Las Vegas Sun

November 22, 2017

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Somehow it works: Unusual business neighbors in Las Vegas


Travis Jackson

As wild as the Strip is with its attractions, street performers and blinking lights, the landscape gets even stranger as you venture away from Las Vegas Boulevard.

At just over 135 square miles in area with highly concentrated pockets of commerce, parts of Las Vegas simply don’t have enough room for all the businesses that want to open. In other sections of the city, remnants of old Vegas flank developments shaping a new Vegas. That makes for some interesting combinations.

A church sits next to a bail bonds office, tattoo parlor and gay bar. A barbershop shares a roof with a basketball gym. And a shop that sells zombie-killing weapons helps keep a furniture store in operation.

Laughing to death: The Clown Motel and a cemetery


Clown Motel, 521 N. Main St., Tonopah

Just north of Las Vegas on the way to Reno is the Clown Motel. It’s a place even more nightmare-inducing than the name suggests.

The small, blue building sits just south of U.S. Highway 95 next to practically nothing. Travelers are greeted by a sign depicting a clown riding a motorcycle. Inside the small motel are more than 600 clowns.

In the office, visitors can sit on a couch next to a 5-foot-tall, face-painted clown figure with a bright red nose and striped costume. Above it, hundreds of clown dolls rest on shelves. Every hotel room has multiple clown portraits hanging on the walls, so guests can enjoy the experience right up until they close their eyes for the night.

And that isn’t the creepiest part.

The motel sits next to a cemetery where the bodies of miners killed in the Belmont Mine fire of 1911 were buried.

Leroy David, who opened the motel in 1990, chose the location because his father was one of those miners. David used the motel to store his collection of clown materials, back then about 200.

In 1995, David sold the business to Bob Perchetti, who kept the clown theme.

“It’s completely out of place in a mining community like Tonopah,” Perchetti said. “From Day One, (David) thought it would be a tourist attraction. Some people love clowns, and some think they are scary.”

Aside from tripling the amount of clown stuff, renovating the rooms and upgrading the air conditioning, Perchetti has done little to change the motel. Business has been steady and picked up significantly after the Travel Channel stayed there for a four-day shoot for an upcoming reality show about the paranormal.

“We even talked with a movie producer about making a movie here,” Perchetti said.

Despite running a motel overflowing with clowns built near a cemetery, Perchetti, 77, is adamant the building isn’t haunted.

“People say there are ghosts in the rooms,” he said. “But there have been no sightings in the 20 years I’ve been here.”

Hoopty 'do: A basketball academy and a barbershop

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Ballin Fades Barber Shop, inside Tarkanian Basketball Academy, 2730 S. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas

Between the sound of squeaking sneakers and bouncing basketballs, there’s the faint buzz of hair clippers. It’s Derek Kinsey cutting hair in a small barbershop tucked inside a massive basketball gym.

Just past the entrance of Tarkanian Basketball Academy and immediately before double doors that lead to the courts sits Kinsey’s studio, a nondescript room lined with mirrors and half a dozen white chairs. The walls are bare for now, but Kinsey plans to decorate them with posters of Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV basketball memorabilia.

Ballin Fades Barber Shop, which opened in August, may be the first barbershop in America to open inside an athletic gym.

“Ennis Wesley, director of the gym, was one of my customers at the last barbershop that I worked at,” Kinsey said. “He told me there was a space open and asked me what I thought. I said, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s try something different.’ ”

Ballin Fades is Kinsey’s first business. He said the first four months were rough, but things have settled and business now is steady.

“It takes a lot of convincing people to switch from their regular barber,” Kinsey said. “People waited months to see if I could actually cut.”

The unique location of Kinsey’s shop helps attract customers. In addition to gym regulars, NBA personalities including New Orleans Pelicans assistant coach Robert Pack and former Palo Verde High star Bryce Cotton, who used to play for the Utah Jazz, have gotten haircuts at Ballin Fades.

Kinsey said about 40 percent of his clientele come from the gym, while other customers followed him from his previous barbershop.

Incidentally, Kinsey opened the shop with family, not profits, in mind. He simply wanted to spend more time with his 14-year-old son, Derek Jr.

Derek Jr. has played in multiple leagues at the gym. Now, his father’s place of business is just a few dribbles away.

“When you are your own boss, you call your own shots,” said Kinsey, who has been a professional barber for seven years but has cut hair for decades. “I’ve always done it on the side, but finally got into doing it professionally. I turned my hustle into my career.”

Kinsey even has been approached with possible franchising opportunities and said he would like to open more barbershops in sporting facilities in the future.

“I stepped out on a limb based on faith because I wanted to be around my family more,” Kinsey said. “Now, it’s proving it was meant to be.”

Can I get an amen? A tattoo parlor, a gay bar and an evangelical church

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Las Vegas Eagle, Sin City Tattoo and Praise Chapel Evangelical Church, 3430 E. Tropicana Ave., Las Vegas

Perhaps the most interesting juxtaposition of businesses in Las Vegas is crammed into a tiny strip mall on East Tropicana Avenue and South Pecos Road.

The Las Vegas Eagle, an old-school gay bar, anchors the shopping center. Bookending it are Sin City Tattoo and Praise Chapel Evangelical Church.

The bar and the tattoo shop share everything, from customers to an ATM, said Judy Nelson, who opened the Eagle in 1987.

“We have a good camaraderie going between us,” Nelson said. “We are good neighbors.”

The bar’s location initially posed a different advantage.

“When we first started out, we were way in the corner, and it was a great location because the gay community wasn’t as out as they are today,” Nelson said. “So people didn’t want to have their cars out in the open in the parking lot of a gay bar. Today, people don’t care about that, so it doesn’t matter as much.”

