Friday, Oct. 20, 2006 | 8 a.m.
Three years ago John Del Prado III faced unimaginable tragedy and said, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."
Three years later, he has fulfilled that promise.
On the morning of Sept. 2, 2003, Del Prado's mother, Elisa Del Prado, and grandmother, Juana Quiroga, were bludgeoned to death in the Del Prado family business, World Merchants-Importers jewelry store on the corner of Carson and Fourth streets in downtown Las Vegas. (The man charged with the crime, a jewelry repairman, Avetis Archanian, was convicted in 2004 and was sentenced to death, although he has appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.)
But by the time the crimes were committed, Del Prado says, he had soured on the location - foot traffic ebbed after the Clark County Law Library, the old Clark County Courthouse and a couple of banks moved out. So he seized an opportunity over the summer to move when a Delaware-based company fronted by Las Vegas businessman Rohit Joshi purchased Neonopolis for $25 million.
As old businesses closed and deserted Neonopolis, Del Prado pushed against the tide and settled into the top floor of the retail project. The business has a new name, Del Prado Jewelers, but as always it specializes in diamonds, gold and furs.
"Half of the reason we moved was because of the tragedy that happened, but that's not the whole reason," said Del Prado, who was born in Havana but has lived in Las Vegas for 45 of his 47 years.
"You didn't have to be a genius to know business had slowed down. We lost all of our foot traffic, our lease was up at the other location. I looked at Neonopolis, with a new owner and new plans, and I see it being a huge success."
Del Prado's assessment of the oft-derided Neonopolis project can't be discounted. His family opened its first jewelry store on Fremont Street in 1975. A second Fremont Street store opened in the early 1990s, but was soon forced out through eminent domain when the Fremont Street Experience attraction began construction. The Carson and Fourth location worked only when masses of lawyers and bank customers would walk in off the street; today, the downtown landscape has changed.
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