Sabotaging Sin City’s Return


Miracle Mile Shops and Stations Casinos deliver crushing blows to the local economy amidst relaunch efforts…

Update 7/14/20 – I’ve been told by someone I trust that a major show on the Strip has pulled out all of their equipment, sets and props from the theater due to a dispute with Miracle Mile Shops landlords. They are demanding full rent incurred during the shutdown. I have been unable to confirm this with other sources, but it’s in line with the documents I’ve seen that were provided by a retailer within the mall.

Our entire nation continues to endure a seemingly endless pandemic lockdown. Weeks have turned into months, and quarantine extensions get added as our bank accounts dwindle. The world will be a very different place when all of this has passed. Only the strong, smart, and very lucky may come out of it relatively unscathed.

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The economy of Las Vegas seems to be most in jeopardy of total collapse. No other city depends so greatly on a daily influx of tourists. Our locals form a giant hospitality team, ready to host, serve, and entertain the world. If and how that will happen again has become an aggressively-debated subject, as a cringe-inducing exchange between Anderson Cooper and Mayor Carolyn Goodman recently demonstrated. So while casino execs and politicians huddle over their laptops, hashing out plans through virtual meeting apps, it’s the “little guys” who are about to suffer the most.

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This week, a series of letters was sent out to business owners and employees that will put thousands of Vegas residents permanently out of work. Those dedicated staffers and smaller-scale entrepreneurs are being erased from the chalkboard with the flick of a wrist. It’s a crushing blow delivered at time when people couldn’t possibly be more vulnerable, an ugly tactic we should remember with our wallets long after the doors to Las Vegas have been unlocked.

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Letter number one comes from Robert Buchanan, Vice President/General Manager of Miracle Mile Shops. Sent to tenants of the busy Planet Hollywood-based mall, the letter requires an agreement to pay the full amount of rent accrued during shutdown. Business owners must sign off on this legal agreement prior to reopening, despite the fact that their businesses have been unable to generate a single dollar of income since mid-March.

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The multi-page document, of which I have a copy, offers the option to defer payment of rent and spread it out over twelve months (without interest or penalties). Failure to pay the rent would result in a monetary default of lease terms. Recipients have been instructed to keep the terms confidential and not to discuss the matter with other occupants of the mall or any third parties (oops…too late).

While an interest-free rent deferral might sound generous on paper, the amounts in question can literally be hundreds of thousands of dollars per tenant. These are staggering sums that will more than likely cripple and/or close a significant percentage of Miracle Mile‘s shops and restaurants.

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The tenant that contacted me about this situation explained that rental rates are based on a monthly average of the mall’s total annual foot traffic. Nevertheless, no adjustments have been made to reflect a period of ZERO customers. No pro-rating, no discounts, no rent forgiveness, no exceptions. The store owner, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that his business was already struggling to break a profit.

Hard to share too much without giving away _____ (name of business) but I’d been trying to talk to them since this (the pandemic) started. No response, vague replies to emails. I kept asking a week leading into it. No guidance, no direction.

Finally we were given 24 hours to vacate. To get access we now have to schedule a meeting with a Miracle Mile security guy to walk us there. Total lockdown. They still want full rent. So ironic.

At Miracle Mile Shops, as in many other malls, a tenant’s rent is only one part of their financial responsibilities. They also have to pay their share of marketing, insurance, trash, water, security, facilities maintenance, and much more.

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In other cities, landlords have taken pro-active steps to offer assistance. They are so concerned about losing valued tenants that they’re asking what can be done to assure that shops will reopen. But in corporate-run Vegas, nothing matters except for pleasing the stockholders.

How is this legal? It’s insane! It will take Vegas at least a year to recover from this so how can the landlord do this to its tenants? Multiple tenantss are grouping together and with one voice seeking legal assistance to fight this greed.

It just simply breaks your gears when you’ve worked so hard for something and been paying big dollars to this landlord for them to rip out our hearts during a crisis like this.

