One Small Business

One Small Business

In 1967, Joe Conforte, an enterprising entrepreneur took over a small business (MRB) in Storey County, Nevada about 8 miles east of Reno.  MRB had been operating since 1955 but had never obtained the proper business license.  Conforte gained political influence in the County (by renting out cheap trailers and influencing the renters on how to vote) and persuaded county officials to pass an ordinance issuing him a license, which came into effect in 1971.  The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the right of a county to pass such an ordinance and business boomed.  As a result of this business man’s vision and success, Joe was featured in Look magazine and on the cover of Rolling Stone

MRB was innovative in many of its business practices.  Employees actually lived on the premises, worked 12-hour shifts and were paid on a piece-mill basis.  Environmental controls were on the cutting edge of what is know common in industrial hygiene and preventive medicine arenas.  Routine physical were conducted for employees that interfaced with customers and stringent standards were maintained.  Customers were screened and checked prior to contracting with MRB.  Security was tight with gun towers and guards controlling all ingress and egress to the facility.

Things were going well for MRB until Joe and his wife, Sally Burgess Conforte aka Jesse E. Conforte (workers often recalled that she was like a dorm mother), got crossways with the Federal Government.  Unimpressed with the organization’s viability and impressive employment statistics in the State, the Feds honed in on the books.

After losing a tax fraud case in 1990, MRB was closed for three months and auctioned off.  Conforte fled the United States and now lives in Brazil. The business was bought by a holding company (a front for Conforte) and stayed open. After that company and the MRB’s manager (a former county commissioner) lost a federal fraud, racketeering and conspiracy case in 1999, MRB was closed and forfeited to the federal government. The Brazil Supreme Court ruled in the same year that Conforte could not be extradited.

As required by law, our government tried to run the very profitable business until they could sell the enterprise or dispose of the assets.  They failed miserably and by 2002, MRB’s furniture, paintings and accessories were auctioned off. The Bureau of Land Management sold the business’ pink stucco structures on eBay in 2003.  In March 2007, the final remaining building at the site which had been bought for $8,600 was burned down in a fire department training exercise.

Recently a Reno Gazette-Journal report cited plans for the restoration of natural conditions to the section of the Truckee River flowing near the MRB site along the same lines as a similar restoration five miles downstream on McCarran Ranch land owned by The Nature Conservancy. It would likely include construction of natural meanders to the river channel and replacement of invasive whitetop (Lepidium draba) with native plants, willow and cottonwood trees. The MRB property, you may remember it better by its business name, Mustang Ranch Brothel, may again achieve prosperity.   I wish I could say as much for the Federal Government.

Can you believe that today some people trust the economy of our country, our banking system, our auto industry and possibly our health care to the same incompetent bureaucrats who couldn’t make money running a whore house and selling whiskey!