Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Salt lake Lacks Department Store


For First Time in Nearly 140 Years, SLC Lacks Department Store
February 3rd, 2007 @ 2:57pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Saturday's closing of the Macy's store downtown
marks the first time in 139 years that Utah's capital city is without
a department store.

Ever since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded
Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution in 1868, there has been a
department store in the heart of downtown.

ZCMI is considered one of the country's first department stores and
was founded by church leaders to protect Mormons from Non-Mormon
merchants, according to one historian.

Today, the church has a more inclusive business model and downtown
retailers Macy's and Nordstrom are closing down temporarily while the
LDS church redevelops the downtown malls.

The $1 billion City Creek Center will open in 2011 with a total of
four department stores including Macy's and Nordstrom. The church
hopes the project, which will also include office and condominium
towers, will restore Main Street shopping to the draw it used to be
when a trip to ZCMI was an event.

"It's really too bad that that historic center of commerce will be put
on hold for a while," says Kent Powell, history programs manager for
the Division of State History. "Hopefully, with the new developments
down there, that will be a springboard to continue the tradition and
commercial significance of the area."

Uncomfortable with the influx of non-Mormons to the territory, then
LDS church President Brigham Young directed community and business
leaders to create the cooperative, according to Utah historian Martha
Sonntag Bradley, whose history of the homegrown store is called "ZCMI:
America's First Department Store."

Young thought non-Mormon merchants were selling Mormons overpriced
goods. He and other church leaders encouraged members to shop
exclusively at ZCMI, according to a brochure written by the Utah
Heritage Foundation.

Young was ZCMI's first president and customer, buying $1,000 worth of
goods, according to Bradley's book.

The May Co. purchased ZCMI in 1999 and the chain became Meier & Frank
stores. With a merger last year they became Macy's.

All that remains of the old store is ZCMI's 1876 cast-iron facade,
which still serves as the entrance to Macy's. The church has said it
will remove the facade during construction and put it back on the
front of the new Macy's store.

"I don't think there's the same sort of emotional connection to Macy's
or Meier and Frank as there was to ZCMI," says Bradley. "ZCMI was a
historical artifact a lot of people were connected to. It would be
much more controversial to put ZCMI down."

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