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Downtown Salt Lake City thrived as shopping mecca for century

Stores such as ZCMI and Auerbach's were popular destinations

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  • gwynnie NY, NY
    Sept. 26, 2012 6:46 p.m.

    I live outside of Utah now but I grew up there and have so many fond memories of "downtown". When we were about 10 or 11, my cousin and I used to take the bus from my grandmother's (ALL the way from 4th So. and 4th East!) to "town" (as grandma called it), have lunch in Auerbach's lunchroom and then we went shopping and/or to a movie; I remember Grant's, Kress, Woolworth's, Baker Shoes, The Paris Company, KOB, JC Penney's, the Ding Ho (chinese) restaurant, Center Theatre, ZCMI (they also had the Tiffin Room for lunch) & all the other wonderful old theatres;bet we didn't spend $5.00!! Such great times. If downtown SLC has changed as some posters have said, I would be sad to see it now. It was great then. I remember watching the women wrap Christmas gifts at Auerbach's & being fascinated with that - & the Christmas decorations & windows were all so wonderful! Ahh - if only to have a Time Machine.

    One comment, though about the "America's first department store - ZCMI... not true. There were nearly 10 in NYC alone long before ZCMI in Utah - just sayin'.

  • Zadruga Guy
    Nov. 18, 2009 2:53 p.m.

    To the commentor at 2:04 p.m. on 16 Nov 2009:

    There is no way to get downtown for free. You are raising a straw man argument since I never claimed that there was. Driving a car is certainly not free. You pay for the gas, the loan payments, the insurance payments, and the costs of routine maintenance.

    What I said was that downtown Salt Lake City has excellent free public transportation once you are downtown. Hence, you only need to find a parking space one time, if you choose to drive there, or not at all, if you take public transit there. Personally, I take Trax most of the time. All of the Trax stations have free parking.

  • Jordan T.
    Nov. 16, 2009 7:41 p.m.

    We can thank the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and former Salt Lake Mayor Ted Wilson for downtown Salt Lake's demise.

    About 34 years ago, in the mid 1970's, they tore up Main Street, planted some trees, took out all of the beautiful neon signage, and put in two loser malls.

    I really liked downtown Salt Lake back in the day, but now I'm not so sure. It's really sad with what has become of the place.

    Downtown Salt Lake is really dead; there's nothing here. Not to mention there are no great bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the area, and no quality retailers to boot.

    Thanks for nothing Salt Lake!

  • Why go downtown?
    Nov. 16, 2009 2:35 p.m.

    If it weren't for the Jazz games and an occasional event at the Conference Center... Why would I ever go downtown and put up with the traffic and parking meters? And then on top of that... Get ragged on for fouling Rocky Anderson's air???

    Why would I EVER go downtown for shopping?

  • That was Then
    Nov. 16, 2009 2:32 p.m.

    Now SLC Rocky Anderson has turned SLC into the Mecca for bar hopping. That's probably going to work out great for them!

  • To Zadruga
    Nov. 16, 2009 2:04 p.m.

    Really? How do I get downtown free from Sandy? I don't see your solution to the problem, unless you happen to be one of the unlucky few who live downtown. In that case, you're pretty well trapped anyway.

  • Evets
    Nov. 16, 2009 12:50 p.m.

    Having grown up in California I can only reflect on a few trips to SLC as a child and I do remember the vibrant Downtown. I too remember the downtown of my youth in California and how it was the place to shop just like SLC was in Utah. There is a difference though...as malls and shopping in the suburbs grew my California downtown developed FREE parking (lots and on-street) around the downtown area as well as a free shuttle up and down the downtown streets. They beautified the main streets with gardens and more walkways and encouraged more unique one of a kind shops. Over the years downtown again became the place to shop and eat and to this day it competes very well against all the malls etc.
    I think SLC should make it's downtown pedestrian and parking friendly. Today, living in Utah, I avoid downtown SLC just because of the parking and there is no draw there except some chuch and historical sites to visit. Why should I fight the traffic and the parking when I can vist the same stores in the suburbs near my home?

  • Terry
    Nov. 16, 2009 11:58 a.m.

    Having grown up in Salt Lake, I remember it as it was in the 1950's. I purchased a video from PBS Television entitled, Salt Lake City in the 50's. This shows downtown as it was in it's heyday. It was always enjoyable to go there one the bus and spend all day going to a movie, shopping in all the stores and eating at a number of restaurants. I wish the kids of today could have that experience.

  • Zadruga Guy
    Nov. 16, 2009 11:07 a.m.

    I am REALLY tired of the constant complaints that downtown SLC has a parking problem. Downtown has EXCELLENT public transportation -- AND it is FREE! Problem solved.

  • Don't worry!
    Nov. 16, 2009 10:29 a.m.

