Bruce and Linda Larson are used to working together.
Linda worked as a dispatcher-jailer for the Storey County Sheriff's Office and Bruce was a deputy sheriff. They have been together since 1990, are now retired, and working together at a shop above their garage in Virginia City, making Botcha-Caloops.
Botcha-Caloops are custom glass or stainless steel etchings done by the Larsons, often made-to-order.
"I retired and was looking for something to do and I saw some carved humorous garden stones at a craft fair in Minden one year," she said. "I wanted to learn how to do it so I started researching sandblasting and sand carving, bought the equipment, and learned how to do it."
She had spent 13 years in her job, and was not only looking for retirement income, but something new to learn, she said.
"It seemed like an interesting thing to do," she said. "No two projects are the same and it was a challenge to try and learn something new."
Eventually the rocks got heavier and harder, and she and Bruce branched off into glass and mirrors, and then stainless steel. The Larsons do rocks now only occasionally.
When Bruce, who spent 28 years as a deputy rising to the position of Undersheriff, retired last year, it became a full-time retirement business for both of them.
She said they can etch almost any image into glass or mirror or stainless steel.
They can put a photo onto a mirror, and are learning to do photo etching, which Linda said they expect to master by June.
"Right now we put photos on the mirrors, but can't do it with glass," she said. "It's just another process that takes time to learn."
She said she and Bruce can do pretty much whatever the customer wants.
"They give us some idea of what they want and we'll try to do that," she said. "Most of the time when we branch off into something new it's because it's what a customer has asked."
That's how they got started putting etchings on wine bottles. Bruce said they are among the most sought-after items.
For example, they created a wine set, with 1.5-liter bottle of red wine and four etched wine glasses in honor of the Comstock Cowboys Fourth of July performance in Virginia City last year that featured a cowboy on a rearing horse, fireworks, a flag and the name of the band and the date. The Larsons donated the set to be auctioned off to benefit the town's fireworks display, and the set fetched $1,000 from a Comstock Cowboy fan.
Most sets go for less than that, of course, with the cost depending on the item and the amount of work.
The Larsons make Botcha-Caloops out of mirrors, ornaments, awards and plaques and doors and windows, even shower doors.
They do a lot of Nevada-themed items, with the words "Battle Born" the outline of the state or the state flag, Bruce Larson said.
Botcha-Caloops are featured as part of the Made in Nevada program by the Nevada Department of Economic Development that allows the Larsons to show their products in other counties and other states. Some are featured in the Made in Nevada store in Reno, he said.
"It's hard doing it without a storefront," Linda said. "But we work at home, we don't have to travel. We try to rely on word of mouth. The Made in Nevada program has helped a lot."
They also do etchings on train lanterns or large mirrors to promote the V&T Railroad.
"We're trying to promote the V&T products," Bruce Larson said.
In addition to the Made in Nevada program, the Larsons promote their business doing a few festival events and by entering the parades in Virginia City.
"You have to get out once in awhile," Linda Larson said. "You get to meet a lot of people that way."
So why call their products Botcha-Caloops?
Linda Larson said in her Italian heritage, a Botcha-Caloop is used to refer to a person who was eccentric or a character, or for a loved one, depending on the inflection and accompanying hand gestures.
"It's what my grandparents used to call us, it's what we call our grandkids," she said.
She said it was used by the character, Sophia, played by Estelle Getty, on "The Golden Girls" sitcom of the mid-1980s.
"She'd say, '...Picture it, Italy, 1948, this Botcha-Caloop....' that sort of thing," Linda Larson said. "We figure we're characters of one kind or another."
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-7351.
For More Info
For more information on Botcha-Caloops, call 847-9693.