Las Vegas Sun

July 6, 2015

Currently: 79° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

The strip:

Who knew? A hidden gift shop under the Wynn casino


Sam Morris

Mary Kepler waits on a customer in the employee snack shop at Wynn Aug. 9, 2012.

Wynn Talks With Media

Steve Wynn meets with the media in a villa at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Sun coverage

Through a private door near the Wynn buffet, past a security guard and down an escalator, sits a small, brightly lit convenience store. Its shelves are lined with nylons, makeup, aspirin and snacks. Discounted Wynn merchandise hangs on racks.

Directly above it, slot machines ring and gamblers shout.

Resort guests would never know it is there. They aren’t supposed to. The store is for Wynn employees only.

Steve Wynn built The Staff Store as a convenience for workers. He included similar shops in the Bellagio and Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., resorts he also designed before selling them to MGM.

Only a handful of resorts on the Strip have staff shops. They include the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Aria. The Venetian and Palazzo offer an employee concierge service, where staff members can drop off dry cleaning and fill prescriptions.

“People will buy gifts for family who are visiting or pick up birthday cards at the last minute,” said Kristina Elder, the store’s manager.

Behind the counter sits a gregarious 88-year-old woman most of the resort workers know as Grandma Mary. Mary Kepler has worked at the Staff Store since it opened with the Wynn in 2005. She has become one of its most well-known assets.

Kepler greets every customer and showers them with attention. She has comforted employees during tough times and is in the process now of helping a casino worker study for his law school entrance exam.

"She really inspires others," her daughter Kathie Harrington said. "And if she finds out you’re from the Midwest, you’re in for an hour conversation."

Kepler worked at a Hallmark store in her hometown of Iowa Falls, Iowa, and moved to Las Vegas in 1986 with her husband. Once here, Kepler worked at a crystal store in Fashion Show mall, then jumped to gift shops at the Liberace Museum, Sahara and New Frontier before moving to the Desert Inn in the early 1990s. She stayed at that resort until it closed in August 2000.

Kepler didn’t have to go far for her next job. The Wynn opened on the site of the Desert Inn five years later.

Now widowed, Kepler lives on her own and drives herself to work. She is one of three Staff Store employees and is so popular among Wynn workers, people worry when she takes a break.

"She went on a short vacation awhile ago and every day, people were coming in asking if Mary was OK and if everything was all right," Elder said.

The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m daily and sits across from an employee dining room, near a network of hallways, storage rooms and loading docks. A security guard checks workers’ badges when they enter the area.

Employees stream through to replace snagged stockings, buy a pack of smokes or grab a quick bite. Wynn officials wouldn’t say whether workers get discounts on sundries (they do on Wynn T-shirts and hats), but the store at the very least keeps them clear of lines in guest gift shops.

Cans of Red Bull, which sell for $3, line two shelves and pack a cooler. The energy drink is by far the store’s biggest seller.

“I don’t think we’d be able to keep our doors open without Red Bull,” Kepler said.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 3 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. @sportyyetpratical

    I heard the same thing from staff as far away as Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS. The employees really mourned that Wynn sold the properties off because they cut bad so severely on both amenities as well as maintenance budgets because of City Center. Though very little of it returned once that project was complete. Wynn absolutely was not without his own problems with outlying management, and he himself is not someone who is that pleasant to deal with directly (especially when something sets him off), but everyone always said that at least he took care of the employees to keep them happy.

  2. Yes Wynn does do more then most of the little things. But he is still a a..h...

  3. And you wonder why Wynn has the most loyal employees?? He takes care of them. A lesson ignored by the other debt ridden grind joints