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While San Francisco was the birthplace of Burning Man, Nevada has become its home.

Since 1990, Burners have made the pilgrimage two hours north of Reno to the Black Rock Desert, each year leaving a larger footprint in Northern Nevada's business market.

Over the years, Northern Nevada has watched the event grow -- from just a few hundred people to tens of thousands, and while some businesses have grown alongside, some of the small, local businesses have acepted that they are being left in the dust.

"Seven or eight years ago, Burning Man was a big deal for us. Burning Man went corporate, and fewer and fewer people come to (Midtown Reno) anymore," said Tim Carter, owner of Carter Bros. Ace Hardware.

In the 1990s, when Burners passed through town looking for hardware and goods to create their structures and sculptures, they would go to the smaller shops since the event was only a few hundred, and then a few thousand, people, according to Carter.

Past the 1990s, however, the event boomed to tens of thousands of people, now 70,000, more of them coming from outside of the West.

"That’s the evolution of things – it’s big business now. They're not spending several hundred dollars anymore. Now they’re just buying an adapter because their RV is all stocked now, you know what I mean?" Carter said. 

Most of the Burners now seek out stores that they already are familiar with -- such as Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart.

Other small businesses also have found it difficult to keep up with the scope of Burning Man, which has an 80-employee nonprofit running it yearround from San Francisco. More than 40 percent of Burners are from California, only about 5 percent are from Nevada and the rest are from all over the nation and the world.

It's hard to advertise to such a wide audience, said Melting Pot owner Eric Baron.

"Burning Man is having an effect on the entire world – it’s more of a progressive movement now in art, self expression and Leave No Trace," said Baron, who reflects fondly on the days when he was the sole Burning Man ticket outlet in Reno.

In fact, the boutique and pipe shop that he co-owns with his wife never would have left the original 650-square-foot space that they started out in in 1996, the year after the couple went to Burning Man for the first time.

"It just kinda clicked – we kind of grew up and evolved with Burning Man," said Baron.

Melting Pot has not grown quite as overwhelmingly since it has to compete with the online merchandisers who have caught on to the fashion trends that Burning Man has set into motion worldwide.

Still, because of legacy, Baron is able to provide Burners a unique assortment of items that are made by Burners locally and worldwide, items that they come to him to sell because they trust him and respect his business, he said.

"Stuff is coming to us that we couldn’t possibly find on our own," Baron said.

Other businesses, such as the Save Mart grocery on Keystone, have figured out a way to cater to the out-of-towners.

Save Mart, which stocks up on wearable lighting, bottled water and bicycles, offer Burners a pre-order option so that they can have their items ready when they fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which has a direct shuttle to that one grocery store.

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"We get orders and requests from all around the world. We have a Paypal account. They can get to be several-thousand-dollar orders, and we’re not talking corn flakes and milk – it’s everything," said Carl Linville, manager of the store.

The store also offers services that make Burners' return easier, such as discounted trash disposal and free recycling as well as bicycle return. Unopened water and food also can be left at Save Mart, which donates it to the local food bank.

"These people are from all over the world. This may be the first and only experience of the United States, so we want to make sure that they feel welcome," Linville said.

Burning Man's footprint in the business community is also farther reaching than just on the surface, as the organization and many artists tied to Burning Man have been building the arts culture and the tourism appeal of the area for years.

"It’s exciting to see the community move from a position where we tolerated Burning Man to a position where we support and embrace Burning Man," said Mike Kazmierski, executive director of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

When Kazmierski moved to Reno several years ago, he heard stories about people lying to their employer about where they were going during the week of Burning Man because of the stigma that it carried.

"They didn’t appreciate the people that were going to Burning Man. They just discounted this as people going out to the desert doing crazy things," Kazmierski said.

Now, many businesses -- from auto shops to boutiques -- tout themselves as Burner-owned and Burner-friendly. Businesses and communities have been purchasing Burning Man sculptures, and Reno now hosts an annual Sculpture Fest.

"There’s some pride in it," Kazmierski said, noting that locals now flaunt their Burner spirit.

Even the Black Rock Desert's few businesses and organizations have come to recognize the ripple effect of dollars spent in the area.

The Black Rock Desert receives more visitors during the rest of the year, outside of the Burning Man season, which has been great for tourism in the area, according to Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Chairman Vinton Hawley.

"Overall, permit sales and visitation to the lake has increased," Hawley said, noting that more people now stop at the tribal museum as well. "Burning Man has really helped expose the lake to a whole new market."

Granted, every year the community has to be wary of several days of traffic surrounding the weeklong event, and they have to discourage visitors from leaving litter in the area.

Jeanne Harmon, Washoe County commissioner for the towns surrounding the Black Rock Desert, said that Burning Man is a boon for any local businesses, especially Bruno's, a restaurant and motel on the edge of the playa.

"The town of Gerlach is more retirement people, and then business people and then there’s the Burners," Harmon said.

"I think that for most of the year, it will be the same as it is now. It’s busy for a week, and then it’s pretty quiet otherwise," Harmon said.

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