After growing up in tiny Tonopah, Nevada, and graduating from UNLV, Jon Gray had only ever worked in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. So when he got a call from Nike, he had to take it.
“It was this cool opportunity where they wanted to build more of a service culture, and it was a global role,” he says. “It was an interesting opportunity for my family to see what it’s like to live outside Las Vegas and for me to travel the world. I learned a ton. It was like getting a doctorate in branding and marketing.”
Before making the move to Portland, Gray served as vice president and general manager for Caesars Entertainment’s Linq Promenade, but he was best known for working his way up from the front desk to George Maloof’s assistant at the Palms.
So although he was enjoying life with Nike, he listened, once again, when the new owners of the Palms came calling. “I’ve always loved this place. It’s part of my DNA,” he says. “I was 21 years old when I started here, and all the personalities behind the Palms really helped shape who I am. So to see Station Casinos acquire it was really exciting, because in my mind that gives it the best chance to take it to a level it’s never experienced.”
Station bosses Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta also thought having Gray back in the fold would move the Palms in that direction, so they hired him as vice president and general manager.
“There are a lot of things that made me feel very comfortable here, and it [feels like] my time here with the Maloofs,” Gray says. “Back then, there was a family feel we had from George and the executives. It was a family, and I see that here with this team, including the [Palms] team members who have been here since day one. You have to be passionate about what you do, so to see these people again and have that feel is really important to me.”
The evolving off-Strip resort has already announced some restaurant changes, and that’s just the beginning. “That’s exciting, and entertainment is going to continue to play a major part of who we are. But I think what I’m most excited about is, this place is going to have personality.”