I’ve already mentioned Mayor Goodman, whose “Open up Vegas and see what happens” stance has garnered an enormous amount of ridicule. At the opposite end is Governor Steve Sisolak, who put the statewide shutdown in place. Sisolak supports a slow and organized approach to restoring our daily lives, which has received its own share of protests and demonstrations.

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I’m not interested in delving into political arguments here, as I see logic in both approaches. The reason I bring it up is to emphasize that everyone has a stake in the decisions. Nobody has a perfect list of answers, so we wait, sacrifice, obey the rules (or protest) and watch those bank accounts dwindle down to nothing.

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In the meantime, everyone seems to be asking the same question: when will MGM Resorts open? The same with Caesars Entertainment properties and Sands Corp. (Venetian/Palazzo). And while we focused our gaze on the big three, a lesser-known chain called Station Casinos swooped in and drove a dagger through the hearts of thousands of its own employees.

Vegas-based Station, which operates ten local establishments including Sante Fe Station and Palace Station, has gotten pretty powerful in recent years. Bolstered by the success of Red Rock Hotel and Green Valley Ranch, Station plunked down a cool billion to buy and renovate the once-popular Palms Casino Resort. An undeniable failure, the “new” Palms bled massive amounts of money, mostly through the catastrophic disaster known as KAOS Nightclub.

Station Casinos rested their billion-dollar Palms investment on the shoulders of a vulgar rapper-felon…and a grown man dressed as a marshmallow…

On May 1st, Station Casinos sent out letters to full-time Palms employees, announcing their terminations…effective 5/16/20. Similar letters were mailed to employees of Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station, both operated by Station Casinos. What makes this letter particularly ruthless is that they’re referring to the shuttering of the three hotels as a “temporary closure”, which in actuality took place two months ago. What this means is that when Palms, Fiesta Henderson and Texas Station reopen (if ever), they will be treated as new entities.

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              Palms Casino is the latest tombstone monument dedicated to overreaching ambition…

In the meantime, Station is off the hook for protecting their own employees. The company will grant certain benefits through September, then the labor force is on its own. The letter also stated that their will be “no bumping rights”, meaning that terminated individuals would have to reapply for their previous jobs, forfeiting any earned seniority if they return. This also means zero opportunities to transfer to other Station locations to maintain that seniority.

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           Photo: Sky News

Some people out there may be inclined to say “Corporations have to do whatever is necessary in order to survive”. But what about right now? Unleashing a bloodbath in the current economy is simply catastrophic. I’d rather see a company dig in for the moment and take its chances later. Much later.

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So what is a struggling employee or business person to do in the current climate? We certainly can’t rely on the government to help. Very few people have had success in collecting unemployment benefits, judging by the daily posts I read on social media. Sadly, numerous businesses have announced that they won’t be coming back, either. Friends of mine from every walk of life are considering moving away and some have already begun the process.

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Performer Andrew Hill, who entertains audiences at Station Casinos, shared these hard words regarding the closure of Fiesta Henderson on Facebook:

Well looks like our contract at the Fiesta is done and dusted ! Yep, for all the clueless fools sprouting Vegas is gonna bounce back!! ….Can you all Please stfu!

If anyone quotes the most idiotic destructive statement of “Vegas always reinvents itself” or “ we’ll be bouncing back in no time” …. can you please punch them very hard in the face!

When ever the wonderful PR word “ reinvent” is used …. it is code for cost cutting, slashing entertainment and figuring out how to screw people to make more money…

For those who stick it out and hope for a successful recovery, things look bleaker every day. Think back to the long-term effects that 9/11 had on the airline industry. In order to offset dwindling profits, nearly all airlines began charging mandatory fees for checked suitcases and eventually, carry-on bags. Yet once air travel rebounded, those fees remained. They now generate more profit than actual ticket sales.

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As you read this, Las Vegas is virtually a ghost town. Every action taken by those in power during the days ahead will undoubtedly become a new standard. If the events of this week are any indication, the citizens of this city are in for for years of serious trouble.

