Salt Lake City's downtown redevelopment plans are forcing the city's oldest gun store, Gallenson's, at 220 S. State, to move.
Owners of the pawn shop and sporting goods store - Nate Gallenson, his son, Steve Gallenson, and David Boulton - say their lease won't be up until January 1990, but they expect to move to a new location before that, possibly next year or even sooner, if a good store site can be found.Nate Gallenson has put up a large map of Salt Lake County in his store and furnished hundreds of map pins so his customers can mark where they live, work and where they'd like to see the store move.
Boulton says business in the past two years has been the best in the store's history, and all three partners are sorry they have to move. "This is a great location. We get an awful lot of walk-in business here," he said.
Gallenson and his son say there are about 180,000 people in the city, but during the day there are 400,000 or more, and a downtown location means a lot.
"We've considered staying in the downtown area someplace, but there is a lack of parking downtown," Steve Gallenson said. "If we move the store out south, to the neighborhood of 21st South or 33rd South, we'd want a building with plenty of parking space."
The three agree that moving will be expensive, time consuming and tedious. "We have a lot of rare guns and a great deal of fragile merchandise that will have to be moved carefully," Steve Gallenson said. "And we have thousands of gun parts that will have to be organized when they are moved so we don't lose track of anything or get things mixed up."
Gallenson's does more than $1 million worth of business annually, and the owners say moving their store or changing the looks of it is fraught with danger. "We've got a good thing going here, and we don't want to screw it up," Nate Gallenson said.
"We got some great customers that have been with us for decades, and we don't want to lose any of them. We might expand our gun department or our sporting goods, sell more archery equipment or more reloading gear or prospecting items - it's hard to say until we find a new location."
The three owners say they would like to build a new store or buy one, but that is too risky and they will probably lease a store until the new location proves to be a good one. "They we might buy," Nate Gallenson said.
Unhappy about being forced to move away from a location the store has occupied since 1948, Steve Gallenson said he figures "the city paid the owner of our building $40 to $50 a square foot for our store and will probably sell it for $25 a square foot. I hate to see my own tax dollars being squandered."
There is a possibility the city will help move the store's inventory to a new location, especially if the move is made before the store's lease is up. How much the city might pay, though, is still waiting to be negotiated.
William Gallenson, a tailor who came to Utah from Russia about 1914, started the business in 1916 at 128 Regent St. with an uncle, William Paver. They turned the store into a pawn shop in 1925 and in 1930 moved to West Second South across from the Capitol Theater.
"They were there four or five years and moved to the corner of Second South and Regent Street. Then they moved to the Moxom Hotel on the south side of Second South. They were there until the hotel was torn down to make way for the J.C. Penney store," Nate Gallenson said.
"They were going to move to the northwest corner of State Street and Second South, but Dee Anderson had a spot at 220 S. State where he was going to put his Dee's hamburger stand. He thought the corner location would be better for his store and asked my dad if he'd trade locations, so he did and we ended up here. Anderson was our landlord until the city bought the property."
All four of William Gallenson's sons worked in the store for years - Nate, Leo, Marvin and Charles. "Charles died in an airplane crash in 1952 and Marvin retired some years ago. Leo just retired, so my son and I are the only Gallensons left in the business," Nate Gallenson said.
The store's thousands of regular customers, from all over the nation, have learned to expect personal service from knowledgeable salesmen who are all shooters, hunters and reloaders, Gallenson said.
"We've spent nearly three-quarters of a century building a reputation, and we expect to continue our personalized service and competitive prices - no matter where our new store is located."