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 131 of 163

"IT'S DIFFICULT TO FIND COMMUNITY IN THIS CITY. I'VE FOUND IT DOWNTOWN. THERE'S A FEELING OF SUPPORT." —PAUL BALIKIAN J ust one hour before opening for the night, a rec room of a bar called Velveteen Rabbit is a pleasant place for a handcrafted cocktail. It's owned by the sister team of Christina and Pamela Dylag, a pair of rock 'n' roll–looking girls who bootstrapped their way into the business, cutting their teeth by making drinks around town and perfecting mixology in the house they share. They exemplify the young entrepreneurs taking their stands in the newly revitalized Downtown. A world away from Bellagio and Caesars, Velveteen is outfitted with reclaimed furniture and feels cool in a way that things never will be on the Strip or in Summerlin or Henderson. Christina has shaken me a sweet and smoky Irish whiskey concoction called Crucifix in a Deathhand, named for an obscure Charles Bukowski book, and explains that she and her sister grew up in Vegas before leaving town for urban experiences. What drew them back is the growth of Downtown and the opportunities available here. For example, because they opened in the Arts District, the city waived a good portion of the liquor license fee that would have made this project untenable for them. Then there was a visual improvement grant and a core of local customers. "We made this happen on our own," says Pamela, prepping the beer taps for the night. "Our customer base is aged 21 to 60, and most of them hear about us through word of mouth. People are talking; they're walking around down here and discovering new things. Tourism may be the biggest thing in Las Vegas, but we don't rely on it." That sentiment rings true for most of Downtown's burgeoning operators. At the vintage clothing store Electric Lemonade (which 122 Zach Ware in the offices of Work in Progress, the creative and small-business support firm he cofounded. A VISITOR'S GUIDE TO DOWNTOWN Emergency Arts Collective space housing galleries, The Beat Coffeehouse & Records, the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and more. 520 Fremont St.; Stitch Factory A working space for designers, with industrial machines, dress forms, and work tables. 300 N. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-476-5552; Coterie Downtown Hip clothing boutique. 515 Fremont St., 702-685-7741 Electric Lemonade Vintage clothing. 220 E. Charleston also stocks up-and-coming designers), another sister team, Courtney and Kinsey Peters, has returned to Vegas from elsewhere with a good idea and the intention of making it work. "This seems like the perfect hub," says Courtney while helping a customer who's grooving on a sweatshirt featuring a topless Kate Moss. "Everybody around here is doing something new. We're in love with walking around a neighborhood and running into people and going to different spots. We're looking for community that goes beyond strip clubs and corporate casinos." If Downtown's evolution had never begun, Courtney says, they and their shop that feels like a fashionista time machine wouldn't be here. Blvd., 702-776-7766; Sweet Spot Candy Shop Old-fashioned sweets haven. 616 S. Las Vegas Blvd., 702-815-1277; La Comida Mexican from Michael Morton. 100 S. Sixth St., 702-463-9900 Andiamo Steakhouse at the D Fine Italian cuisine. 301 Fremont St., 702-388-2220; Velveteen Rabbit Craft cocktails and beer. 1218 S. Main St., 702-685-9645 Doing it in the suburbs or in a casino was always out of the question. "We like it gritty," she says. "I don't want to say we're anti–Vegas Strip culture, but… we are." For Strip refugee Paul Balikian, whose Sweet Spot Candy Shop is next to a now-closed bailbond operation, selling meticulously selected candy in a cleanly designed shop is a nice break from running retailers like Gucci and Loro Piana in the big casinos. "It's difficult to find community in this city," he says as two towheaded kids go into the kind of shopping trance that Balikian used to witness in cashmere fanatics at Piana. "I've found it downtown. I live down here, and there is a feeling of support. This is a PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC ITA (WARE); STEVE MARCUS (HSIEH); COURTESY OF LVCVA (HISTORIC) backseat to big ideas, chats about entrepreneurship, and shots of Fernet fused with Fireball. Hsieh calls them Firenets: "You have to try one." VEGASMAGAZINE.COM 118-123–V_FEAT_Downtown_Sept13.indd 122 8/7/13 2:10 PM

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