DTLV’s Thriving Retail Scene

Parking issue aside, local shop owners are gaining a following.

Container Park | Photo by Cierra Pedro

Container Park | Photo by Cierra Pedro

When you think Downtown shopping, you might think of Container Park, Downtown Project’s whimsical, all-metal mall. Maybe you even think of the Writer’s Block bookshop, the small boutiques and galleries in Emergency Arts or the vintage shops on Main Street, which offer everything from mid-century modern furnishings to retro clothing and accessories. But it seems more likely that when you think of Downtown shopping, you think of paid parking, sketchy environs and hipsters with twee, droopy mustaches.

At ground level, it’s fallen largely to the shop owners themselves to combat these wrongheaded notions. But they’re doing it.

“People are complaining less and less about Downtown itself these days,” says Scott Seeley, co-proprietor of the Writer’s Block. “Last night a guy came in and said, ‘It used to be horrible down here, but now it’s so nice.’ Apparently, there are still people in certain suburbs that still haven’t made the trek Downtown.”

“Our tourist business is significant, because we made a decision to focus our marketing on overseas tourists, through Google AdWords and the like,” says 11th Street Records proprietor Ronald Corso. “It’s the people who live at Charleston and Durango who don’t want to come down here and pay $5 to park.”

The perception problem will eventually be solved through word of mouth. The more people who come Downtown and see what a tamed kitten it’s become, the more likely it is they’ll return with friends. And Container Park is making huge strides in that direction; by day, it’s positively overrun with families shopping its boutiques, enjoying its epic playground and dining alfresco at its restaurants.

It can be easily argued that these Container Park visitors had to park somewhere—more than likely in a paid spot. But one can’t help but wonder how many more locals might visit Container Park if all the parking surrounding it were free, at least during the day.

“I understand not wanting to leave revenue on the table, but whoever set this up got too excited and jumped the gun,” Corso says. “We’re trying to transform this area into a vibrant city center, and those come with pay parking; I get that. But I think we needed to wait until it actually became a vibrant city center to institute metered parking. It’s too soon.”

Las Vegas Parking Services Manager Brandy Stanley says there are no plans at present to lower daytime fees, but the City is receptive to the needs of the affected businesses and is actively trying to find ways to address them.

“If you park and pay a meter near the Container Park, you can get some cool discounts for the merchants inside,” Stanley says. “The meters print out coupons which you can take and redeem.”

And Downtown Project is stepping up as well: It’s providing free parking in the Llama Lot on Small Business Saturday, November 28. (Visit DowntownProject.com/Free-Parking to print out a necessary parking voucher.) Their other Small Business Saturday deals include a $20 Uber ride credit, discounts at Downtown shops both inside and outside of Container Park (11th Street Records, Hydrant Club and the Writer’s Block are included), and even a food tour. A full list of DTP’s offerings can be found at DowntownProject.com/ShopSmallDTLV.

That only addresses one day of the year for Fremont Street’s retailers (albeit a big, busy day). There are 364 more days that require attention from the City and more finessing from DTP. But Seeley, who notes that the Writer’s Block will be exactly 1 year old on Small Business Saturday, is confident the kinks can be worked out.

“Sales are on track,” Seeley says. “If you were to look at my original business plan, you’d see that we’re almost exactly where I thought we’d be at this point.” He pauses, and adds, “Though it would be nice to be ahead.” Luckily for Downtown businesses, this is a season of giving.