Legend has it that half the business deals in Las Vegas were done on Foxy's Deli napkins and a handshake during the late 1950s.
While that may be hard to understand today when looking at Las Vegas, back in the day it made perfect sense to almost everyone.
Foxy's Deli is one of those places that was vital to our history but, like the others in our "Lost Vegas" series, it no longer is part of our everyday Las Vegas lives.
Abe Fox opened Foxy's Deli in 1955 on the corner of San Francisco (Today, Sahara Blvd) and Las Vegas Blvd South. He had a 30 year lease from the property owners, the American Legion. Across from the deli was the San Francisco Square, a small shopping center. Kitty corner from Foxy's was the El Rancho Hotel and across San Francisco stood the Sahara Hotel. According to family lore, Fox had been given a tip that the San Francisco Square Shopping Center was going to open and realized that more traffic would be generated by the center. Not knowing much deli food, Fox went to Los Angeles' Fairfax district, studied Cantor's deli and came back to Las Vegas with an idea of what he wanted to serve.
When he opened Foxy's Deli, it quickly became a celebrity hangout. It was the only deli in town and it was open 24 hours a day. Fox said in an interview we did with him in 2003, "I threw away the key.". Once a year, during the slow period between Christmas and New Year's Eve, they would close to paint the restaurant.
The white neon fox that advertised the deli was designed by Dick Porter from an idea that Fox had for a logo.
The deli quickly became a success. With its affordable prices and good food, celebrities from back east now had some place good to order corn beef sandwiches and Jewish entertainers now had some place where they could order kosher style food.
Fox hit upon advertising along the highway that led into Las Vegas and people still remember seeing billboards along the old L.A. Highway (today the 15 freeway) reminding them that they were getting closer and closer to having a meal at Foxy's. He bought advertising on taxi cabs and on the radio.
Luckily for Abe, his food was as good as he claimed in the advertising. It was a meeting place not only for celebrities like Shecky Greene but men like Moe Dalitz as well as the movers and shakers of Las Vegas politics and real estate.
Liberace, who played the Riviera, often came in with his mother who loved the stuffed cabbage, Ann-Margaret and her husband, Roger Smith were big fans of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Louis Prima and Sam Butera often came over for breakfast after bringing the house down nightly in the Sahara's Casbah lounge,
When Nate King Cole began performing at the Sands he was unable to eat in the hotel, so Jack Entratter arranged for a trailer to be set up in the parking lot where Cole could relax between the dinner show and the late show. Abe Fox would deliver food to Cole's trailer.
When the color line was finally broken for good, the Mills Brothers became good customers.
But, Shecky Greene may have been one of Fox's favorite customers. "He was a maniac" Abe remembered, but they became very good friends. Others who frequented the deli include Betty Grable (her husband Harry James was often booked at the El Rancho Vegas across the street). Grable would go to the beauty salon next door and then come into Foxy's afterwards, preferring a booth in the back, where rumor has it, she used to bet the ponies.
Blackie Hunt and Sonny King were regulars. Singer/Songwriter Paul Williams has said he wrote the songs for the film, "Bugsy Malone" sitting in a booth at Foxy's, drinking coffee for a week.
As the Strip began to change, (Fox pegged the change to Howard Hughes coming to town and the old guard selling out to the corportations), Fox saw the writing on the wall. Gone were the days when Las Vegas was just a small town where everybody knew one another. Performers were aging and his customer base was as well.
He sold Foxy's in 1975 and went into land speculation and real estate. He had quietly been buying land since the late 1950s.
Foxy's Firehouse opened where Foxy's Deli had once been. A small casino with gaming it lasted a few years.
After that, it became the Holy Cow Brewery, the first microbrewery in Las Vegas. It was owned by Tom Wiesner's Big Dog Hospitality Group. The Holy Cow stayed in business until 2002, when it closed in the aftermath of tourism slowdown attributed to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
After that, Ivana Trump painted the building black and pink and advertised that she was going to build a condo tower that would be better than Donald Trump's not too far up the road. But, the economic meltdown in 2007-2008 put the brakes on that.
Today, the corner sits vacant. Some of us like to think Abe Fox put a curse on it.
Here's to Foxy's Deli and all the wonderful history!
Please share your memories of Foxy's Deli with us!