Brian Ayala: A Philanthropic Favorite

FOR 25 YEARS, BRIAN AYALA, 48, ran his father Dan Ayala’s business. That concession shop in the airport where you buy your snacks for the plane, that’s one of several stores owned by Ayala’s Inc., an airport retail business operating in the McCarran and Denver international airports—the fifth- and sixth-largest airports, respectively, in the country. As well as food and beverage, Ayala’s Inc. offers news, gifts and specialty items.

Early in 2012, Ayala left his vice president position at Ayala Inc. to run his own stores. TAGS Evolution, a women’s fashion, jewelry and accessory business, also operates out of McCarran, as well as the Miracle Mile Shops, and a third store has been licensed to Ayala’s father in Denver.

As if all of this wasn’t enough to keep him busy, since 1997, Ayala has been a board member for the Latino Chamber of Commerce and Three Square Food Bank for five years. Recently, he took time to speak with diamondcake about his passion for the Hispanic community, his December 2012 appointment to the Nevada Commission on Tourism and his thoughts on Gov. Brian Sandoval.

How did you come to live in Las Vegas?

I was 8 when we moved here from Southern Cal. My dad was a coach in college basketball. Then, when Tark came here, he brought my dad as his top assistant. That’s how we came in ’73.

I’ve got an identical twin brother (Steve), which half the people I know here now don’t realize. But everybody did, growing up. We went all the way through college and never lived more than half a mile apart. He’s in North Carolina now.

Where did you go to college?

USC (University of Southern California) for business. Then I came back to run the family business, since my dad had bought three small candy stores in the hotels. A couple years later, he got his first airport store. The evolution of the business was: We gained a bunch of hotel stores, then the hotels started taking them over; so what we would lose in hotel stores, we would gain in airport stores.

Now you have TAGS Evolution.

When I was with my dad, our niche was developing new and exciting specialty retail concepts. There’s a demand for that in the airport. My manager and I were scouring the mall for different concepts, and it’s just jewelry, jewelry, jewelry. It doesn’t lend itself to speed of service—in an airport, people are going like this. (Snaps fingers.) So we always just resisted jewelry.

Then Dominique (Lindsay, general manager at Ayala Inc.,) says, “Why don’t they just show us the tags? What’s the deal?”

Hence, the name and the concept.

Right. So, we have five main price points: $20, $40, $60, $80 and $100, and they’ll all be color coded. Every green tag is 20; every blue tag’s 60. Items go all the way up to $3,500. My wife does all the buying. She does an awesome job.

What’s next?

I don’t know how we’re going to expand, but I know we are.

What prompted you to become so involved in the community?

In the airport arena, politics rules your life. Here, it’s the county commission. In Denver, it’s city council. Those are ultimately your bosses, so it’s good that they know who you are. In mixing it up at different functions, I got introduced to the Latin Chamber and I said, “Hey, that’s a need that I can latch on to.”

When we went to school, we had a lot of financial aid and stuff. Bottom line: We were twins (there were 6 kids in the family in total), we were going to school, my parents were separated and we were Hispanic. So, there were some grants and it helped out.

You support several causes. Is the Latino cause the most important to you?

Empowering the Hispanic community will always be something that I advocate for. You know, Three Square—it goes well together, because there’s a lot of Hispanics who are food insecure but too proud to take free food. We’re working on that right now. We’re getting together a group at Three Square to more accurately measure the need in the Hispanic community.

And how did you get involved with Three Square?

At Subway, they had a deal, like buy two sandwiches for five bucks, so if I was getting a sandwich, I’d buy another one for a homeless guy. I’d see a couple of them on the way back to the office and they would always be so thankful—so that’s the conversation a friend of mine Merlinda Gallegos and I were having one lunch. Then she goes, “Well, that’s nice, but I’m on the advisory board at Three Square and you’ve got to get involved, because that same five bucks could have created 15 meals.”

And I think they were probably trying to create this ethnic balance and I kind of fit there.

Why did Gov. Sandoval choose you for the Tourism Commission?

I think (Governor) Sandoval was committed to getting more Hispanics involved in higher-profile boards. He thought it would go well with what I’m doing—the airport industry, (which) I know like the back of my hand. But, I’m just getting my feet wet. I’ve only been to one meeting.

Tell us about your relationship with Gov. Sandoval.

I’ve known him since he was first running for attorney general. We just respect each other. Some stories were written, you know, about how he’s trying to get back in with his Hispanic base. But, he’s a very genuine guy. He’s always been stand-up with me and with us as a Hispanic community.

Previously published by diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for Brian Ayala.