There are no issues between the bar and the evangelical church next door either, Nelson said.

“We get along with them,” Nelson said.

While the bar is known for its rowdy karaoke nights, churchgoers are long gone by the time activities get loud, even if the worshippers have an evening get-together.

But Clay Baker, a veteran artist at Sin City Ink, admitted Sunday mornings can get slightly awkward.

“It doesn’t feel right, and they do give us weird looks on Sundays, but we don’t really mind,” Baker said. “We live and let live. As long as that’s the way the church is to us, then everything is all good.”

So far, everything has gone smoothly since the church moved in. As long as the evangelicals can stomach an uncomfortable moment or two, the success should continue.

“We have a window they have to walk by, and we will be doing a nipple piercing, and they have to parade their family past it,” Baker laughed. “We definitely don’t hold back just because there’s a church there.”

Legal limits: A law firm and a liquor store

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Hawkins Boley & AlDabbagh, shares a plaza with a liquor store, a clothing store for strippers and several escort agencies, 3143 S. Industrial Road, Las Vegas

Joshua AlDabbagh purposely chose the crammed downtown business district for his law firm. More specifically, he pounced on a chance to rent space sandwiched between X.O. Liquor Store and a showgirl supply shop.

“I didn’t want a bunch of lawyer neighbors,” AlDabbagh said. “People might knock on the wrong door, and you lose a client.”

Instead, AlDabbagh took advantage of the surrounding businesses.

“There are a lot of escort agencies in the same building, so my plan was to get them to look to me for legal advice,” AlDabbagh said.

Also in the complex is a specialty store that sells high heels, bikinis, and stripper gear. Having a law office next to a liquor store creates business opportunities.

“When I started, I really didn’t want to purchase ad space, so I was really just relying on walk-in clients, and this location has helped with that,” AlDabbagh said.

AlDabbagh’s firm is just off the freeway for easy access and a quick, 10-minute drive to the courthouse, where he spends much of his day.

Since opening in 2011, the law office has merged with two others — Thomas Boley in late 2011 and Richard Hawkins in 2012 — and expanded from strictly criminal defense to personal injury, bankruptcy and immigration.

Still, there are some small downsides to the firm having such nontraditional neighbors.

“There have been a couple times where potential clients didn’t want to retain us because they didn’t want to come to our location,” AlDabbagh said. “But other than that, no problems.”

Hot sauce: A strip club and a Mexican cantina

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El Dorado Cantina next to Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, 3025 Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, Las Vegas

Upscale, organic Mexican food next to the world’s largest strip club? Only in Las Vegas.

El Dorado Cantina is widely considered one of the best authentic Mexican joints in the city. It has a bright, vibrant decor, fresh at-your-table ghost chili salsa and sustainably raised meats free of antibiotics, pesticides and steroids.

Next door, neon shines, beats pump and bodies grind. Women gyrate on poles and cozy up to customers at the pool.

El Dorado shares a wall with Sapphire Gentlemen’s Club, 70,000 square feet of adult entertainment. The businesses’ front doors are side by side. Families wait for shrimp taquitos as bouncers ID groups of drunken bachelors.

“Don’t be turned off (or on) by the strip club next door,” Yelp reviewers warn online.

Both the strip club and restaurant are open 24 hours, and neither has problems filling tables.

Theirs is a relationship both companies have embraced. Sapphire even promotes El Dorado on its website.

The AstroTurf Apocalypse: A Zombie Apocalypse and artificial turf store

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Zombie Apocalypse Store with an artificial turf shop in the back, 3420 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas

Whether you’re preparing for a natural disaster, a government takeover or simply have seen too many episodes of “The Walking Dead,” the Zombie Apocalypse Store on Spring Mountain Road has everything you need.

The building looks like a military base camp. There are military vehicles parked out front, camouflaged mannequins and hazardous waste drums dripping with fake blood. Inside, smoke pours from the ceiling; it’s from a zombie incinerator where customers can burn the “undead” for $1.

The store sells zombie-themed merchandise of every kind — T-shirts, books, bumper stickers, brain saws — as well as survival equipment for serious doomsday preppers. While owner Mike Monko doesn’t have a permit to sell firearms, the shop carries an assortment of ammunition and nearly every blade imaginable, including a Freddy Krueger glove with 10-inch knives.

The shop wasn’t always for zombie enthusiasts. Four years ago, it just sold artificial turf. But business wasn’t going well, so Monko converted the store into a survival surplus shop.

“Mike opened up a survival store to help him survive the recession,” store manager Bob Gonzales said. “His son came up with the idea to call it the Zombie Apocalypse Store, then ‘The Walking Dead’ came out, and the rest is history.”

And in case customers’ apocalypse shelters need some landscaping, the shop still sells artificial turf in the back of the store, right behind a zombie photo-shoot room, near a shooting range and animatronic zombie dog that lunges from behind a blood-soaked chain-link fence.

Gonzales said about 30 percent of the store’s customers are survivalists seeking gear, while the rest visit for zombie thrills.

“Most people who come in here didn’t just stumble upon the store,” Gonzales said. “They heard about it and found us.”

On one side of the shop sits a European motor car service center and on the other, a furniture and mattress shop. Gonzales said neither neighbor had complained about the zombie store. In fact, the novelty of the shop brings traffic to the area, which helps all the businesspeople.

The neighboring businesses also appreciate the Zombie Apocalypse Store’s late hours because it keeps their storefronts lit, Gonzales said.

Plus, if the undead ever do walk the streets of Las Vegas, there’s no better location to be.

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