In Henderson’s downtown, there’s something for everybody
From stores to restaurants, bars to coffeeshops, old and new businesses alike have big ambitions and optimistic goals for what Water Street could look like in the next decade.
Four years ago, a sleepy Henderson street with dozens of open storefronts was far from an attraction.
Local businesses eagerly awaited Lifeguard Arena, which has helped revitalize the busy neighborhood since it opened in 2020.
The new arena and a newly built City Hall Plaza in downtown Henderson brought minor league hockey practices, Golden Knights watch parties and a plethora of new businesses to the Water Street District.
On the north edge of South Water Street, a cozy bake shop with hand-painted windows and handmade Danish sweets maintains a steady flow of customers throughout the year. Flemming Pedersen opened Chef Flemming’s Bakeshop in 2008 with a loan from a friendly older couple who loved his baked goods.
Pedersen has managed to keep the shop open through a recession and a pandemic, though he recently reduced his hours to six days a week. He’s noticed more hockey parents coming in to buy snacks in recent years, but the 69-year-old Pedersen suspects Water Street still is on the cusp of explosive growth.
“I honestly think it’s going to blow up in a positive way,” he said. “It’s kind of like downtown (Las Vegas) 10 or 15 years ago.”
When Pedersen last spoke to the Review-Journal, weeks after plans for Lifeguard Arena were announced, he was confident there would be more food and foot traffic. He was working to update the store to appeal to a younger crowd.
“Some of the comments are that we’re a little too old school for some of the younger people,” he said in August 2019. “Even though I’m old, I’m young enough to know that sometimes change is good because change is bringing different sets of people.”
Now, Pedersen doesn’t think he will stick around to watch the growth, as he’s hoping to find a young couple or ambitious apprentice who could learn the trade and take over his bakery.
“What good is it if you have all the money in the world and don’t use it?” he said. “I don’t want to stop working, but I’d love to work with somebody that wants to take it over and I can teach them.”
Discovering a new store
One hundred feet from Chef Flemming’s Bakeshop, Crystal Moses opened Archer + Jane in 2015, using a tax refund and what little business knowledge she had starting out.
“Owning a business is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” Moses said. “I felt like with there being a need like this, people were going to flock to the store because they had what we needed. People had no clue what the store is and when they started discovering it, they didn’t understand it.”
Moses named the store after her 11-year-old son, Archer, and 8-year-old daughter, Jane. She sells new and used clothing and gifts for mothers, babies and children under 9. Moses also maintains the “downtownhendersonnv” Instagram and Facebook pages, which promote businesses and events around Water Street.
“The city of Henderson hosts parades and things that I thought would attract people to find us,” Moses said. “It really didn’t the way I thought it would. People get very tunnel vision-type. They weren’t looking around.”
Moses found that her traffic increased after Lovelady Brewing Company and Juan’s Flaming Fajitas & Cantina moved in across the street a few years later, but she’s hoping more businesses take the opportunity to become her neighbor on the street.
“We all work better together, but we need more small shops,” she said. “When people come in here when they’re done eating, they come in here and shop and ask what other little shops they can look at?”
Live and play
John Griffith, co-owner of Mojave Brewing Company, said he considers himself among the last wave of businesses to move into Water Street, in July 2019, before Lifeguard Arena and the influx that followed.
“Business people, at face, are trying to make some money and be successful, but I think with our business coming to Water Street, we also had an interest in being in a community,” Griffith said. “Wherever we are, we want to build a community, whether with beer drinkers or not, and giving back has always been a part of that.”
Mojave stayed open through the pandemic by selling growlers, and when restrictions loosened a bit more, patrons tailgated in his parking lot. Now, the booming brewery that shares property with Biscuits and Bourbon is among more than a dozen restaurants and bars within walking distance for downtown Henderson residents.
“In a perfect world, I would have a lot of younger people start to live closer to old Water Street in the homes,” Griffith said. “In a lot of ways when people are looking at downtowns, Henderson is one of the best-kept secrets around.”
Among the advantages, he said, “You can have a home of your own with a yard. You can have a pet bigger than a guinea pig.”
Mixed use of businesses
Windom Kimsey shares the sentiments of his fellow business owners, foreseeing a lively downtown with tourists and Water Street residents mingling among restaurants, bars, stores, coffee shops and concert venues.
Kimsey opened his mixed-use development, which now houses his firm TSK Architects, in 2015 near West Basic Road. He opened Public Works Coffee Bar next door two years later, and on Feb. 1 Kimsey opened his final door on his short-term redevelopment goals for Water Street: Azzurra Cucina Italiana.
With a new hotel and a seven-story apartment building planned down the street, Kimsey is optimistic about the future of Water Street.
“In a way, history is repeating itself,” Kimsey said. “In the 1950s, Water Street had grocery stores and that was the neighborhood. It’s different but it’s coming. … We need more food for residents. We need probably a different level of market other than 7-Eleven for things, and retail. People come early for dinner and walk around and shop. So many places around us that have similar scale downtowns. I know it’s possible, it just takes a little time.”
On June 10, Archer + Jane, Mojave Brewing Company, Gold Mine Tavern, Sticks Tavern, The Backyard, Chinitas Tapas & Sushi, Little Chapel on the Corner and Freak’s Tattoo Emporium are expected to participate in The Hendertucky Open, a pubcrawl with special golf-themed games and prizes. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on pubcrawls.com.
Contact Sabrina Schnur at email@example.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.