Dogs and Jail Cells Central to Zappos Vision To Revitalize Downtown Vegas
The new Las Vegas headquarters for ecommerce company Zappos happens to be the City Hall. One of the chief advantages of that? The company's very own jail cells.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh thought he might turn the cells into a speakeasy. Tonight at PandoMonthly in San Francisco, Hsieh told Sarah Lacy that he even had a great name for the proposed drinking establishment: "Bars". But it turned out that the biggest request from employees for what they wanted in their fancy new campus was more to do with pets than getting sloshed.
"The number one request we got from employees was actually doggy day care," said Hsieh. "More than human day care."
Hsieh has made headlines for his very public plan to revitalize the downtown core of Las Vegas, partly with his own money. Moving Zappos HQ from Henderson, in the city's suburbs, to City Hall is a major part of that blueprint. Initially, Hsieh told Lacy, Zappos wanted to build a giant, Nike-like campus outside the city. But after talking to the owner of a local coffee shop who urged him to consider downtown, he decided moving to the middle of the city would result in a greater social good.
Ultimately, Zappos decided to model its headquarters on New York University, which blends into the urban neighborhoods to the point where it's unclear where the campus ends and the city begins. In the long run, the central location would help Zappos attract talent and help kickstart the tech startup ecosystem, Hsieh said.
Another perk for new employees is that Zappos puts them up in fully furnished apartments in downtown's Ogden building that serve as a Hsieh's free "hotel". But mainly people decide to join the company and live in Vegas because they believe in Hsieh's mission, he said. "They actually want to help shape the future of a major city."
Lacy put it to Hsieh that while downtown Vegas has a great sense of community, it can be frustrating in other ways – namely, that you have to drive miles to the nearest supermarket, and downtown apartments have to put up with throbbing noise late into the night from the nearby bars and clubs.
Ever the entrepreneur, Hsieh responded by saying that's all part of the challenge. "That goes back to really thinking of the city as a startup, and with any startup that’s just part of being an entrepreneur," Hsieh said. "It’s not always going to be easy and there’s always going to be ups and down." But at least to him, he said, "that’s part of what makes it exciting."