VIDEO VAULT | Foxy's Deli made big impact after opening on Strip in 1950s
For every glamorous megaresort in Las Vegas, there are several small grind joints. One such casino was called Foxy’s Firehouse on the northeast corner of Sahara and the Strip. But people whose memories go back far enough recall something quite different there. It started in 1956 when a man named Abe Fox got a tip from a friend.
“’Listen, across the street from the Sahara hotel, they're opening a new shopping center,’” says Jerry Fox, recreating the conversation his dad was part of. “’And it would be a good place for a deli.’ He said ‘I don't know anything about the food business’.”
Abe’s son, stepdaughter and daughter-in-law reminisce.
“My dad says ‘What do I do?’ He says ‘Well, you go down Fairfax where canners and all the delis are, and you get menus and you start copying a little bit’.”
The result was Foxy’s deli, with a menu different from what Las Vegas had seen before.
“They sat down a bowl of pickles and sauerkraut,” says stepdaughter Rosalie Kinney. “You know, like you go in a Mexican restaurant, you get chips. No -- pickles and sauerkraut.”
By 1956, the Strip had several hotels with their own steak houses and coffee shops.
“But because it was a gaming town, you had all the California contingency coming here,” explains daughter-in-law Becky Jacobs. “Which -- there's a huge Jewish population there.”
Foxy’s was a hit.
“You could go in there in the morning, and there was every big high powered politician was sitting in that restaurant,” remembers Kinney.
Not just mornings. Unlike most restaurants back then, it was open 24 hours.
“And in the evening, it was the entertainment people.”
“Whoever played the hotels,” interjects Fox.
“Liza Minnelli, Shecky,” ticks off Kinney.
”The biggest one was Shecky Green,” Fox elaborates. “Xavier Cugat and Abby Lane used to come in.”
Another important note came to the attention of Claytee White, who compiles oral histories for UNLV’s Library of Special Collections. She heard from long-timers about the area's African-American heritage.
“They tell me that Foxy’s was the only place in that Strip area where black entertainers could eat,” explains White. “They could have some food in the kitchen area. But to go out to get a sandwich...to get something to eat. Foxy’s was the only location.”
Abe Fox was an early financial contributor to the local NAACP. But it was about more than money.
“He also interacted with the black people,” says Jacobs. “He like adopted their families, and helped them out right and left. So they were like extended members of his family.”
This at a time when civil rights in Las Vegas was running behind much of the country,” earning the nickname “Mississippi of the West.”
“Foxy’s was an anomaly,” muses White. “It did not spread from the location. and I really don't know why. Maybe the timing.”
None of which was why Fox eventually sold. Its replacement Foxy’s firehouse was related in name only. By 1975, Abe Fox was moving on.
“He didn't want the unions,” says Jerry. “We had almost 50 employees. He didn't want the aggravation. Land was going good. He said 'the hell with it,' and that was it.”
Abe Fox kept active with real estate dealings until he passed away at age 90 in 2004. The rest of the Strip caught up to Foxy’s when integration became official in March of 1960. Today, a retail mall anchored by a Walgreens is at the site that was Holy Cow Brewery, Foxy’s Firehouse, and most importantly, Foxy’s Deli.