Salt Lake's busy 3 malls each offer unique shopping experience (+photos)

Published: Friday, Nov. 23 2012 5:02 p.m. MST

Shoppers line up outside the Apple store in the City Creek Center on Black Friday in Salt Lake City, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Once the midnight rush at the big box stores was over, shoppers hit the malls on Black Friday.

Salt Lake City's three major downtown shopping centers — City Creek, The Gateway and Trolley Square — all reported strong activity on the first official day of the holiday shopping season. And all three believe there is plenty of business to go around for everyone.

Shoppers, mall officials and business owners alike say what will ultimately decide where the public will spend its money this season will depend on what each individual shopper wants. All three malls proclaim that what makes them unique is that they offer items the others don't.

"People like to shop here because of the names. They also like to shop here because our department stores are unique and better in ways that other department stores in the market are not," said Linda Wardell, general manager of City Creek Center.

Salt Lake's newest and biggest mall, the City Creek Center, celebrated its first ever Black Friday event.

"We've just been waiting for this day for about two years. We've been planning and working towards this day, and we're off to a terrific start," Wardell said.

Stores at City Creek began opening at 5 a.m. but Wardell said they expected their busiest times to be mid afternoon and at night.

"The chaos you see of people smashing through the doors, that typically happens at big box retailers or at discounters," she said. "The types of stores we have here definitely have door buster specials and great values. But our shoppers like to typically sleep in a little or they like to go out and do that other shopping at those other places before doing their mall shopping later in the day."

Shoppers like Monique Arvisais-Anhalt went to City Creek specifically for shops she can't find at any of the other malls.

"I think City Creek has good quality stores. And I don't shop very often, so when I do shop I want something that's good quality that will last a long time. And most of the stores here are good quality. But they are more expensive," she said.

But Sean Bradley, owner of Cabin Fever and Tabula Rasa — which has been in business now for 26 years — said shoppers who come to his store and the Trolley Square mall come for the same reason.

"What we have here is unique," he said. "They will see things here that they can't find anywhere else."

Trolley Square is still in a rebuilding phase and recently changed ownership. Even though much of the mall space remains vacant, there are also many retailers that have been in the historic shopping area for decades. And many say they are encouraged by the recent change in ownership as well as the addition of new stores, including Whole Foods.

"It's much better. Two or three great stores have come in this year. It's still got a ways to go before it's full. But our clients, they love to shop here," said Steve Farr, owner of Payne-Anthony Jewelers. "Trolley is different because it almost feels like it's owned by the community. It's not so much a big financial enterprise. A lot of the people feel like they've grown up here and they've been coming here since they were young. And it's a fun place to come during Christmas."

At The Gateway, several stores, including Dick's Sporting Goods, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, opened their doors at midnight.

"As soon as they opened all you could hear was screams," said Rochelle Fraser, marketing director for The Gateway.

The stores that opened at midnight had long lines that stretched down the sidewalks of the shopping center, Fraser said. Strong traffic continued throughout the day, dispelling any notion that The Gateway might lose business to City Creek.

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