Ronzone’s Department Store was well known throughout Nevada until the 1970s. Bertha Ronzone was the matriarch of the family, known as “Mom” Ronzone. It was her insight that allowed the family to build a successful chain of stores around the state.
Ronzone married her husband, Attilio Ronzone, in 1901. The newlyweds moved to Alaska to start a business, but were swindled by their partner before they arrived. They stayed in Alaska for two years with their first child and then moved to Nevada around 1903. The Ronzones moved around central Nevada, living in Manhattan, Tonopah and Goldfield, but eventually settled in Manhattan where Bertha Ronzone began working as a laundress for the miners. While washing the miners’ clothes Ronzone realized that they were in need of new clothing and thought that a department store would be successful. She brought clothing back from a trip to Oakland and began selling them to the miners and made a large profit, as they were desperate for new clothing. It was out of that idea that Ronzone’s department store was born.
Ronzone lacked the funds needed to start her business, but was able to secure a $500 loan from George Wingfield to open the first store in Manhattan in 1917. Ronzone moved the store to Tonopah in 1923 when the Manhattan mines went bust. In 1929, she and her husband moved the business to Las Vegas prompted by news of the dam to be built near the new city. After her husband’s death in 1938, Ronzone’s son joined her in the family business. In 1939, the Tonopah store closed, but the family expanded their chain to northern Nevada in 1943. One of the Ronzones’ final accomplishments was the opening of a Ronzone’s in the new Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas in 1968. The stores were later sold and the store in the Boulevard became Diamond’s and later a Dillard’s department store.
Bertha Ronzone was active in the Las Vegas community from the time she and her husband settled in the valley. She worked hard to help her church, the Las Vegas Church of Religious Science. She was named a Distinguished Nevadan in 1967 and received awards from various business groups and her church. Ronzone continued working with the stores until her death in 1969.
For further biographical information:
“Rites Friday for Mrs. Bertha Ronzone.” Las Vegas Review Journal. 06 Nov. 1969: 1.
Photo courtesy of UNLV Special Collections.
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