    The current Mayor, Becker is going to revive the downtown area by allowing more bars per block. That will really make it come back to life. Alcohol solves all problems. Thank the liberals that voted for him and the conservatives that couldn't be bothered to vote.

  • Dave
    Nov. 16, 2009 10:26 a.m.

    Downtown SLC doesn't have a feel of friendliness anymore. It's like they're lurking in the dark to give you a ticket for anything and everything. As if the taxes weren't enough, they have to try and nail you for another $50 every time you come downtown for some parking violation or another. Downtown is one of the most unfriendly places in our state, too bad the coppers and govt hacks have ruined it.

  • Sterling
    Nov. 16, 2009 10:05 a.m.

    About 40? years ago, SLC, in its infinite wisdom decided to do a "downtown beautification". That was when they widened the sidewalks, took out all the angled parking (you COULD park a lot of cars on the street) and what was worse was that they tore up ALL of main street from south temple to 400 south to do it. NO MERCHANTS could survive. They didn't even ALLOW traffic on main street they had the steet so torn up. Whenever I see the City doing anything now to "help business" I "gotta wonder"???

  • Anonymous
    Nov. 16, 2009 9:23 a.m.

    I still have great memories of going to downtown Salt Lake. Once Main Street of democratic thoroughfare. People from all social tiers, all faiths and all economic levels walked the same street. Today, Main Street demonstrates that in a nation that values equality, some are more equal than other in Utah.

  • Greg
    Nov. 16, 2009 9:17 a.m.

    Get rid of all the parking lots and put the space to good use... you'll get more people downtown. I think it's also irresponsible to imply that the "era of horse and buggy" moved directly to that of the automobile. You miss 40 years of history where the dominant mode of transportation was the trolley. Seeing as our city has only been around for 150 years, that's a good chunk of it that you ignore.

  • splitme2
    Nov. 16, 2009 9:07 a.m.

    We usually get downtown once a year to see the Christmas lights. Otherwise anything we want is in our back yard and much more convenient.

  • Out of Towner
    Nov. 16, 2009 8:28 a.m.

    Want to get me back downtown? You could start with free and convenient parking. The parking enforcement trolls must be a major source of revenue for the city. One day as I was walking downtown, I noticed an expired meter. As a good Samaritan, I put in a quarter. A parking troll came up and threatened to have me arrested. I don't go downtown anymore.

  • Felix Urioste
    Nov. 16, 2009 8:06 a.m.

    This $3,000,000,000 shopping mall will be so neat. I can't wait to get hot chocolate down there.

  • SLC gal
    Nov. 16, 2009 7:57 a.m.

    I feel shortchanged seeing these pictures and comparing them to the Crossroads/ZCMI malls of my youth. Downtown was so much better before I was born...

  • George
    Nov. 16, 2009 7:30 a.m.

    Auerbach's was the first and only place I shoplifted. After returning from a shopping trip my Mom discovered that my pockets were full of penny candy that I apparently grabbed during checkout. I was 3. I vaguely remember crying as we marched back to the candy barrels and emptied my pockets under supervision by an Auerbach's employee. Traumatic :)

    How about Keith O'brien, The Yardstick, The Paris, JC Penney? All wonderful "gentile" establishments.

  • RH
    Nov. 16, 2009 6:46 a.m.

    Thank you for this story and some memories. The Darling Building was where the beauty shop pictured was owned and operated by my aunt; Gena Westly for many years.

  • Jackie
    Nov. 16, 2009 5:52 a.m.

    I loved the old downtown SLC. I worked at Auerbachs as a teenager wrapping Christmas presents.
    At Christmas the stores were not decorated until after Thanksgiving. You couldn't wait to get to town to see the decorations.
    There was Grants, Woolworths, movie houses, and lots of great cafe's. Broadway Music, The Paris and Adrian and Emily's. As a teen you could get to SLC on the bus for 15 cents hang out all day and get home for 15 cents.

  • Was a good place to shop.
    Nov. 16, 2009 4:08 a.m.

    As a kid the downtown was the destination for everyone that lived in the SL Valley to buy anything you need with specialty shops for any need. It had a sense of community and pride with all shop owners and citizens working together. And it would still be there today if the city leaders and property owners had made any effort.

    What drove business and shops out was excessive costs to remain and the loss of parking and streets and cheap imports. Downtown Salt Lake sold quality and the Malls sold junk that and still do. This junk in the Malls undermined downtown with cheap imitations of the same products.

    When we lost the downtown we lost america, and Asia with its inferior products became the winner. Jobs, incomes, and being a productive nation slowly diminished until our economy has become what we have, a giant mess.

    All the downtown has to offer now is a tourist trap living on the past memories of what it used to be. The downtown wouldn't have a population if it wasn't for it being a safe haven for illegal foreign nationals and its criminal foreign national gangs.