Alex Epstein, Executive VP, El Cortez
Wed, Jan 4, 2012 (9:46 p.m.)
Photo: Beverly Poppe
One grandfather was a bookie, the other a bellman. The business, says Alex Epstein, is in her blood. Like Paris Hilton, she’s heir to an iconic Vegas brand. But as executive vice president of the family business—the historic El Cortez hotel and casino—and a trailblazing advocate for Downtown, she does a lot more than look hot.
“I personally was never going to be in the hotel business,” says Epstein, whose father bought into El Cortez in 1975 and became the majority shareholder in 2008. Around that time she graduated from Columbia, pre-med, but ultimately decided medicine didn’t fit. She came home to regroup, and her dad gave her a “temporary” job in the casino cage.
The 27-year-old has since become an executive and neighborhood champion, starting with a stunning revamp of the Ogden House into El Cortez’s mod, breezy Cabana Suites. Then she spearheaded the transformation of a vacant medical facility into creative co-op Emergency Arts and co-founded food and culture festival Vegas StrEATS.
“I didn’t see it as audacious or shocking,” she says when asked how she had the guts for any of these leaps. “I just didn’t see why not.”
The only woman on El Cortez’s veteran executive team, Epstein breathed hipness into the brand with a design-a-suite contest that celebrated local talent, a stylish overhaul of the casino’s signature bar, retro-chic 70th anniversary programming and ongoing renovations that honor the past without getting stuck in it. This year she’ll help oversee construction of a pool and courtyard, though she’s more excited to expand El Cortez’s role in Downtown Cares, a monthly volunteer project devoted to community. In that vein, Epstein lends her energy to the boards of The Neon Museum and Jewish Federation as well as the City of Las Vegas Arts Commission.
“Las Vegas is my favorite city,” she says, grateful for the opportunities it affords to have a voice and an impact—no matter who your parents are. “It’s the Wild West, really. You can still come in and try your dream.”