch House. Skip Thurman inherited it in 1992.
The Thurman family operated the restaurant over the past four decades. Skip Thurman’s son, Justin, helped while growing up in Carson City. Now an English professor in Georgia, he has fond memories of working there as a child and young man.
“Yeah, it was great,” Skip Thurman said Monday. “He’d come down from college and work on the weekend.”
Thurman, who won’t divulge his given name and says everyone calls him by his nickname, will auction off items from the interior Sept. 12. But one prized possession will be held out and sold separately. It’s an old cash register from Tonopah Union Drug that has been operated at the Ranch House by three generations of Thurmans.