Downtown residents won't have far to walk or drive for milk and eggs when White Cross Market opens this summer.
Local businessman Jimmy Shoshani is making plans to take over the space vacated by White Cross Drugs at the corner of Las Vegas and Oakey boulevards and make the former drugstore a small grocery store.
Shoshani also owns the nearby Bells Market, a convenience store he purchased two years ago and slowly rehabilitated.
But make no mistake: White Cross Market will not be another convenience store. Shoshani is still working out the details with his business partners, Rimon Hirmiz and brother Naseem Shoshani, but the trio plans to offer fresh produce, packaged meats, frozen foods and a deli with cold cuts and a variety of cheeses. And don't forget the alcohol. This is, after all, Las Vegas.
"It's something that's really needed (downtown)," Shoshani said. "We think it'll benefit the neighborhood and it'll be profitable. With the downtown redevelopment going on, we want to be part of it."
There are a few grocery stores on the periphery of downtown, including two Smith's stores and an Albertsons. There's also a small Resnicks market on the ground floor of Soho Lofts in the heart of downtown.
But both critics and proponents of downtown say the area won't become a real neighborhood without a full-size grocery store. White Cross Market may not be the Trader Joe's many would like, but it will fill a gap in downtown food offerings, particularly for those with limited transportation.
"I think (the market) will have a huge impact - the question is if it's done properly or not," said "Downtown" Steve Franklin, a downtown resident and real estate broker.
Competitive pricing and a clean, bright atmosphere are key, Franklin said.
Chains like Trader Joe's have looked at downtown before, but "the age demos aren't there, the income demos aren't there,'' he said. "The numbers don't support their business model."
Large retailers will be watching to see how successful an independent grocer can be downtown.
"Sometimes, it takes some pioneering spirit to turn some heads and change some attitudes," Franklin said.
Shoshani said he wants to forge a new path downtown while still paying homage to the neighborhood's past. He plans to keep the familiar White Cross signs on the building's facade.
Tiffany's Cafe, the 65-year-old, 24-hour diner tucked inside the White Cross building, will also remain a fixture. Owner Teddy Pappas is holding down the fort until his new neighbors move in, which is proving to be tougher than anticipated.
Pappas strung a sign below the White Cross Drugs marquee to let passers-by know his restaurant is still open, but Tiffany's has seen a 20 percent drop in business since the pharmacy closed in March.
Pappas remains optimistic.
"As soon as they start working and open next door, things will be different," he said. "We're both going to be very busy."
Shoshani is leasing the 7,400-square-foot building at 1700 Las Vegas Blvd. South and subletting the restaurant space to Pappas.
He hopes to open White Cross Market in July, but still needs city approval for his plans, which may take longer than expected. Renovations could cost a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on what contractors discover when they begin remodeling.
Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.