The recently opened Fergusons Downtown offers something in short supply in Las Vegas: authenticity. Fergusons departs from the usual over-the-top Vegas spectacles by creating a block-long space filled with locally inspired restaurants, shops and pop-up events; tiny homes and Airstream trailers for visitors to spend the night may soon be added too.
It's a community place on Fremont Street between 11th and 12th streets where you can meet locals and makers at their (sometimes quirky) small businesses inside a refurbished old motel. And it's a respite from the casinos. There's no gambling here, unless you count the business owners taking a chance on their ideas.
You can't miss the giant sculpture "Big Rig Jig" by Mike Ross, in the center's courtyard. It's reason enough to visit. The 2007 work made from two discarded tanker trucks, which interlock and seem to dance in the air, stands about four stories high.
Ready to meet the locals?
Mike's Recovery, which sounds like a place to dry out, is a shop that carries a well-known local brand of mineral soaks and essential oils geared toward athletes and men, an often overlooked segment in the bath and body retail world.
You can meet founder and massage therapist Mike Buckham, who equates bathing with high-level meditation, at the shop and watch him make some of his restorative products.
Or you might wander into the Noise Project, a hair salon with a non-judgy vibe. Stylist Amber Harlan is up front about her bipolar disorder diagnosis and creates an all-inclusive space where anyone can receive support and be exactly who they are - and get a great hairdo too.
Neon Cactus, described as a "body positive vintage shop," carries used clothing as well as handmade jewelry, patches and other fun fashion items. The Illumine Social Club specializes in all things bathed in light, like taking a picture of your aura and telling you what it might mean, kind of like an image as a mood ring. Or you can get an old-fashioned tintype photograph made at Myron Hensel's studio.
For absolutely original Vegas items, All for Our Country (the state's motto) features furniture, lamps and home goods as well as jewelry items in the shape of Nevada.
Food options include seafood ceviches, handmade tortillas and agave-based spirits at La Monja; a Japanese-style restaurant and bar called Hatsumi with seafood selections as well as cocktails and sake; and Mothership Coffee Roasters, a coffeeshop where you can get everything from vegan cinnamon rolls to charcuterie and sandwiches.
Fergusons started life in the 1940s as the Franklin Motel. Its name changed to Fergusons Motel in the 1960s, after the family that bought it. For the last three years, Jen Taler and Tony Hsieh have worked to re-imagine the space as a place for hand-picked community artists and businesses, much the same way their monthly Market in the Alley pop-up has been doing across the street. (In fact, several of Fergusons' tenants took their first tentative steps into bricks-and-mortar retail there.)
Soon, tiny homes and an Airstream or two may be added for tourists who want to be immersed in the local Las Vegas instead of the Strip.
Info: Fergusons Downtown is at 1028 Fremont St. in Las Vegas. It's open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
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