UtahStories.com began in December 2007, with one main idea: to build a living, on-line historical document on Salt Lake City and eventually all of Utah. We began by producing video interviews with long-time Salt Lake City merchants asking their opinions on the growth development of downtown Salt Lake City. The interviews were excellent and their insight is unlike anything you have read in history books. Now we are getting back to our original intent: to continue collecting stories to better understand our region of Utah in a greater context. We are still actively seeking stories that provide greater insight into our collective history. If you or someone you know has a great story to tell that can shed more light on the history of Salt Lake City, we would love to hear from you click here to send us a brief synopsis of your story.
In this effort we are producing a full-length documentary film examining the growth and development of Salt Lake City for the past 100 years. Begining with Mormon Pioneer History and concluding with the present day city rebuilding efforts. We are focusing our interviews on people whose stories are closely tied with the history and growth of the Salt Lake Valley. Besides collecting stories and working to build a historical study, "A People's History Of Salt Lake City" will also examine modern growth and urban development issues such as: Post WWII Suburban Growth, The Great Divide religious and cultural issues, as well as the controversial subject of urban development projects in Salt Lake City that some claim have been very harmful for local merchants. Below are some of the merchants we have interviewed thus far. Click here for details on this project.
Lamb's Grill Cafe: John Speros
Lambs Grill Cafe is Utah's oldest restaurant. Located on Main Street next to the Walker Building, John Speros has worked here since he was ten-years-old. Speros has dedicated his life to the quaint old restaurant, starting out working for his father at age ten. Speros has seen downtown change dramatically in his lifetime. Speros describes how the building around his restaurant were once full of unique retailers and restaurants such as Baker Shoes, Broadway Music and Auerbach's Department store. Speros attributes the closures of all the shops to the ongoing hassles Salt Lake City planners have inflicted on merchants through on-going beautification projects.
Utah Wollen Mills: Bart Stringham
Located directly across the street from the L.D.S. Salt Lake City Temple, Utah Woolen Mills has been around long enough to see downtown flourish in the first half of the century to stagnate in the last twenty-years. Bart Stringham is the third generation owner of Utah Woolen Mills and he believes building the Crossroads Mall was a big mistake. Stringham is very articulate in his opinions and treads lightly when talking about church ownership and dominion over downtown Salt Lake City. Stringham is very grateful that his business is one of the few remaining open during the reconstruction.
Oxford Shop : Dick Wyrick
After 56 years of doing all he can to maintain downtown Salt Lake's vitality, Richard Wirick is known officially today as "Mr. Downtown". He owns Oxford shoes and he is a charismatic supporter of all downtown projects. He doesn't regret the malls or any work that has gone on downtown. Hear Wiricks opinions on why he believes the malls weren't a mistake. Learn what a boot-jack is and find out how and why Wirick has so much support from Mayor Rocky Anderson, Peter Caroon and everyone who meets him.
Sam Weller Zion Books : Tony Weller, Sam Weller, Lilla Weller
Tony Weller is a third-generation bookseller who has passion for rare books. Weller's collection of literature, philosophy, fiction and Mormon works is uncomparible to any other Western book store. Tony Weller has no fear of sipping a huge cup of coffee while showing us his massive, $30 thousand dollar eighteenth century Bible. Weller also showed us their huge collection of rare Books of Mormon; poems by Eliza R. Snow; and books on the planning of Central Park among many others. Weller has recently partnered with Salt Lake Coffee Garden to add a coffee shop to his store, but you would never confuse Sam Weller's for a Barnes and Noble. Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore is a giant store in the heart of downtown full of history and long-time employees who are dedicated career book sellers. Concerning the downtown projects of the past, Weller, is of the opinion that Crossroads Mall was the biggest mistake the city ever made. Hear Weller's opinions on downtown development and get a rare look inside their collection.
L. Lorenz Knife Shop : Tom Warner
L. Lorenz knife shop is the The oldest knife shop in Utah, selling some of the nicest pieces of steel money can buy. Tom Warner began coming to the Lorenz shop as a young boy with a great facination for knives. Over the years Tom became great friends with Mr. Lornez and was hired as a shop keeper. To hear Mr. Warner talk about Mr. Lorenz its clear that he was a father figure. "In these old shops the employees become a part of the family." Warner describes the "old men with their shops" as "great characters, hard working...never missed a day." Warner remembers when the downtown Salt Lake City streets were so full of people it became nearly impossible to your lunch in half and hour.
Warner isn't a very opinionated about the issue of the redevelopment. Warner spend much of his time in the back as master grinder, using the same tools old man Lorenz used 100 years ago, to grind every sory of kinfe and blad. Warner shares his 100-year-old techniques as well as some of the most beautiful knives the Lorenz shop caries.
Bennion Jewelers : Bill Bennion
Bennion Jewelers is one of the finest jewelry stores in Utah. They specialize in high end jewels, rare pearls and gold. However also found in Bennion's shop is A giant grandfather's clock brought over with Pioneers across the Great Planes, it has been ticking away in the shop for 145 years. Bennion Jewelers has Pioneer legacy dating back to the silver and gold rush of the late 19th century. Bennion Jewelers began as a bullion maker from gold acquired from Park City mining operations. Bill Bennion's father bought out the business 56 years ago and the future looks as bright as his sapphires thanks to his recent decision to relocate. Rather than stay in their old building slated for demolition, Bennion opted to take a generous offer from the L.D.S church and relocate to a new building on 1st South. Bennion says this was a great move for him and his business is flourishing now. Related to the downtown reconstruction Bennion believes the sky bridge would be a great mistake and take pedestrian traffic away from shops on the street. Listen to Bennion's opinions on past projects and hear him describe how his beautiful shop has managed to succeed.
Downtown Salt Lake City development links:
Sample three restaurants in a single night night! September 12-27details
- Downtown Rising Farmers Market Organizers and downtown promotional organization
City Creek Page
- Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce
Salt Lake City Business and Grants and Market InformationChamber web site
- Salt Lake City Skyscraper Page
The best progress report for downtown Salt Lake City development projectsforum web site
- Downtown Rebound
Deseret News Reports on the resurgance of economic activity in Downtown Salt Lake City & the City Creek Center Developmentsee article
- Putting the Main Back in Main Street
Report on how downtown districts all across the United States are seeing redevelopment projects designed to entice pedestrian traffic and draw visitors out of suburban malls back to Main Street.see article
- The Demise of a Small-town Business
The economic impact of corporate chain stores smothering Ma and Pa shops across the United Statessee article
- The Temporary Museum of Permanent Change
Salt Lake City organization dedicated to telling the stories of construction, city change and historyvisit the museum