Boulder Station, 4111 Boulder Highway, plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary Aug. 23. Much of its valet parking staff was there from the casino’s beginnings.
“Actually, we were there before the beginning,” said valet Alan Dennis. “We had a meeting on the 16th floor on Aug. 8. I was with the company for six years before that as a valet at Palace Station.”
The company helped create and define the locals casino market, starting with the property now known as Palace Station. Frank Fertitta Jr. and three other investors opened a locals casino there July 1, 1976, called simply The Casino. By the time Boulder Station broke ground, on Aug. 6, 1993, Frank Fertitta III had taken the reins of Station Casinos. Boulder Station was the first project he took from concept to completion.
“I think there was a drive-in movie theater here years ago,” said valet manager Bryan Lowe. “I kind of grew up in this neighborhood, so it was nice to come back here and work here and see all of our regulars from the neighborhood.”
The company is proud that 115 employees, about 10 percent of the staff, have worked for Boulder Station since opening day. Lowe said he never left in part because he considers his fellow valets a second family and the customers another family. On holidays, it isn’t uncommon for regulars to show up with food for the valets.
“It was crazy here on opening night and for about six months after that,” said Dennis. “We had as many as 10 valets at a time working back then. We had the whole front of the building for valet parking.”
The pace has become a steady stream, and the valet station is a beehive of activity, with staff members running in and out, never pausing for more than a minute or two before they’re back out the door. The casino operates 24/7 with just a few staff members. On Fridays and Saturdays, only four valets are on hand, but they can usually retrieve a car in a minute or two.
“If you valet your car on the Strip, it can take a long time to get your car, because those places are so big,” Lowe said. “I love that we can give good, fast service here.”
Many of the customers are locals and regulars, including part-time locals, such as residents who are in the valley seasonally and frequent guests from out of town who return about once a month. Because of that, the valets know many of them by name and are often already on their way to get a customer’s vehicle before the customer reaches the valet station.
The valets have seen a few changes over the years. The casino area and hotel have been remodeled several times, but the changes they really notice are the technological advances inside vehicles, including new ignition systems.
“It used to be if the car was running, you knew you had the key,” Lowe said. “Now we have to check to make sure we have it every time.”
Valet Chuck Ewing, another longtime staffer, sometimes wears a device on his wrist that counts his steps. On an average night, he might hit 12,000 steps, which calculates to roughly 22 miles a day and 11,000 miles in 20 years.
“It’s a lot of miles but not enough to work off everything I eat,” Lowe said with a laugh.
Dennis said the distance employees travel during a shift is greater than that, because foot travel makes up only a portion of it.
“People think it’s a lot of running, but it’s really a lot of driving,” he said. “We’re usually parking one and getting another.”
The summer months are the hardest on the valets, but the hotel provides water and a refrigerator stocked with Gatorade. Staff members watch out for one another and make sure everyone gets a sufficient amount of time in the air-conditioned valet shack and breaks inside the casino.
The valets say they are doing well financially, in part because they’ve worked with the same company for so long, but the money isn’t what gets them through the day.
“It’s all about the guests,” Lowe said. “We have some of the greatest guests in the world. We don’t think about the money; we just take care of all our guests. If you do that, the money will come.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at email@example.com or 702-380-4532.