The Misfits: Reno eNVy and Airstream

Reno eNVy began ten years ago as a t-shirt vendor at the Reno River Festival, selling tees printed with their logo: a simple line drawing of a silver trailer topped with an old school tv antenna. Today, with an expanded product line of traileriffic apparel and novelty items, their 1800-square-foot location in the heart of downtown Reno is a popular stop for visitors to the Biggest Little City.

The Reno eNVy logoshop also shares the space with the Reno Tahoe Visitors Center. “Because of the nature of our business—selling Reno-branded apparel and keepsakes—tourists would ask us about Reno and things to do,” said Scott Dunseath, store owner and President of Reno’s Riverwalk Merchants Association. “At the time, four years ago, it dawned on us that Reno was without an official visitors center, which was peculiar because Reno’s largest industry is tourism. We met with the RSCVA (Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority) and proposed the idea of creating a visitors center inside the store. It was a no-brainer! We had the space, the labor, the knowledge, we were open daily, and already selling uniquely branded Reno products.”

“We didn’t really choose the trailer logo, it chose us,” he said. “This town has a distinct personality, and Reno eNVy captures it in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. When we started this brand in 2005 we had no identity, and no design direction. All we had was a clever way to spell ‘Reno, Nevada’, and we thought it would be funny to poke fun at us by using a trailer as the main design.” (The community of Sun Valley to the north is known as the world’s largest trailer park.) “Folks in Reno have a great sense of humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he said. “People fell in love with that little trailer. It celebrates our outdoor lifestyle, too. What was supposed to be just one shirt turned into a logo that stuck, and became the symbol of the brand.”

Dunseath sees similarities in Reno’s “misfit culture” and Airstream culture. “We share some of the same values,” he said, referencing the 1961 movie The Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Filmed in Reno, the movie brought attention to the city—and its lenient divorce laws. “That title really speaks to the Reno stereotype, with our 24-hour lifestyle, casinos, brothels, and strip clubs,” he said.

Oh my. How does that relate to Airstreaming? “Reno and Airstream are both iconic American brands that honor individuality and freedom,” Dunseath explained. “It’s the pioneering spirit, the sense of adventure, it’s life on the road. And both brands held great relevance in the past but have also been challenged to maintain that relevance and re-invent themselves.”

“I know one of the greatest points of frustration in the Airstream family is illustrated by the question often asked by younger generations: ‘my grandparents had an Airstream, it was so cool, do they still make those?’ They had to change the conversation and communicate that they are still in business, building quality products,” said Dunseath.

“Now, Airstream just had its best sales year in the history of the company,” he continued. “Have you noticed how many Airstreams you see on TV and in magazines lately? Advertisers can’t get enough of that iconic silver trailer.”

What about Reno? “Our challenge was that the media constantly mocks Reno,” he said. “Think about Reno 911! Even the Muppets cast Reno in a negative light. We always seem to end up being the butt of some jokes. But Reno has turned a corner and now finds itself touted as the next Portland or Austin—a smaller community with great access to technology, art, culture and recreation. We’ve been scoring high on the livability charts.”

“The Reno eNVy brand is about our lifestyle, and Airstream speaks to that,” he said. “It’s a call back to a simpler time.” Dunseath has been inspired to the point of owning three Airstreams (if you count the cardboard cutout):

Lulu, the 1966 Caravel, is used for Reno eNVy events, parades and family camping. (Dunseath and his wife Tiffany spent their two-week honeymoon traveling the western United States in the the vintage trailer).

Reno Lulu Airstream
Lulu – 1966 Caravel

“Little B”, the early 60s Bambi, was once the centerpiece of the store and is now installed at the RNO airport as the Reno Tahoe Visitors Center photo booth. “Little B came to us from a friend who had plans on making it into a playhouse for his daughter,” said Dunseath. “When I saw it, I knew it had the potential to be an awesome photo booth. With permission from his daughter we cut it in half and re-purposed it into a cool and unique place for tourists to take a photo and capture the memory of their trip to Reno.”

Find Little B in the main lobby between the ticket counter and baggage claim. Everyone’s encouraged to jump inside and snap a photo to share on their social networks. “Little B sees a lot of traffic!” said Dunseath. “Just recently LeAnn Rimes flew into Reno for her tour, took a photo in the Airstream, and shared it on Instagram. It went viral and ended up on the UK’s Daily Mail website.”

Their third trailer is a trompe l’oeil cardboard cutout at the store. “It’s one-dimensional but it looks totally real when you sit behind the window and snap a photo,” said Dunseath. “Our friends at the Silver Legacy Casino were doing an event and built it as the backdrop and a photo booth. They donated it to us.”

Reno trailer Cutout
Trailer cutout

Dunseath invites you to bring your rig and see what the “new” Reno is all about. “We have big events,” he said. “There’s Hot August Nights, Street Vibrations, Artown, and The Best in the West Rib Cook Off just to name a few. If you like nightlife and casino amenities, camping at either the Grand Sierra Resort or Boomtown may be a great option for you. They have loads of entertainment for all ages.”

“Lake Tahoe is less then an hour away and there is an abundance of outdoor recreation to enjoy,” he said. One of his favorite campsites is Davis Creek, about 15 minutes from downtown between Reno and Carson City. “It’s nestled at the foothills of Mount Rose on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Range, and is very close to Washoe Lake.”

When you visit, drop in at the Reno eNVy shop—located in the RiverWalk District on Sierra Street—and introduce yourself to Dunseath as a fellow Airstreamer. You can also order trailer-related items online at renoenvy.com, including shirts that read “I’m a 10 (in Reno)”, “Happy Camper”, and “our classic ‘Full Hookups’ shirt that shows a boy and a girl trailer hooking up…if you catch my drift,” he laughed.

-By RG Coleman