Russell Jones had spent nearly three decades working in the Las Vegas restaurant and hospitality industry when he began longing for a change from the heady pace of Sin City.
Jones always enjoyed vacation trips to Lake Tahoe, and in 2012 he purchased a getaway condo in Incline Village. In 2017 he began perusing websites that offer businesses for sale searching for an opportunity that would take him out of southern Nevada.
He found the perfect match in Crosby's Pub at Christmas Tree Village on Tahoe Boulevard. Longtime owners Jim and Gina Poulos had listed the popular pub and eatery for sale after 18 years of ownership. Jones closed on the property on March 1 and has worked with the Poulos throughout the month to ensure a smooth transition in ownership.
He was familiar with Crosby's from his many trips to the lake.
"I was ready for something different, and I saw a listing for a gaming restaurant in the Lake Tahoe area," Jones says. "I said, 'I think I know what place that is.' There are not a lot of options in Incline Village that are restaurant and gaming bars."
Jones also researched opportunities in Northern and Southern California — but when he checked out an establishment for sale in Palm Springs, it was actually hotter there than the scorching summer temperatures of Las Vegas. So he settled on Northern Nevada.
"It just seemed like the right fit," he says.
Jones will rely heavily on his long history in the food and beverage industry as he dives into ownership of Crosby's. He spent eight years as regional vice president for the House of Blues, and his last position was working as vice president of food and beverage for the MGM-owned Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino.
It took quite a bit of logistical navigation to juggle his hefty responsibilities at the Monte Carlo with his transition into business ownership. It also took nearly a year for his license to be approved by the state's Gaming Control Board.
"The gaming license process is a long process, and there is no expediting it," he says. "[At the same time] I was trying to leave the Monte Carlo and was guessing when the gaming license might get approved — I wanted to make sure I left on good terms. It was an important position, and I wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to fill my spot."
Jones is selling his home in Las Vegas and will become a full-time Incline Village resident to better manage his new business venture. He doesn't plan on any sweeping changes at Crosby's as he learns the ins-and-outs of the business and gets to know its many regular and longtime customers.
He says the Poulos have been an invaluable resource during the transition.
"They have been very gracious about their time," Jones says. "They have been making sure I am getting as much information and support as possible. They ran this business for 18 years and made a very good living, and that's not easy to do for that long. They have introduced me to so many people that they have a kinship with. It's been great for me to meet so many of the people up here — I don't want to lose those ties or change the part they've played in this community."
For the Poulos, it's a chance to begin the next chapter of their lives without the challenges of being tied to running a small business. The duo bought the establishment in October of 2000 and will wrap up just under two decades of ownership at the end of March. They say it just felt like the right time to exit. The Poulos plan on spending more time with family and grandchildren. They plan to keep roots in Incline Village, as well as keep their home in Zephyr Cove.
"We are staying at the lake," Jim Poulos says. "We are staying where we have been the last 18 to 19 years.
"We want to take time for ourselves and our family," he adds. "Running a small business, you devote a lot of time and effort. My mom is turning 90, and we'll be spending time with her and our daughter and grandkids and see where life takes us."
The couple looks back favorably upon running Crosby's the past 18 years.
"It's rewarding building a successful business," Jim Poulos says. "We made it a family establishment for the community — that was probably one of most rewarding parts of (ownership), being in Incline Village and all the great people we have met over the years."
Gina Poulos agrees that the fondest memories as a pub owner involve the many people they met over the years.
"The best memories are the way people made us feel. There are a lot of people up here whose families live somewhere else. At Christmas and Thanksgiving we provided a place where they could come and feel like they were with family.
"We are looking forward to next part of our lives," she adds. "We will miss a lot of the people and our longtime employees. We were a good part of their lives."
The former owners will host a farewell party on Friday, March 30, between 4 and 7 p.m. to say goodbye to the many patrons they've come to know so well.
For Jones, he plans on spending the near future getting to know Crosby's staff, clientele and operational procedures to see where he can bring his extensive hospitality background into play.
"It's really important to have knowledge of what's working, the market and the clientele and make decisions based on knowledge," he says. "I want to take my time to know what's working and know the community.
"I also have to build a trust level with the team that is here," he adds. "There are staff members who have been here for a long time, and it's a big change for them. I have to develop a relationship of mutual respect with my team — a lot of these people have given a number of years to Crosby's."