Many of us have been hoping that Vegas will use the shutdown as an opportunity to undo damaging decisions of the past decade. Former Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst is among them. We’ve urged the Big Three to toss out resort fees, eliminate paid parking, send “celebrity chefs” packing, dump those $20 cocktails down the drain and make Las Vegas appealing to the masses once more.

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Las Vegas may be your playground. But it’s also our home. The future of this city depends on it being recognized as a community of flesh-and-blood people. But nobody seems to be listening.

Banner Photo: Palms Casino via Facebook


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Click here for the article’s companion piece “Vegas Goes Dark – The Beginning of the End…or a new Beginning?”

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Click here for my related article “Is Sin City Determined to Drive You Away?”

 

 

 

Dave Mancuso and the Art of the Perfect Shave


A Master Barber guides us through a classy and classic experience for men…

You may have noticed that this writer has been on a journey of self-improvement…and I’ve taken you along on the adventure. Together we’ve experienced a men’s spa day at Westgate Serenity Spa. Then we shot over to Cosmopolitan for a visit to STITCHED Haberdashery, followed by a series of sessions at Therma Slim Med-Spa. It was only a matter of time before our next must-do experience would be an expert straight-razor shave.

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There’s no question that when you look your best, you feel great too. And it doesn’t matter what brought you to Las Vegas. Even if you’re here just to sight-see or to attend a special event, those photos and memories are going to last a lifetime. Why not indulge in something that will relax, pamper and improve your looks all at the same time? You’ll get all that and more when you schedule a Premium Shave Experience at The Art of Shaving,

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The Art of Shaving at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place is much more than the usual retail outlets you’ve seen. It’s one of about fifty locations that also features a full-service Barber Spa. The AOS Barber Spas offer precision haircuts, beard trims, scalp treatments, express facials and Premium Packages. But as the name would suggest, The Art of Shaving Barber Spa is home to the world’s best straight-razor shave.

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Dave Mancuso has been with The Art of Shaving since coming to Las Vegas eleven years ago. His first nine years were spent at The Palazzo before transferring to Mandalay Place. It’s at their Barber Spas that Mr. Mancuso can fully utilize the skills he’s developed through thirty-nine years as a Master Barber.

The expertise and elevated level of service from a licensed Master Barber gives this Youngstown, Ohio native a distinct edge over traditional barbers. Dave keeps his license and craft up to date by attending regular Continuing Education courses. The fact that Dave’s also a licensed Cosmetologist ensures that your face and skin will be in the best possible care.

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A visit to The Art of Shaving is often a rite of passage. Men bring their sons here for their first professional shave. It’s also a popular must-do for Vegas visitors when arriving in the city. Just like ladies look forward to the many Vegas spas, men often make it their tradition to receive a straight razor shave when they come to town. And of course, many locals make this part of their regular grooming regimen. “We love our locals” says Dave.

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Walk-in visits are usually available, but it’s easy to schedule an appointment. The meticulously-presented retail area leads to a welcoming counter where you’ll be escorted to the Barber Spa. That short walk from the entrance will take you back decades in time, when the Barber Shop was a masculine cultural experience. The spinning barber poles and classic leather chairs set a wonderful mood for what’s to follow.

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Dave guided me through the entire process beforehand, describing every step in their famous Premium Shave. First comes the cleansing process, followed by hot moist towels to soften the beard and open pores. They’re infused with fragrant essential oils…and incredibly relaxing.

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It was at this part of the process that I started to go into a zone of deep relation. “Many of our guests fall asleep ” Dave told me. “Don’t fight it. I’ll wake you up in forty-five minutes or so” he joked. Fair enough….so I’ll let Dave take it from here in his own words.

I start with a warm steam towel, apply Peppermint Face Wash and cleanse the face using the Art of Shaving Power Brush. Next Peppermint Face Exfoliant is applied, massaged into the skin and removed. Pre-shave oil is applied and then a warm lather on top of the oil.

