Long-time businessman and proprietor Jim Marsh has never been afraid to throw the dice in the car business.
However, Marsh literally gambled when he built the Longstreet Inn and Casino about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas on Highway 373 west of U.S. Highway 95 on the California state line in Amargosa Valley. A short distance from Death Valley National Park, Marsh was certain that Yucca Mountain would attract hundreds of workers.
Yucca Mountain has not materialized as originally predicted, but Marsh is doing just fine at his oasis in the desert. In fact, his casino is making money without Yucca Mountain, thanks in part to the attraction of Death Valley, which lures visitors from all over the world.
Meanwhile, Yucca Mountain may be receiving new life as evidenced by recent news reports that said President Donald Drumpf would seek $116 million in licensing for nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.
Named after Andrew Jackson Longstreet, the pride of the country had residences in Western Arizona and Southern Nevada and was rumored to be a notorious gun fighter and renegade. The man’s image fit perfectly in the open spaces a rock’s throw from the Wild, Wild West.
With 60 smoke-free rooms, the Longstreet is busier than ever heading into the spring months, which are boom time for Marsh and his employees. It’s the perfect escape without having to travel for days to find a respite in the desert.
A devout history enthusiast, Marsh read a story in Nevada magazine dealing with the stateline hotel-casinos, and the land in question piqued his interest. The report touted the fact that stateline hotel-casinos would eventually become the rage of the gaming industry, especially as traditional gaming was being swallowed up by corporate America.
While bigger establishments were dominating the newer hotel-casinos, the report stated that more and more customers wanted to re-visit smaller establishments without the fees of larger corporations.
“I was looking at a BLM map,” recalled Marsh, now 85. “I found the land was private and thought the property would be ideal for a hotel-casino. I found the owner, an old-time Las Vegan named Bill Embry, and purchased the land in 1992. I wanted to sell it to a casino developer. I couldn’t find anyone who was interested, so I decided to do it myself.”
Marsh read Andrew Jackson Longstreet’s book and threw around a lot of names. The Longstreet name seemed ideal. Before long, the construction equipment was clearing the land for Marsh’s new brainstorm.
“We opened up April 1 of 1995,” said Marsh. “It was April Fool’s Day — the perfect time.”
Initially, the Longstreet took off. But directions changed economically as a nearby mine shut down. So did a mill in Amargosa.
However, that’s old news. Today, the Longstreet is attracting visitors from all over the world, capitalizing on the property’s heavy internet marketing.
“We had a slump for eight to 10 years, but the internet made all the difference in the world,” Marsh said. “Seventy to 80 percent of our business is now from those visiting from overseas.”
Marsh has special appreciation in his creation of the Longstreet, which averages about 80 percent occupancy all year long.
“This is my baby,” he said. “I envision a major hotel-casino there sometime. There is 600 acres that I own there and I have been thinking about an off-road race up there sometime.
“Usually, you don’t find that much acreage all in-one. But the idea of an off-road race could become reality. We have an RV park, too, and I really think a race like that would be a winner.”
Venues for Southern Nevada off-road races are continuing to face the reality that development is threatening to gobble up available land, especially in the areas of both Primm and Jean south of Las Vegas. Marsh is eagerly listening to the news stories knowing full-well that off-road racing and the Longstreet seem to be a perfect marriage.
Needless to say, Marsh has an impressive list of ownerships, including various hotel-casinos, a couple of chapels and he’s in the process of buying the original 1860 mill site in Belmont, Nev., where ore was processed.
“I’m definitely a history nut,” said Marsh. “I will probably have a party there for friends and neighbors.”
Meanwhile, Marsh’s diamond in the desert is also attracting some quality gaming people, including Curtis Thompson, a veteran of the industry whose roots stretch back to his employment with the Sahara Hotel in the 1960s. The 72 year-old Thompson said Marsh asked him to come out to the Longstreet to do consulting work in both Tonopah and Amargosa Valley about three years ago. While doing the consulting work, Thompson saw a gold mine of potential headed to Death Valley.
“This is much bigger than I thought it would be,” explained Thompson, a native of Connecticut who has lived in Southern Nevada for 53 years. “What made it take off was directing our marketing efforts to the international folks throughout Europe through our own website.
“Within six months we were able to turn the property around and fill the hotel rooms every day. We took our RV park that was empty and made it a Good Sam’s Club Park. We have had huge increases in that area.
“Once we were able to fill the rooms, the bottom line turned around. We’re a stone’s throw from the state line and only six miles from Death Valley Junction turnoff.”
Interestingly, the heat of the summers hasn’t deterred customers from coming to the desert. In fact, Thompson said he was amazed that 5K and 10K running races held every year on July 4 weekend were drawing capacity crowds.
“It was like having an off-road race with no vehicles,” said Thompson. “There are a lot of cars driving through our area with air conditioning. A million cars a year come to visit Death Valley. We sell more water during the July 4 weekend promotion than any other period of the year.
“This has been an absolutely amazing experience. Using my experience to seek out business has been fascinating considering that business does not slow down even when the summer temperatures of 130 degrees in Death Valley.”
Thompson said the Longstreet works well because the 30 employees of the resort team up to get the job done.
“It’s hard to find experienced or capable applicants in a community of only 1,000 people.”
Ponderosa Dairy is headed for the area bringing with it 25,000 cows in a 15-mile radius. Throw in the new mining in the area and it’s easy to see why Marsh’s product is profitable. Ash Meadows, a large park with a ranger’s station, is also near by, with species that exist nowhere else on earth.
“Ash Meadows is a wild-life refuge with some very interesting stories,” Thompson said. “That’s where Jack Longstreet lived, and his house is still there.”
The gaming at the Longstreet has increased by 30 percent in the last two years, according to Thompson.
“The growth is basically putting in new machines and taking care of business of the customers in this area,” he said. “We also have free WiFi in the hotel throughout the entire resort.”
Marsh is always looking for other elements that will make the Longstreet even more unique.
“Within the next two weeks, I will be getting something that is 4.6 billion years old,” Thompson said. “It’s a meteorite from an asteroid and it will be on display here for people to see. It came through the atmosphere at 18,000 miles an hour and it’s the largest meteorite in Nevada.”
Thompson said a 600-acre solar farm named First Solar is now being built five miles down the road from the Longstreet.
“We anticipate 400 workers will need a place to stay, eat and have fun here in Amargosa Valley,” he said, “and the Longstreet is the only hotel casino in the area. Jim Marsh had a vision and it was right on.”
Fittingly, Marsh remains entrenched in the car business that also includes a very profitable body shop situated near his Kia and Chrysler showrooms off Ann Road in Northwest Las Vegas. He also continues to draw good numbers with Jim Marsh Kia and Chrysler dealerships just west of the body shop.
“The Marsh machine isn’t slowing down a bit,” he said.
If you’re looking to make a day trip from Las Vegas, or even spend the night, it’s an easy drive to Longstreet. Take U.S. 95 North to Highway 373 South. It’s about 90 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.
“If the people of Las Vegas are missing Bonnie Springs, they should all come up here,” Thompson said. “We have everything including the animals that Bonnie Springs had – and more.”
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