How the mighty have … vanished

Notes from a walk through the intersection of Decatur and Sahara

Lonely shopping carts desperately search for cars to dent.
Photo: Ryan Olbrysh

My first impulse is to head directly to the Borders bookstore; I want to know its fate above all else. A quick “are you closing?” to the merchant behind the counter, however, is returned by a startled stare. “No, we’re just selling our CDs and DVDs for 50 percent off,” he quickly reassures me. I take it at face value, given the state of the rest of the intersection of Decatur and Sahara, a once-booming hodgepodge of great food and distractions, now a road map of scuffed stucco, outlines of former glories and asphalt desperately in need of Michelins to spend a few interested minutes.

A lone couple scoots across the parking lot of the Sahara Pavilion shopping center toward its grocery store, one of the only large stores left in the complex. To its left is an oddity: An empty store with the letters spelling “computer” on the left-hand side. What’s odder is that the sign appears to be made from two different sets of letters—as if someone started a ransom note for all the world to see and couldn’t finish. To its left is another empty store with the ghost of “JOANN Crafts” where its letters used to be. There are still many stores remaining here, but it’s what’s missing that really draws the eye. Many storefronts here are not only empty, but they also look like they’ve never been occupied.


Decatur and Sahara

Across the street, Sahara Pavilion South is accented by the absence of businesses from its two largest spaces. One lies between A-1 Jewelry Supply and Hobby People, and the other is what’s left of a sporting-goods store, judging from its hieroglyphic-like illustrations of people fishing, biking and golfing. (Wonder if this is what future archaeologists will find if the economy continues this way much longer?) A camera store that has held on this long now hangs an enormous “Store Closing” sign. Two stores facing Decatur are not only empty, but the signage spaces have also been scrubbed white, bleeding into the building’s bland beige. Just beyond them, a signature restaurant that’s had its signage removed—in this case, it was a Chili’s, but from its architecture it could just have easily been a TGI Friday’s or Applebee’s—stands ironically in repose; no one’s eating good in this neighborhood. As if the center’s closings had sent shock waves, the Desert Dodge auto dealership just east of the center is also closed, its lot still filled with PT Cruisers but no signage and no way to enter—just a security guard who shoos me away. Nothing to see here, apparently.

Sahara Decatur Plaza, on the southwest corner, is conspicuous in the sheer number of “For Lease” signs that dot so many businesses, including a large, red stand-alone building that faces Decatur, a space between Cricket and a sign that reads “Insurance” and one directly below Dance, Act & Sing. A store called Still Smoking hangs an “Open” sign that’s larger than its own. (Perhaps a better name would be “Still Open”?) Another remnant of a previous tenant, Verizon Wireless, sits next to one of the many recently closed Circuit City locations, which may be shuttered, but its attractive red tile entrance is intact, a frustrating, shiny reminder of better times.

Across the street on the north side of Sahara, just east of the Clark County School District building, are two shuttered businesses, one of which is overgrown with weeds. Even the Mini dealership further down on the corner, which appears to have minimal activity, will be leaving this intersection soon for (presumably) economically sunnier climes westward on Sahara.

But hey, at least the bookstore’s still there, right?

Photo of Ken Miller

Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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