Joe Downtown: Businesses bringing unique items to downtown

A view looking east on East Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, July 16, 2013. STEVE MARCUS

Walking through the 200-seat Inspire Theater, expected to open by the end of the year at the corner of Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, Tony Hsieh said last week the goal of the Downtown Project, which owns the building, is to always be “first, best or unique.”

At the time, he was talking to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and referring to the talks that will premier in the theater — the aim is for them to be better than the well-known TED talks.

But in terms of uniqueness, Hsieh might just as likely have been talking about the downtown Container Park, which opened two weeks ago with a design and store selection that is very different, at least in Southern Nevada. It features a fire-shooting, metallic-green praying mantis at the gate and a barbershop in a caboose. And a dome still to be used. And a mixture of manufactured cubes and shipping containers for its structure.

And although we’re still waiting for the indoor ski hill and bar-in-an-elevator-car Hsieh mentioned a few years ago, here are a few rarities coming to East Fremont Street soon.

    • The Zyto determines what a person is deficient in nutrient-wise.

      Nutrient-detecting hand-scanner at the local juicery

      Contractors are working feverishly to complete the next venture for the Downtown Project: the renovation and repurposing of the former John E. Carson Hotel, 124 S. 6th St.

      We know a few of the stores planned to go into the place, which will include office space, retail, bars and eateries. Believe it or not, one of the most unique may be a juice bar.

      A juice bar? Those businesses every casino exec’s trophy wife in Summerlin can’t live without? Unique?

      Local vegan food chef Shane Stuart won the competition to become the “Juicer to Downtown,” I’m told, because he created the best-tasting juices. But Stuart, with Nicole Hester, is adding a piece to his business to make it more enticing to the health-minded.

      Stuart last week said his store will employ something called the Zyto, a hand scanner that purports to be able to determine what nutrients the scannee lacks. This is how Zyto’s website puts it: “Using the body’s natural energetic field, a communication link is established between the patient and the computer. … Through this connection, Zyto sends stimuli and then records the body’s response. This conversations is called biocommunication, and it provides insights into health and wellness.”

      Stuart said a customer can get a scan and, depending on the results, a drink may be created to include those things the scan says their body needs. He proposes getting that drink over a month’s time, then doing the scan again to register any changes.

      The building is tentatively scheduled for a Feb. 1 opening.

    • This is a machine that can print out your own book, with paperback cover, or any book sold by several publishers.

      Espresso Book Machine

      Have a book you’ve always wanted published?

      Inspire Theater will have one of a handful of Espresso Book Machines, which publishes a book as you wait, when it opens.

      A few more than 30 of the machines exist in the country, many of them in libraries and in bookstores. That means Las Vegas will now have something you can also find in the Harvard Book Store.

      The machines will be able to publish paperback books from publishers with which the company has partnered. Or, if you bring in a PDF file that contains your novel and cover design, it will print out your own.

    • The new racks of magazines rising from dark hardwood flooring through to the ceiling help give the feel of a large, modern bookstore to the newly renovated first floor of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Oakland branch as librarians stock the shelves on Wednesdy, Sept. 15, 2004.

      Largest private magazine newsstand in the Southwest

      Inspire Theater will also be home to what the owners believe is going to be the largest magazine newsstand in the Southwest, maybe in the country.

      Jennifer Cornthwaite, a partner with her husband, Michael Cornthwaite, who is opening the theater, said the two sent an email to several hundred people weeks ago asking for suggestions, many of which have been added to their list.

      “We started getting back publications that I’ve never even heard of before from old artist friends who don’t live here anymore,” Jennifer Cornthwaite said. “We may be not be the largest when we open, but the goal is to add to it so we are the most comprehensive in the country, aside from a library.”

      Among the hard-to-find magazines will be October, an art criticism journal, she said. Here are some others: Aperture, The Art of Eating, Atomic Ranch, McSweeney’s, Book Forum, Cherry Bombe, Lucky Peach, Gluten-Free Living, Hip Mama, Make, Modern Farmer, Urban Farm.

    • Synthetic outdoor skating rink

      An outdoor skating rink isn't unique to Las Vegas — the Venetian has a synthetic rink, too — but it is unique to downtown.

      The rink, made of a hard plastic that takes to skates like ice, is behind the Gold Spike. A massive concrete slab was poured a few weeks ago and the rink we put together last week.

      A person answering the phones at the Gold Spike said the rink is expected to open in about a week. She said it would not be free — neither is the Venetian’s — but she didn’t know offhand what it would cost to skate there.


    Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.