The line between colleagues' work and personal lives is sometimes blurred. But for the El Cortez's father-daughter duo Alex and Kenny Epstein, such a line doesn't exist.
"It's a family-run business, so it's not like the personal (aspects) stay outside of the doors," said Alex, the El Cortez general manager. "He's very much my father as he is my boss."
Alex and her father, Kenny, the El Cortez's owner, have worked side by side at the downtown hotel since 2008, when Alex returned home after graduating from Columbia University. Unsure about the next step in her career, Kenny, who had just purchased then-owner Jackie Gaughan's remaining shares in the hotel, gave Alex the opportunity to head the El Cortez's Design-A-Suite project. Alex hasn't turned back since.
"I hit the ground running, and in three months, I figured out that this is actually what I loved," Alex said. "At the time, I still lived at home with my parents, and I didn't know how temporary it would be. Never did I ever imagine working in the hotel, but I just love it."
Alex and her siblings, partners in the hotel, hold fond memories of spending time with their father and Gaughan at the El Cortez and other properties Kenny owned, such as the Barbary Coast and the Suncoast.
Kenny, who has invested in the El Cortez since 1975, said working with Alex has resulted in positive change for one of Las Vegas' oldest hotels.
"Alex has brought a modern eye to the hotel," Kenny said. "She's bringing a younger customer to the El Cortez, exposing us to a ton of new people and doing a lot in getting the El Cortez name out there."
Alex said her efforts in trying to put the El Cortez in the modern spotlight stem from her father's business values.
"My dad is very old-school Vegas," Alex said. "Around his heyday in the '60s, he was at Caesars on the floor, picking up ashtrays. But I'm working with him, trying to bring (the El Cortez) to today and bring it into Fremont East. We're a good team, and between the two of us, we're able to cover a lot of ground."
The father-daughter dynamic has its quirks, Alex said. At the office and at home, there is little to no difference in the relationship.
"He is who he is at home and (at work)," Alex said. "In meetings, he'll chastise me for biting my nails, and everyone gets a kick out of it. Even with all the little annoyances, it gives you a sense of pride. When you work with family, it means more when you do well, and it means more when you do poorly."
Kenny understands the importance of maintaining a close professional and personal relationship with family members, especially Alex.
"Whatever they do, because they're family, you hold them to a higher standard," Kenny said. "Overall, it's great because you can count on them. I try to do better every day. Not everybody thinks the way you think, but Alex gets that."
Alex said she and her dad are alike in numerous ways, including their love for food, work and family. They have a similar vision for the El Cortez's success potential in the revitalization of downtown.
"I think the future's yet to be seen, but we're fully invested in it," Alex said. "It's my passion. It's his passion, and he's not one to retire."
Kenny and Alex credit their dedication for the hotel's success to Gaughan, who maintains a presence at the El Cortez, often playing poker with customers and sharing meals with the Epsteins. Kenny, who considers Gaughan a mentor, said the former owner's hope of seeing the El Cortez thrive continues through Alex's leadership.
"Jackie Gaughan set a great example for us all," Kenny said. "He gave us these speeches and always said, 'What's good for downtown is good for me.' He was for the community. Alex is doing things to make this hotel and the community better."
Though the two have worked alongside one another for more than four years, Kenny said he still reflects on Alex as the teenager who worked in the cage and other areas of his former properties long ago.
"When you have children, no matter how old they get, they're still 16 years old in your eyes," Kenny said. "Alex is still my little girl, and I'm proud of her."
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.