All of this could be yours.
The casino and restaurant, the little motel, the block of storefronts dating to the early 1900s — it all went on the market Monday in a bulk sale that could reshape this sleepy desert town of about 800 people 60 miles south of Las Vegas.
For the listed price of just under $5 million, you can get 62 parcels of land totaling 41 acres and your very own window into Nevada’s past.
The centerpiece of the sale, the Searchlight Nugget Casino, still offers coffee for a dime and slot machines that spit out actual coins. The place still lures customers in through
the smoke with prime rib on Sunday, pot roast on Wednesday and live card games on the weekend.
Warren and Verlie Doing built the Nugget in 1979, but much of Searchlight’s business district along U.S. Highway 95 has been in the family’s hands for more than 40 years.
Now the Doings are selling off their sizable piece of the town so their matriarch can retire just shy of her 89th birthday.
“I’m tired,” Verlie said with a smile. “I’m 88. It’s just time.”
The move is seen as the end of an era to many locals, including Searchlight’s most famous son, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“I have known the Doing family forever. They have been so kind to me and my family,” said Reid in a statement. “They have done so much for the community, from the museum, the park, the shops, nothing gets done in Searchlight without the Doings.”
BIG DOINGS IN SMALL TOWNS
Verlie came from Amarillo, Texas, Warren from Missouri. The two met just after World War II at a hotel in Gallup, N.M., where she worked and he ran backroom card games.
They were married in 1947 and moved to Northern Nevada in the mid-1950s. They made their way south from there, eventually winding up in Nye County for a few years.
“He came home one day and said he just bought a joint in Beatty,” Verlie recalled. “You just didn’t argue with him. He liked small towns.”
The Doings owned and operated the Exchange Club on U.S. 95 in Beatty for five or six years, living for much of that time in a small house right across the street, before leasing out the business and moving to Las Vegas.
They didn’t stay in the big city for long.
Verlie said they first visited Searchlight in 1967 to scratch around on a mining claim someone had given them. During the trip, she stepped on a rusty nail, so they stopped at a bar called Sandy’s to clean the wound.
“It was really scroungy,” she said of the place.
Warren bought it a month later.
Back then, the town was “just about like it is now,” Verlie said.
When she first met Harry Reid, he was working as Henderson’s city attorney. Verlie and Reid’s mother, Inez, became close friends after Reid’s father died. Verlie said Inez used to come into Sandy’s, sip Pepsi and “keep everyone in line.”
Warren continued to snap up more properties in Searchlight. Then the Doings launched their most ambitious venture yet: their own casino and restaurant, built from the ground up.
POLISHING THE NUGGET
Owning a business is rarely a 9-to-5 job, especially when the place is open 24 hours a day.
Verlie persuaded her husband to include a second-floor apartment in the plans for the Nugget, so they could literally keep an eye on things. A door in the master bedroom opens to a set of carpeted stairs leading down to a space about the size of a king-size bed, where you can lie down and look out at the casino floor through one-way mirrors.
Warren also put in a buzzer so his employees could call him downstairs in case of trouble, but it was only used a few times.
“This is a quiet little town” Verlie said. “We don’t have much trouble. Never have.”
When Warren died in 1984, Verlie never gave much thought to selling the Nugget and quitting the town.
“We still had a mortgage on it,” she said.
Over the years, she got help with the casino and other businesses from son Riley, her only child. Later, all six of her grandchildren bussed tables at the Nugget. Her grandson, Reggie Doing, now serves as gaming compliance officer, and one of his childhood friends, Phil Welch, is general manager.
Verlie still lives in the apartment above the casino, and she still handles bank deposits and other tasks, though it’s nothing like the endless hours she used to keep in the old days.
Welch said he and Reggie have gradually talked Verlie into updating parts of the operation. They recently installed a computerized cash register system and a new electronic sign out front, and the Nugget launched its first website a few weeks ago.
But many old-fashioned touches remain, including Verlie’s strict rule against swearing.
“We have nothing but ladies working here, and we don’t need to listen to that stuff,” she said.
THE END OF AN ERA
Broker Fred Marik of Las Vegas Commercial and Business Sales said he has already received about a half dozen inquiries about the property.
He also drummed up some national media attention by marketing it as a chance to own your own town, though as Verlie points out, there is plenty of Searchlight that isn’t for sale.
“I can only sell what I own,” she said.
In typical small-town fashion, Welch said, rumors have been flying about the Nugget’s future ever since the Doings’ first meeting with Marik. Some people said the business was about to be boarded up. Others heard that Don Laughlin himself had bought the place and planned to bulldoze it.
But Welch and Marik insist the Nugget turns a profit, so Verlie can afford to be patient as she looks for a buyer.
Asked who might be interested in owning so much of the town, Verlie said, “You’d have to like Searchlight as much as I like Searchlight.”
Artist Maria von Volborth has leased space from the Doings for 15 years, including nine years in the old building on U.S. 95 that used to house Sandy’s.
Though the pending land sale could cloud the future of her rock shop and art gallery, it’s not slowing her plans to renovate and reopen in March under the name Stones to Bones.
Depending on who buys the Doings’ property, von Volborth said, the sale could breathe new life into the town and help other local residents sell their own property. Or it could diminish the character of what Harry Reid declared “the camp that didn’t fail.”
Whatever happens, von Volborth said she is really going to miss Verlie Doing, and so will Searchlight.
“She has helped so many people. Even people who didn’t deserve it,” von Volborth said. “She has been the backbone of the town; she really has. When she’s gone, Searchlight just won’t be the same.”
Once her businesses are sold, Verlie said she is considering a move to Missouri, where she has family near the Lake of the Ozarks.
But she doesn’t plan to be gone for good.
“I’ll never really leave Nevada,” she said. “I bet I buy something in Searchlight.”
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.