Two Chicks in Reno is run by… naturally… two chicks. Here’s their ‘eggceptional’ story.
By Paula Riley
Photography by Gina Munda
Just when you’ve decided which came first—the chicken or the egg—it turns out the answer is…neither. First came gourmet grilled sandwiches. This makes perfect sense when you hear how Jessie Henderson and Haley Moseley started with a food truck they later traded for a sandwich shop before they opened a breakfast hot spot in Midtown Reno. Their trail leads from 2011 to today, winding like this:
Back in their teens, these two native Nevadans worked in the food biz, later meeting at and eventually managing a burger joint near the UNR campus. That early experience led to an understanding of the industry, its long hours, diverse clientele and personnel challenges, which forged the right temperament for starting their own business. But “for financial reasons,” says Henderson, “nobody wanted to lend two girls money during the recession, so my family gave us a small loan to buy a food truck.” By 2011, that first enterprise—GourMelt—was cooking right along, booking lunch locations around town, and turning out multiple renditions of classic grilled cheese. “Reno was really ready for food trucks, and they really loved our food.”
They made their own luck by delivering the ultimate comfort food and starting the Food Truck Fridays movement, but the stars soon aligned for creating from-scratch breakfasts in a location that was just then under development.
Today, any morning, step into that brick-and-mortar restaurant, Two Chicks, to join a crowd of hungry people gobbling eggs, eggs, and more eggs (500 dozen per week) in omelets, skillets, and scrambles with pizazz (think asparagus, chorizo, fontina cheese, jalapenos, salmon, butternut squash). Everything is cooked from scratch—biscuits and gravy, hollandaise sauce, sourdough pancakes and more. There are non-grain choices, too, and for the sandwich-inclined—surprise!—gourmet grilled combinations, plus hearty salads and full plate meals.
When the Two Chicks’ owners pause long enough in their sunny restaurant to describe their history and road to success, they don’t exactly finish each other’s sentences, but it seems they could. Moseley says they “are opposite-minded. (Jessie) is more math-minded and I’m kind of the art director.” Responsibilities divide themselves naturally. Moseley, with a background in graphic art, designed their logo and the color combination—primary colors with a twist: sage blue, bright yellow and fire-engine red. She is also “the social media and tech queen,” while Henderson wrangles payroll and finances.
The pair tap local sources for many of the restaurant’s needs. To keep costs reasonable, commercial eggs are the default, while “farm fresh, local, free-range, non-GMO chicken or duck eggs” from Palomino Valley Chicken & Egg are offered at a slightly higher price point. Sand Hill Dairy in Fallon, Nev., is a source, and bread is provided by Reno’s House of Bread, Franco French, and Great Basin Brewing Co., which uses spent grains from the brewing process to bake a yummy honey wheat. Sausages come from the Flocchini family of Carson City and Lake Tahoe’s FOLK Brewing provides kombucha. The full bar serves a rotation of local craft beers from Under the Rose and The Brewer’s Cabinet, plus Tahoe Blue vodka. Topping everything off, Wood Fire Roasted Coffee Company, located in Reno, provides a proprietary blend just for Two Chicks.
Local sources also get tapped for printing, T-shirts, upholstery and more. Henderson and Moseley both say they support other “little guys” because they benefited from local support for their first food operation. “If those businesses didn’t have us come around with our food truck we wouldn’t have been able to do it at all,” they agree.
These days, it seems like everyone has found Two Chicks. Tourists come to get away from the big hotel/casino properties and there are a slew of locals. “We get some of everybody… the hipster crowd from Midtown, we get a lot of nurses coming off shift…” says Henderson. “Families, we have a ton of families, a mix of everybody. We have a lot of business people during the week, a couple of companies do their staff meetings here on a regular basis…a little bit for everyone.”
By starting early a.m. and attracting a diverse crowd, the restaurant runs nonstop at full speed from open to close. Even with a double retail space and extra staff, they have almost (dare we say it) outgrown their current location. Still, unlike their first months at Two Chicks, they each take a day or two off per week, though one of those might get filled with paperwork, website duties, personnel issues, approving purchases, the list goes on. With their families in different stages of development (at this writing, Moseley’s children are nearly grown and Henderson is three weeks from hatching a baby chick of her own), the two must plan in advance for a friends’ night out. It’s like dating, only with your longtime friend-collaborator-business partner.
There’s no sense that these two wish for any of this to work differently. With Midtown flourishing, and all those happy customers, Two Chicks finds itself in the right place at the right time. And while they don’t take credit for instigating April’s National Grilled Cheese Day, it falls on Henderson’s birthday, which might portend the stars aligning for the development of a second Two Chicks restaurant. South Reno, anyone?
Thoroughly Modern Midtown
The renaissance of this district suits Two Chicks’ owners. “We love the location, we’re happy here,” says Jessie Henderson. Haley Moseley points out that the eclectic, hip district “is perfect for locals and tourists alike. The ‘buy local’ movement has created a demand for fresh, local ingredients, which we are happy to oblige.” She notes the area is eminently walkable, too, and lists by name many shops and boutiques surrounding them “full of items you won’t find anywhere else!”
The Midtown district, roughly circumscribed by Liberty Street, Sinclair Street, Plumb Lane and Plumas Street, sports a mix of vintage commercial buildings punctuated by makeovers, upgrades and new construction with midcentury details. Once a commercial/business zone, later neglected when retailers migrated to malls, it’s now home to a kaleidoscope of hardware, chocolates, fashions, décor, accounting, craft brews, coffee, records, restaurants, tattooing, community theatre and more. On any given day, the Two Chicks’ owners might be found patronizing one of their fellow businesses or participating in a district-organized event.
Midtown’s business association promotes Midtown Art Walks, Reno Rodeo Parades and Black Friday activities. “It’s good to band together as a district and make sure that any city planning benefits us and doesn’t hurt these small, independent businesses,” says Henderson.
And she adds proudly with a smile: “There are no chains or big box stores in Midtown, only small businesses!”
More at Renomidtowndistrict.com; for history, Renohistorical.org
Two Chicks is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
752 S. Virginia St.