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New Vickie’s Diner property owner outlines plans

Updated October 10, 2020 - 8:29 am

With trash and graffiti outside, and plywood covering the doors and windows, the former Vickie’s Diner and White Cross Market building is in rough shape.

“PRAY THAT I DIE,” a handwritten cardboard sign, seen at the property recently, declared.

But the vacant 1950s-era building between the Strip and downtown has now changed hands, and the new owner says he plans to give it a makeover, build additional space and make it “a hub for restaurants.”

Los Angeles investor Jonathan Kermani, who owns real estate in Las Vegas’ Arts District and elsewhere in the valley, bought the building at 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. South, at Oakey Boulevard, for almost $4.3 million, property records show.

The sale closed Sept. 17.

Like other older properties in the valley, Kermani’s building, the former longtime home of White Cross Drugs, supposedly drew some very Vegas celebrities over the decades. According to reports, its customers included the Rat Pack, Liberace and Elvis Presley.

And, like other decades-old real estate in Las Vegas, it’s now blighted, empty and a spot for the homeless.

Kermani told me this week that the structure has a “beautiful bow truss roof” and that he will “try to keep as much of the existing building as possible.”

He also plans to renovate the exterior, ensuring it does not have the look of a “rundown shopping center,” he added.

Kermani said that the building spans 30,000 square feet and that he intends to add 20,000 square feet to the site. He plans to start construction and renovation work within six months and hopes to open by the end of 2021.

“It’s going to be something the city is very proud of,” he said.

The building has a long history. White Cross Drugs opened there in 1955 during Las Vegas’ Mafia days. Its product line, as seen in a 1964 ad in the Review-Journal, included a weight-loss candy called Ayds.

“Pounds off the easy way with Ayds,” the advertisement said for the now-unfortunately named product.

The drugstore closed in 2012 after decades in business. White Cross Market debuted in the building in 2013, offering craft beer and giving downtown-area residents a rare neighborhood grocery store with fresh produce.

But sales were low, the Review-Journal reported, and the market closed a few years after it opened.

The building also featured a series of popular eateries, including, most recently, Vickie’s Diner, which served chicken-fried steak, burgers, liver and onions, and more.

Vickie’s closed in mid-August, a month before Kermani took ownership of the building. It plans to move to Commercial Center on Sahara Avenue just east of the Strip, Review-Journal food writer Heidi Knapp Rinella reported Friday.

We’ll find out soon enough whether its former home gets a revival, as other downtown-area properties have seen in recent years — or, like other aging Las Vegas buildings, it’s empty and boarded up for who-knows-how-long.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.