SALT LAKE CITY — As Temple Square begins a four-year-long renovation at the end of this year, across the street, the Deseret Book flagship store at City Creek Center has just finished a renovation of its own.
The store’s celebration of that renovation, a public grand reopening, came Tuesday — 11 days after the Temple Square announcement, and just over nine years since the flagship store opened in 2010. The store’s refurbishment expands the vision put forward by Sheri Dew, the executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation and CEO of Deseret Book Company.
“We acknowledge the great work of (Deseret Book Company’s) founders and leaders and, as has already been mentioned, express special thanks to Sheri Dew for her vision and leadership that brought this flagship into existence,” said Keith McMullin, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation, the Deseret News' parent company, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.
With Temple Square attracting between 3 to 5 million visitors a year, it’s understandable for surrounding businesses to be concerned about the massive renovation, and at first glance it seems like a far-from-ideal time for Deseret Book to “update” its brand, said Laurel Christensen Day, the company’s vice president of product and consumer experience. But Day said Deseret Book Company was aware of the potential renovations to Temple Square before the April 19 announcement and decided to still move forward with plans to gut and transform the store’s space.
“We feel like it’s important that this representation (of Deseret Book) exist even while Temple Square is under construction — maybe even more so while Temple Square is under construction,” Day told the Deseret News. “Nothing will ever match the majesty and experience of Temple Square, but there will still be people coming to downtown."
Last year, nearly 1.6 million people visited the downtown store, according to numbers provided by Deseret Book Company. Day believes the results of the store’s revamping, which include a Sweet Retreat area featuring a cafe with Crumbl Cookies, a shoppable art gallery with 100-plus works (including 20-30 originals) and a children’s corner with little nooks for kids to sit and read, will continue to draw large numbers of visitors — even during the Temple Square construction. The store will also host multiple events to attract visitiors each month, including book clubs, concerts and guest speakers.
“The emphasis is that we want this to be a place (where) people gather and experience — that’s our goal,” Day said. “Our other stores are much smaller and there won’t be any store like this one probably ever. But our hope is to have concepts in this store and then take some of those concepts into other stores.”
The 14,255-square-foot flagship store is the largest of the 32 Deseret Book stores — 18 of which are in Utah. The remodeling of that space, Day said, creates a more inviting place for customers, combining “traditional product” like books, music and movies with “lifestyle product” like art and home decor. According to Day, those things don’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — mutually exclusive.
“We will always be Deseret Book, but we’re not just a bookstore, and the other store was set up so that on one side of the store was books and the other side of the store was lifestyle,” she said. “It wasn’t an integrated experience, and what we found through our research and in talking to our customers is that they’re coming looking for solutions to a problem that they have in their lives, and sometimes that solution is a book, but sometimes that solution is a piece of art.”
The store is split fairly evenly between traditional product and lifestyle product, according to Day, and having such a variety in merchandise helps Deseret Book continue to grow its customer base, including people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We are grateful for the fact that we … survived what so many bookstores didn’t survive when brick and mortar really started to shift online," Day said. "Even a lot of the Christian bookstores like Lifeway in the Salt Lake area had to shut down, and we want those customers to feel like they have a place to go to find some of their faith-centered product.”
But even as brick-and-mortar bookstores struggle in an increasingly digital age, Day points to Deseret Book’s best-selling product over the last six months — journal editions of scriptures that allow people to jot down notes as they read — as proof that the value of a physical book is still far from gone.
“Digital is convenient, but … you can’t gift digital very easily, and Deseret Book is a gift store in so many ways,” Day said. “People come here looking for meaningful gifts that they can give to the people that they love in their lives.”4 comments on this story
City Creek’s newly remodeled Deseret Book will have been open for eight months by the time Temple Square starts undergoing extensive renovation. The way Day sees it, eight months is plenty of time for the updated store to continue developing and broadening its customer base — after all, Deseret Book’s remodeling took only four months, and the store was able to remain open the entire time.
“The transformation of this space in four months is kind of insane,” Day said. “We’re very unique in terms of the stores that are here at City Creek, and we hope that the traffic we can bring helps City Creek as well. That’s our hope, that while the (Temple Square) renovation is happening, we can bring some traffic to help keep downtown alive.”