Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 | 2 a.m.
For all the efforts to create a residential urban village in downtown Las Vegas, one of the big obstacles was that there was no place within walking distance to buy a loaf of bread, a carton of milk or a box of sugar.
Downtown denizens had to travel to a grocery store, undermining the very point of living where you could walk to work, walk to play, walk to buy what you need.
Some of that is changing thanks to a small grocery store with a lot of attitude in a former art gallery.
Opening its doors just over a week ago, Resnicks Grocery — on Hoover Avenue in the SoHo Lofts, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. South — is the first urban, independent grocery in the Arts District, according to its owner Sam Cherry.
The 32-year-old CEO of Cherry Development envisions his new grocery as part of a larger movement attracting the “creative class” to that part of the valley.
“We’re trying to create a different kind of community here,” Cherry said. “Trying to give a fun and funky vibe. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill store.”
Vintage art pieces adorn the walls of the 1,400-square-foot “bodega,” a type of convenience store made popular in New York and Chicago. Wide-eyed pig and headphone-rocking sheep sculptures greet customers who mill through the grocery’s three aisles stocked with organic foods and eco-friendly household goods. Limestone white tables and chairs sit on the store’s green turf-lined patio, inviting coffee-sipping patrons to lounge outside when the warm weather returns.
“We want to create a lively streetscape,” Cherry said, pointing to nearby restaurants and businesses cropping up on the dirt lots spotting the downtown. “It’s turning into an environment where people can walk to places.”
Cherry has had this vision of downtown for a while now. Since Cherry Development opened the $75 million SoHo Lofts in 2006, the commercial space on the first floor remained vacant in the terrible economy, save for Globe Salon, which moved into the building in July 2008.
“We’re pioneers down here,” Globe Director Staci Linklater said. Resnicks opening “is a big deal for us.”
Cherry, along with business partners Grant Garcia, 32, and Mike Goldstein, 39, said they hope to add more businesses next to Resnicks and Globe Salon. A new bar and lounge called the Lady Silvia is slated to open in March, and plans for a restaurant in SoHo Lofts is in the works, said Cherry, who grew up working in small stores from hair salons to gas stations, mopping floors and greeting customers.
“It gave me a perfect snapshot of what small businesses are about,” Cherry said. “It’s been a huge learning curve. We’ve come a long way.”
With the construction of Symphony Park and the new city hall, new residential developments and Zappos’ relocation announcement last month, Cherry said he sees Resnicks meeting a growing demand downtown for a neighborhood grocery.
“People will love the fact that they can get organic here instead of going across town,” he said. “It’s a slice of green in downtown’s concrete jungle.”
Although the shelves and produce section aren’t fully stocked yet, people have begun to notice the new grocery, named after Eli Resnick, Cherry’s great uncle who used to own drugstores in Chicago during the 1920s and ’30s.
On Wednesday, Resnicks offered its first prepared sandwich and salad lunches. Within a half-hour, all 30 meals were sold out, Cherry said.
SoHo Lofts resident Sam Phillips, 67, grabbed a cup of coffee with his brother and sister-in-law at Resnicks on a recent afternoon. Phillips said the closest supermarket is a couple of miles away on Rancho Drive and Charleston Boulevard.
“Smith’s is a good store, but this is nicer. Good selection and the pricing is in line,” Phillips said. “It’ll be nice when you run out of something in the middle of the night. It’s super to have the convenience.
“I’m big on building downtown and bringing nice things here.”