Those who don’t know Larry Ruvo may take one look at his extraordinarily long list of business and philanthropic accomplishments and ask the same question: “You’ve done so much for so many for so long — why don’t you retire and enjoy some quiet time with your family?”
Of course, anyone who has known Larry Ruvo for any length of time would be able to quickly and succinctly answer that question: “That’s not Larry’s style. Besides, he loves Nevada.”
Indeed, over the past half-century, Ruvo, the Silver State Award winner, has spent as much time spreading goodwill in his beloved state as he has building his business — Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada — into Nevada’s largest wholesale liquor, wine, and beer importer and distributor. From supporting children’s causes to investing in education to creating the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health — a medical facility in downtown Las Vegas that bears his father’s name and strives to eradicate Alzheimer’s and other neurocognitive diseases — Ruvo’s commitment to lifting up Nevada’s community is both unending and unparalleled.
That benevolence, of course, has touched the UNLV campus in numerous ways, most notably through UNLVino, an annual wine event that was slated to be renamed Evolution Food & Wine Experience this year but was postponed because of the coronavirus. Ruvo launched the scholarship fundraiser 47 years ago in partnership with Jerry Vallen, then dean of UNLV’s College of Hotel Administration.
Besides financial support — which includes regular donations to UNLV since 1975 — Ruvo also has lent his time and expertise to the university as a member of the Board of Trustees since 1995, the Palladium Society since 1999, and the President’s Inner Circle since 2019.
Because of his steadfast dedication to UNLV and other education institutions, Ruvo has been honored with numerous awards and distinctions, including the 2005 Education Hero Award from the Public Education Foundation; the 2009 Distinguished Nevadan Award from the Nevada System of Higher Education; and the Altruistic Award from The Meadows School. Ruvo also was inducted into the UNLV Gaming Hall of Fame in 2005 and is a past recipient of the UNLV Man of the Year honor.
“Over the years, I’ve sat back proudly and watched the school that I first knew as NSU — Nevada Southern University — become UNLV and grow into what is now an internationally recognized institution of higher learning,” Ruvo said. “It’s truly a blessing to have it in Las Vegas.”
Las Vegans could certainly say the same thing about Larry Ruvo.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of us about the power and importance of being resilient. Share an example from your career that showed your resiliency.
When we started our company with just a few employees and very few brands, we had to travel all over the world to try to convince suppliers that an alternative to their present distributor would benefit them. We never took no for an answer. I would repeatedly send letters and make phone calls — at that time, I may have even sent a few telegrams. But the constant exposure to the existence of some young upstart beverage wholesaler in Nevada paid off: Many of those early negative responses turned into positive responses, and many of those people we originally dealt with became good friends and remain so today.
Finish this sentence: If you want to be successful in the hospitality industry, you must …
… innovate, bringing to your customers new experiences. But while doing so, make sure you don’t ever forget your employees — they should be part of any innovation. When employees are involved and invested in a new program from its inception and not simply told what to do, they’ll be more likely to buy into it completely. That benefits the entire organization.
What advice do you have for today’s UNLV students who dream of a career in the beverage industry?
Learn everything about the liquids you are serving to your customers — be able to talk about the different types of Scotch, the quality of the whiskeys, even the differences in bottled water, wine and beer. And that leads to a broader piece of advice: Remember that knowledge is power. Here’s a story that explains what I mean:
A few years ago, a daughter of a friend who had recently graduated college came to visit me and asked for a job. I looked at her and said, “Tell me what you really want to do for a career.” She responded, “I want to be in the wine business. Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of it, but I’m willing to learn.”
I offered her a position and told her she could start in our training program the next day at a modest hourly wage. But I said if she were to stick with the program, pass mixology, wine, and beer education, and go on to get her sommelier certification, her starting salary would jump many folds. She ended up going to work at a California winery and enjoyed the experience so much that when the winery’s harvest was over, she moved to Australia so she could work a second harvest.
She has now passed two of the Court of Master Sommeliers exams, and I’m certain she’s on her way to becoming a very knowledgeable addition to the beverage industry.
Again, knowledge is power.