This Radio DJ and All-Around Cool Chick Calls Downtown Reno Home

New series! This is the first in a series highlighting residents calling downtown home, and why they love downtown in their own words. There's no doubt downtown Reno receives a lot of flack, some deserved, some undeserved, so I figured it was about time someone other than me chime in and revel in why our neighborhood rocks. After all, there are hundreds and hundreds of people that call downtown home. So every so often I'll feature a different resident from a completely different social group and residential tower, covering a wide array of personalities living downtown.

First up, Layla James! I won't say exactly what tower she lives in, but it has a pool, a hot tub, a fitness center and great views.

When Layla James first stumbled across my blog, she had not yet moved downtown but it was something on her mind. She initially used DTM's contact form expressing how much she loved the site, and that she was looking for a possible place to live downtown and wanted some recommendations. I became friends with Layla on Facebook soon after, and after following her well-documented journey of finding a place downtown, discovering all that it has to offer, and subsequently starting a blog, I felt she was perfect to profile on this site. Not to mention she's also a pretty cool chick.


 

DTM: You are a radio personality yes? What station and when are you on-air?
Layla: I’d like to think I have a personality outside of radio, but that’s up for debate. I am a Weekend DJ on Rock 104.5. I’m on 10a-3p or 3p-7p.

It was your blog, iamlaylajames.com that actually caught my attention. There’s a stark humor in your writing style that is raw and honest. What was your motivation for starting up a blog?
Divorce. Lord knows I needed something to do. Well I guess that’s only half true. When I moved to Reno from San Francisco I absolutely hated it. It’s brown, I thought downtown was gross, yada yada yada. But when you break up you suddenly become interested in doing new things, like going outside. So I set out to explore what Reno was all about. I’ve been pleasantly surprised ever since. I am a reformed Reno hater and now I enjoy downtown living.

You recently moved downtown, what prompted the move?
A sense of adventure I guess. Who lives downtown, really? It’s certainly a conversation starter. I think most people are jealous of my parking space more than anything. Sometimes getting downtown can be a hassle, but it’s always worth it. When you live downtown, there is no hassle. Within a two block radius there is a French Restaurant, a gay bar, movie theaters, a coffee house, tons of bars and a hair salon. Now I just need a grocery store.

So how do you like tower living compared to the suburbs? Living in a tower ‘connected’ to other people can trip people out, but I find it creates kind of a community atmosphere. Do you take advantage of the amenities? (pool, hot tub, weight room etc)? I know some folks who live in the Montage who use their exercise amenities to the point of not needing a gym membership. Do you know anybody else in the building?
I love my building! It never seems crowded, I hardly see anybody else. It’s pretty much anonymous living, which I enjoy. When its summer it seems you make tons of friends at the pool. I’ve actually never been inside the gym at my place, but I hear it’s nice.


I noticed a few recipe posts on Iamlaylajames.com. You cook or eat out? It’s so tempting to not cook with so many awesome restaurants nearby.
I’m going to be honest. Every recipe I’ve ever posted is a feeble attempt to convince myself to learn how to cook. Maybe it’s the inner socialite in me, but I rather go out and enjoy good company in a nice restaurant down the street. On the other side, that tends to get expensive. Hence the cries for help on my blog. I keep trying to convince Clint Jolly to teach me to cook, but it’s a hard sell. Ideas?

Do you think downtown needs a grocery store? Do you think Great Basin Food Coop’s new expanded location will suffice, or do we need a full-blown Trader Joe’s/Fresh & Easy downtown?
Yes. Yes. Yes. There are so many open spaces available that a grocery store would be perfect. There are liquor stores that sell the basics, but I’d like to buy produce at a reasonable price. I have not tried Great Basin yet. The only reason being they are not within walking distance and if I’m going to get in the car, I might as well go to a big grocery store and get everything I need. I am a creature of convenience, sad, but true.

Every city has its own vibe. I grew up in downtown Los Angeles during the weekdays in a historic loft tower. I lived in NYC as well as New Orleans. It cracks me up when people compare Reno to Los Angeles or Vegas or NYC. Those cities are massive compared to Reno and carry their own set of advantages/disadvantages. What do you think of Reno’s vibe and music/concert scene, considering it’s a metro population of 400,00ish?
I crack up when people complain about traffic. I’m sorry, it only took 15 minutes to get to the other side of town? It’s all relative though. If you grew up in Fernley of course Reno is going to seem big as well as the traffic seemingly evil. I grew up in the Bay Area. Reno traffic is nothing!
The music scene in the Bay is great, but if you’re not 21, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. I love that there are so many all ages shows popping up around Reno. I think we have some great venues such as The Knitting Factory and The Alley which celebrate local music at an affordable price.

Following your blog and you on Facebook, it seems like you have really embraced what’s awesome about downtown…tons of bars, concert venues and restaurants within a 1 mile radius. What are some of your favorite Midtown and downtown spots?
This is hard. Prepare yourself for the categories:
For Drinks I like the Wild River Grille: La Fleur Martini and Soak Nail Lounge: Pink Drink. For Atmosphere I love Imperial and Jub Jub’s. Food: Spring rolls at Golden Flower and Tri-Tip Tacos at Midtown Eats. I have a ton more, but I don’t want to give ALL my secrets away.

Anything you’d like to see downtown that we don’t have?
I think high end fashion retailers would somehow work in downtown, especially at the Montage. Gap, Banana Republic, etc. With that said that would take the charm out of Downtown Reno. So I’m not sold on the idea.
Bringing a flea market to West St Market would be a great way to infuse some local flare and homemade products to Downtown Reno. Other than that- a grocery store!

It’s amazing how many people who live in Reno have not been downtown in years. Downtown has its rough spots, but most complaints and incidents seem to happen after 3 in the morning. Have you been out on the streets this late, and have you ever had any problems or issues? How would compare our late night issues with other downtowns you have been to?
I think it’s a rule of thumb if you are hanging around Downtown Reno at 3am on a Tuesday you’re up to no good. As long as you’re sensible, I really see no risk. I’ve never had any problems or felt unsafe. I think crossing the street anywhere in Reno is more dangerous.

What do you think downtown’s biggest eyesore is?
On West St there is an old casino that closed in the 70s. Can’t we scrounge up the money to tear that thing down? It looks horrible!

You excited about some of the restaurants coming down the pipeline? Z-Pies, Campo, some new places in Midtown. What do you think is driving the The Great Foodie Wave?
I just visited Campo, loved the marinara pizza and chocolate truffles! The Great Foodie Wave is simple. People can’t afford to buy a house, but they can afford a pizza. People love good food and in a time of economic disparity, people still want to feel like they have ample cash flow. A good meal and a nice glass of wine can make you feel like a king without breaking the bank.

What do you think of the Siena and CommRow, two of Reno’s newer remodels/renovations?
I’m not sure I understand what the Siena’s marketing strategy is. They have seemed fairly quite since the remodel. So I don’t really have an official opinion on them. I guess my advice is make a statement, be memorable! They have a great location and hopefully they can capitalize on that.
I love CommRow’s mission. I’m all for getting off the couch and doing something adventurous. They provide a place for people of all ages to enjoy and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. I think the challenge for them is because it’s a new concept there is no real historical data to rely on. They have to be their own leaders in the market. That can be an inspiring and terrifying thing. All I can say is I’m rooting for them and good luck!

 

More on Layla

Follow Layla's downtown antics and more at her blog, Iamlaylajames.com, and listen to her on 104.5 FM.