The Royal Shave is performed using a straight razor with a disposable blade (which is required by law so there is never any cross-contamination). I shave with the grain in which the hair grows, re-lather and shave against the grain. Another warm towel is applied to open the pores.

Rosewater Eye Pads are placed on the eyes and a Rose Clay Mask is applied to soothe and moisturize the skin. The mask is removed and then I give a face and neck massage using AOS After-shave Balm. I mist the face with rosewater and finish with a cold towel to close the pores…and more often than not to wake the guest up.

 

After that refreshing towel brought me back to my senses, it was time absorb the experience…and enjoy the feel and appearance of my smooth, immaculate face. Dave then took me into the retail and demonstrated some of the products that have made The Art of Shaving such a gold standard for men’s grooming.

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The New York City-based company was formed in 1996 by husband and wife Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui. The two combined their skills to create the ultimate shaving products from natural and aromatic ingredients like those found in the kitchen. They published a book about their research, discoveries and a valuable guide to the ultimate shave in 2002. The company was acquired by Proctor and Gamble in 2009, so now the stores also feature Gillette razors and blades.

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While their high-end product line has been expanded to include all manners of body wash, beard care, grooming and fragrances, the core of their business is what they call 4 Elements of a Perfect Shave. These basics start with their pre-shave oil, a highly concentrated shave cream, a natural-bristle shaving brush and an after-shave balm. I picked up the 4 Elements set and was eager to try them in my own shower.

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“You only need to use a very small amount of our items to get the best results” Dave cautioned me. “One jar of our shave cream, for instance, will last for over eight months. In the rare event that someone is unhappy, it’s more than likely because they’re using too much. Once they use less, they’ll fall in love”.

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I left The Art of Shaving feeling like a million dollars and ready to enjoy a Saturday night on the town. Dave’s departing words were echoed a few days later after I’d given my Art of Shaving products a whirl at home. I wrote to express my appreciation…and my pleasure with the 4 Elements Gift Set. “I love my face again!”, I told him.

Mancuso’s response was priceless: “That is almost always the reaction we hear once someone plays with our products themselves. It will even get better with continued use. ENJOY!!!”

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The Art of Shaving/Barber Spa of Mandalay Bay is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm. It is located at Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Call 702-632-9356 to make an appointment with Dave Mancuso. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel Like a Kingsman at STITCHED


Cosmopolitan’s haberdashery is the ultimate clothier for men of distinction…

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In the 2014 box-office smash KINGSMAN: The Secret Service, master spy Colin Firth passes on some valuable wisdom to young Taron Egerton. “The first thing every gentleman needs is a good suit. Manners maketh man” he tells his protege from their base of covert operations…one that happens to be disguised as a shop for bespoke tailoring.

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You may not find a lair for international intrigue hidden inside Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino. But you will encounter the most stunning and exquisite men’s boutique in all of Las Vegas. Located on the second level, just a whisper away from gorgeous Chandelier Bar, STITCHED Lifestyle Men’s Clothier and Boutique is your gateway to an incredible world of sophisticated possibilities.

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I was first introduced to STITCHED through Mr. Gordon Prouty, Director of Publicity and Public Relations at Westgate Las Vegas Resort. This absurdly handsome gentleman is well-known throughout the city via his position at Greenspun Media Group…and his ongoing involvement with many local organizations.

No matter where I’ve seen him, Mr. Prouty is always impeccably dressed…so much so that I couldn’t help but ask about his dazzling and unique wardrobe. “STITCHED at Cosmopolitan” was the answer. “I’ll take you there some day if you’d like. It could make for an interesting article”. (let’s hope he was right)…

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Gordon Prouty (left) brings his winning STITCHED lifestyle to an outdoor event…

True to his word, this dapper gent arranged for me to meet Ricci Lopez-Hammargren. Mr. Lopez is General Manager and Vice President of Sales at STITCHED. This native of Las Vegas is also an accomplished journalist, voice actor and the newest board member of the Las Vegas Fashion Council.

