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Feb 14 2016

Pawn Shop Plaza BBQ and PizzaPosted By Thomas Chee - 02/14/16

Years ago, hot dogs stands fought over the parking lot belonging to the Pawn Stars on the History Channel at 713 Las Vegas Boulevard and Gass Avenue. Today I discovered a whole new feature after visiting the law offices a block away on Seventh Avenue. Rick Harrison erected a shopping mall with food shops that elaborate on the significant financial growth of the neighborhood known as Naked City. The reality TV show became so popular during the Recession that family members from Michigan would drive into town to get out of the snow in winter. They packed their vans and RVs in October. Shut off the gas, water, electricity as the leaves changed color. As soon as November 1st rolled around, the Great Lakes travelers left town in caravans crossing the Rocky Mountains by heading west to the sunny, hot weather of Las Vegas. Newly arrived in Las Vegas, I would ask, “Where do you want to go? Hoover Dam? Grand Canyon? Bugsy Siegel’s Flamingo Casino? Hollywood is four hours south!” The only thing my aunts and uncles wanted to see was the pawn shop on the History Channel. I did what they asked, but I was baffled. Working 16 hour days, I rarely went to that side of town unless it was a function at City Hall. Most of the lawyers sets up their legal practices in classic, vintage houses along the Avenues spreading out from the Pawn Stars pawn shop. My friends in the area complained when I asked about the attraction, “The tourists from the pawn shop are always coming into our place to use the bathroom. They don’t have a bathroom over there.” Long lines would form in 110 degree heat. The store managers continued to complained, “I might as well put a sign above the bathroom toilet saying, “Chumlee shits here! The tourists ask us, “Where does Chumlee go out? What nightclub is his favorite?” I want to ask them, “Are you going to buy anything?” A small shack of a pizza place opened up across the street with yellow painted walls. Tour buses parked next to a kiosk selling tours of Las Vegas. Soon a candy shop with sweets, sours, and taffy opened up. There is a peep show in an abandoned gas station with paintings of the Beatles: Ringo, Paul, John and George. Colorfully painted buildings offered tattoos at a body shop. Hot dog stands erected tents in the parking lot because the tourists stood in line starving with nothing to eat. Rumor was that the hot dog stands were the highest volume money maker along Fremont Street from Fremont Street to Charleston Avenue. With nothing more than a tent combined with a kitchen consisting of a steamer with an ice box filled with cold sodas, the cashiers selling potato chip bags with sausages kept running out of change. There were no banks close to the concession stands.



This morning, I began my day meeting with our top attorney on the corner two blocks away on Eighth Avenue. As I wrestled my car for parking, I saw the colorful restaurant signs beaming blue, red, lime green. BBQ! Pizza! Donuts! As soon as I left the attorney’s office, I drove over to see the fantastic sight for myself. Rick Harrison built a complex so significant that parking attendance had to be hired to help taxis jockey their way around the visitors. The parking lot attendant insisted, “Go inside the donut shop! Buy a donut with coffee and get a free souvenir from the Pawn Shop.” A dozen tourists listening all followed me as I marched to check out the donuts: Panda bear shaped donuts designed with Oreo cookies; heart shaped, pink donuts to celebrate Valentine’s Day one week away Sunday, Super Bowl shaped donuts in the form of footballs. This Sunday, January 7, Las Vegas celebrates Super Bowl 50. The following Sunday, January 14, Las Vegas celebrates Valentine’s Day Weekend with an extended President Day holiday. Bookies are flying into town to make wagers with currency from around the world: Rubles, yuan, Euros. The game is between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Many travelers from Denver, Colorado are in town now to escape the snow. Rick’s mall has BBQ restaurants with giant monitors for watching the game with Canadian French fries called Poutine covered with cheesy sauces, beef gravy, Blue Cheese, chili, spicy mustards, even scrambled eggs with red pepper Tabasco sauce. Buyers pick their favorite toppings and take over the fresh, fried chips. Custard better than ice cream is sold for dessert in the shop next door: Mango, cookie, fudge, caramel. The ice cream cones are homemade. Rick named a BBQ restaurant after himself, Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ that serves smoked ribs with all you can eat specials during football games like Super Bowl. Pizza by the pie or pizza by the slice, Rick’s pizza shop delivers classic New York styled pizza throughout the area with free, handcrafted cannolis with an 18 inch pizza. Las Vegas is growing thanks to the creative spirit of crews at the pawn shop known as Gold and Silver. Locals suffered with low unemployment during the depressing Recession. Buildings around the pawn shop were abandoned because no business could afford to rent them during hard economic times. Now the Old Man and his crew: Richard Harrison, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison and Austin Russell nicknamed Chumlee are resurrecting the town right down the street from City Hall. While covering town, I heard rumors that Rick Harrison was invest in struggling businesses – Trying to keep the neighborhoods alive by donating, if not buying, businesses that needed help until the nation recovered. As long as the United States was financial weak, Las Vegas businesses would suffer, because tourists from the Plains to the Florida coast couldn’t afford to travel to the Entertainment Capital if the families with struggling with their own mortgages to pay for their underwater properties. Children had to be taken out of school to work. Parents divorces, because the number one cause for divorce is financial stability. The Pawn Stars obviously put their money to work by investing in Las Vegas, especially the old neighborhood that needed a helping hand. There is no better neighbor than the TV stars that turned their magic touch for merchandise into a way to hire employees, start tasty restaurants, add flavor with painted colored buildings to an area that before looked like a Wasteland from a bad T.S. Eliot poem. Remember to take your family to the Pawn Plaza this weekend. Remember to drive your visitors to Vegas. If you are far away, buy Rick’s trinkets online via his website, EBay, or take a guided VIP tour that includes the cast of reality TV shows: American Restoration, Tanked and Counting Cars. By supporting Rick, you will be helping Las Vegas recover from the Great Recession that crippled starting back in 2007. 

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