Bertha Ronzone

Bertha Bishop Ronzone presided over what was once the largest, privately-owned chain of department stores in Nevada. Born in Iowa on April 16, 1885, Bishop moved with her family to California when she was a child. In 1901, at age sixteen, she married Attilio "Ben" Ronzone, a gold prospector. The Ronzones relocated to Alaska where they spent two years. By 1903, the news of mineral strikes in Nevada reached the couple. They and their young daughter joined thousands of fortune-seekers who poured into the new mining towns of Nye County.

The family settled in Manhattan where Bertha opened a laundry for miners, quickly realizing the workers' desperate need for clothing and supplies. During a trip to Oakland, California, Ronzone bought merchandise that she, in turn, sold to the miners. That effort met with such success that she decided to open a department store. In 1917–after obtaining a loan from mining entrepreneur George Wingfield– Ronzone launched the first of many department stores.

By 1923, the boom in Manhattan had ended and the Ronzones relocated their store to Tonopah. Realizing the potential for profit with the proposed construction of Hoover Dam, the family expanded again in 1929 when they opened their first store in Las Vegas on Carson Street. The lucrative business moved to its first Fremont Street location in 1935.

When Ben passed away in 1938, Bertha's son joined her in running the business. The family sold the Tonopah store in 1939, but expanded the chain to Reno in 1943. Bertha saw her retail empire grow with the 1968 opening of a Ronzone's department store in Las Vegas' Boulevard Mall.

In 1967, the University of Nevada Board of Regents named Ronzone a Distinguished Nevadan. That year, the mother of three received the Mother of the Year award from the Women's Guild of the Las Vegas First Church of Religious Science, which Ronzone helped to found.

Ronzone remained involved in her family's businesses until her death on November 5, 1969. An elementary school in Las Vegas bears her name.

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