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When I arrived at the haberdashery, Lopez was finishing up with one of his VIP clients. As I looked around the establishment, the flamenco guitar of QUEEN’s “Innuendo” strummed overhead, creating a marvelous mood for what was to come.

Soon I was receiving a wondrous tour while Gordon tried on some new arrivals. “Shall we begin outside?” Ricci suggested, eager to describe the care that went into creating the STITCHED frontage. Rich woods, tufted wall panels and sconces will undoubtedly grab your attention as you stroll through the resort. Don’t be surprised if your eyes drift upward to the distinctive red-leather lettering that spells out the shop’s name.

Below that, a magnificent door with custom-made hardware beckons you inside. “It looks a bit like a dungeon” Lopez laughed, pointing to the huge slab of dark wood. “And a little like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia” I added in my mind. For once you pass through that doorway, you leave Sin City behind and enter a time when elegance and frivolity strolled hand-in-hand.

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The main area of STITCHED is a dazzling festival of gorgeous shirts, colorful jackets, daring neckties and classy accessories. World-class brands like Tom Ford and Scabal are displayed alongside their own signature XXXX line on racks of re-purposed metal. Those unique displays come from the biking world of Roland Sands Design. Mr. Lopez told me that in the early days of the haberdashery (it opened with the Cosmopolitan in 2010) they actually had a Roland Sands motorcycle on display…along with a Vespa or two.

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While the main selling floor of STITCHED evokes at atmosphere of sophistication, the details lend themselves to moments of the more outrageous variety. Adorning the walls are pieces of taxidermy (not my thing to be sure), photos of well-outfitted celebrities…and shelves of colorful sneakers. High-end sunglasses, luggage, hats, pocket squares and belts are lovingly displayed in glass cases and on stands next to tastefully-weathered tables and cabinets.

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“This space is much more than just a store” Ricci proudly stated, his voice as elegant as our surroundings. “We’ve held parties, art showings, celebrity meet-and-greets, fundraisers….even weddings. I’m very happy that people choose our store to host their events. It’s an honor”.

As we headed towards the back section, I informed Ricci that I’d taken some photos upon my arrival. “Would you mind if I had a chance to straighten things up first instead? I’m a bit of a perfectionist”. Naturally I agreed, but later decided to mostly use existing photos from their Official Facebook page. After all, why attempt to duplicate what’s already been done flawlessly?

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                 Men of all shapes and sizes can benefit from a custom fitting…

To our left was where the STITCHED experience really begins…the measuring room. “Notice the platform where the gentleman stands for his fitting. It’s covered with red carpeting. Being fitted for a suit should make someone feel like a star”. And indeed the atmosphere appears stellar…standing in front of a three-sided mirror as dozens of measurements are recorded.

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Customers can choose clothing from in-stock selections and have them tailored for a perfect fit. Or for the ultimate STITCHED experience, you can have a one-of-a-kind outfit completely designed for you. Ricci and Sam Glaser (Vice President of Purchasing and Operations) have everything necessary to create a suit down to the finest detail.

There are limitless combinations to create your own design. Endless selections of fabrics, buttons, stitching and linings can be ordered from stacks of books if their huge existing selection doesn’t quite make the cut. You can pick your style, cut, lapel width, etc. or have one of the team….even Ricci himself…create one that reflects your style and personality.

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Ricci showed me a stunning jacket that had just been completed for a valued regular customer. The lining displayed a series of personal photographs that belong to the new owner. The final touch was a pocket square depicting the customer’s beloved grandmother. It was a surprise gift on behalf of STITCHED.

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Beyond that area, bathed in natural light courtesy of an enormous wall of glass, the “Santa’s factory” of STITCHED is open and inviting. An actual functioning work space, it’s home to the tailors and their craft. All of the cutting, sewing, embroidery and more occur here. “Other tailors hide this area away. It’s typically just four white walls where unseen craftsmen do their work. To us it’s the heart of our operations, and we like for it to be seen”.

