ML - Vegas Magazine

2013 - Issue 5 - September

Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.

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Page 128 of 163

BOOM TIME DOWNTOWN IS READY FOR ITS MOMENT IN THE SPOTLIGHT, AS TONY HSIEH'S DREAM OF A CREATIVE, ENTREPRENEURIAL HUB FINALLY COMES TO LIFE. BY MICHAEL KAPLAN S ix months ago, if somebody had suggested a business meeting downtown at Gold Spike, you'd have wondered if he were joking. So when Tony Hsieh asked me to convene there recently, I was a little taken aback. I remembered it as a dumpy casino and didn't realize that Hsieh had taken it over. After hearing that he had, I still couldn't imagine what he might have done to the place to make it reasonably appropriate for our sit-down. Upon arrival, I'm a bit shocked. The Zappos CEO has transformed it into the Downtown Vegas equivalent of a college game room—com- plete with shuffleboard and an up-front bar that would make any undergraduate drool. Slight and soft-spoken, wearing jeans and a Zappos T-shirt, the diminutive Hsieh kicks things off by asking me if I want a shot of Fernet Branca and a cinnamon whiskey called Fireball. I say yes to both. We are soon downing mouthfuls of liquor as a prelude to the late-afternoon interview. Looking around, taking in the comfy sofas, clusters of chairs, and 20-somethings immersed in their MacBook Pros, I notice that there are no slot machines. Nobody is gambling on anything—but oversize Connect Four games are in large supply. It turns out that Hsieh is not a big fan of gambling. Not even poker? "I'm not interested in gaming unless it promotes interaction," he says. "People used to play video poker here and not talk to anyone." This makes him very likely the first person in Vegas to buy a property with a casino license and choose not to exploit it. Hsieh, who relocated to Henderson from San Francisco in 2004, is now transforming the old City Hall into headquarters for Zappos and its 1,500 employees—and he has big, unconventional plans for Downtown. Via the Downtown Project, he stands to leave a large footprint in a chunk of Vegas that had long been underappreciated. Of course, there are people who came before him, like Michael Cornthwaite, with his swell Downtown Cocktail Room. Seth Schorr is VEGASMAGAZINE.COM 119 118-123–V_FEAT_Downtown_Sept13.indd 119 8/7/13 4:11 PM

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