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Along with their usual services, the team at STITCHED are pleased to act as concierges for customers. They’ll gladly arrange for transportation, entertainment…and perhaps even a bottle of their favorite spirits. Many other clothiers have their tailoring done at the Cosmo location. It’s a true reflection of the reputation they’ve built through an epic eight years in operation.

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“We have people fly in into Las Vegas just to come to STITCHED. They arrive at our store, spend a few hours here, then return. They can relax in our lounge, have a cocktail from their own private locker and enjoy the company of friends and other guests”.

Wait, what? A lounge with personal storage areas? As amazing as that sounds, it’s the absolute truth. Our next stop was indeed a lounge that has become the stuff of legend. Offering a fantastic view of the Strip, this man-cave is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The characters of KINGSMAN would feel right at home in this hidden retreat.

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Never before has this writer felt so at home in a place that was completely out of his realm. The STITCHED lounge is indeed the ultimate hangout for athletes, musicians, celebrities and top-tier movers and shakers.

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Across the back wall, dozens of locked cubicles (72 to be exact) display the names of their “owners” while inside, personal collections of spirits and libations await the next visit. Sitting in an enormous tufted-leather sofa, I was almost tempted to reach for a cigar…and I’ve never even smoked one.

“There’s a bit of a waiting list to get one of these” Ricci explained before zipping off to address an urgent matter. While sipping some fine whiskey with Mr. Prouty,  I chatted with Glaser and JJ McKay, a Seattle entrepreneur and creator of lifestyle website The Fresh Toast.

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It was easy to envision that plenty of business deals, influential decisions and memorable moments have taken place in this rather secretive location. From a retailer’s dollars-and-cents perspective, this space could be considered as wasted. But STITCHED is much more than just a retail outlet…it’s a lifestyle. An attitude. An experience to be desired.

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The Vegas flagship STITCHED has become so renowned that Mr. Lopez and his skills are now in demand in other cities. Ricci recently returned from Houston where he was flown in to do custom suits for the Astros team. Two additional STITCHED locations now provide dazzling clothing and accessories for the men of Washington D.C. and Miami.

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The greatest plaudits for STITCHED come from fashion-forward athlete Bryce Harper. He may not have started as an official spokesman, but that didn’t stop him from praising the wonders of his favorite clothier to his legion of fans. Bryce even got married in a tuxedo created by STITCHED for his nuptials.

Back here in Las Vegas, names like the GOLDEN KNIGHTS and Jaymes Vaughan (Celebrity Page TV, The Talk, Chippendales) have permanently-engraved plates identifying their own stored collections. Vaughan frequently shares his @StitchedLife fascination on Instagram. And you’ll see Ricci and team’s creations adorning hot local celebs like Micah Manalo (KTNV-TV), Matt Goss and Ricardo Laguna.

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It would be understandable to feel humbled in the company of such elite clientele. Ricci assures us that everyone is worthy of a quality suit…and he couldn’t be more proud to provide great clothing for the guys of Sin City. “A gentleman always dresses for the occasion” he says. “Strive for excellence and make your work worthy of being in front of a camera”.

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With the holidays and a new year nearly upon us, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to impress…and create memorable photographs. You owe it to yourself to step onto that red-carpeted riser. Enjoy one of the finest things that Las Vegas has to offer and indulge in some custom-tailored clothing from STITCHED. I know I will….see you there!

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STITCHED is located inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel Casino. Hours are from 10 am through 11 pm daily. Call 702-698-7630 for more information. To schedule a personalized fitting, click here.

Photos: STITCHED, Sam Novak, Ricci Lopez/Jaymes Vaughan/Ricardo Laguna/Micah Manalo/Bryce Harper/Gordon Prouty via public social media

 

 

 

Going “Down South” on the Vegas Strip


My latest article spotlights the far southern end of the Las Vegas Strip…

Continuing with my series of freelance articles published via BestOfVegas.com, here’s an exploration into the far reaches of Las Vegas Boulevard….once you venture past the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” landmark sign.

It’s a trip worth taking.

www.bestofvegas.com/articles/down-south-vegas-strip/