Category Archives: buy local

The Best Christmas Tree Stand in Provo

Last year, I randomly stumbled on Baum’s Christmas trees. Then Saturday, Laura and I made visiting Baum’s a tradition when we picked up our second tree in as many years. And personally, I think the tree we bought this year is the best one we’ve found since we’ve been together.

Baum's Christmas tree stand, which is located in a front yard in the hills behind DI.

Baum’s Christmas tree stand, which is located in a front yard in the hills behind DI.

I’ve included my original post in its entirety below. To that I’ll just add that while Baum’s may not be the only family-run Christmas tree operation out there, it’s still a fairly unique place where you can talk to the actual person who cut the tree down. And while the trees themselves may not be local, the rest of the operation is so it’s better for the local economy. As a result, I once again highly recommend Baum’s. Since my original post, Baum’s has also been featured in a Daily Herald article, which includes more information.

Here’s the original post:

If you’re looking for a Christmas Tree in Utah Valley, allow me to recommend Baum Christmas Trees. It’s a Christmas tree lot located in Mr. Baum’s front yard, at 1650 N. 1250 W. To get there, head north along the street behind D.I., turn left at the first light, follow the road as it curves around, and turn right at the appropriate street (first or second street you come to).

Baum Christmas Trees is charming and quaint in a way that parking lot venders never could be. Not only are you walking around on someone’s front yard, but there’s one of those little, pre-fab waterfalls. Also, the Baum family is very appropriately named, as “baum” means “tree” in German.

According to Mr. Baum — I didn’t get his first name, though the tag on our tree says R. Ladell Baum — he cuts all the trees himself, mostly in Utah and Wyoming. His son told us that the family has been doing it for 40 years, and used to sell about 2,000 trees. Today, they sell around 1,000.

And lest you think that this place is too Mom and Pop to have a decent selection, I assure you that there are trees for all tastes. We got a $28 tree that is probably just under 6 feet. There were a lot of taller trees and some smaller trees. They come in all the typical breeds (species? varieties? what do you call different types of pine trees?), and can be flocked as well.

As for us, we’re both pleased with the tree we found and are glad we accidentally stumbled upon Baum’s while driving around one day.


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Support Your Community By Shopping Locally This Holiday Season

This week kicks off the most intense shopping season of the year. It’s a fun and kind of stressful time that pours a massive amount of money into the economy. But how much of that spending is at locally owned businesses?

A banner advertising gift certificates at locally-owned restaurant Los Hermanos. Most local restaurants have similar offers, which is just one possible way to do holiday gift shopping locally.

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that it’s not enough. I also know that choosing to shop locally can have a huge impact on communities. According to a handy tool on the Local First website, if every household in Provo shifted just 10 percent of their holiday spending to local businesses it would inject $469,882.53 into the local economy. If everyone in Utah County did the same, the economic impact would be $3,966,885. (If you live in another city in Utah, you can use the Local First site to provide figures for your community as well.)

And keep in mind, this doesn’t mean a radical change to exclusively shopping at local businesses; rather these impacts would be realized with a relatively measly 10 percent shift.

To that I’d add that shopping locally can be more fun and less stressful because it’s inherently close to home and because it often results in more unique purchases.

I’ve written before about the benefits of shopping locally, but there’s never been a better time to start than during the holiday season when we’re all (supposed to be) thinking about trying to be just a little bit better.

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Filed under buy local, economics, local

One Problem With Big Box Buildings

Someone pulled a gun at a Utah Kmart over the weekend. But what surprised me most was that when I saw the picture below, I had absolutely no idea where the incident happened:

From a news perspective, this ambiguous picture was great because it forced me to read the rest of the article.

But from a building and architecture perspective, it illustrates one of the primary problems with big box retailers: they’re so utterly generic that even a photo reveals nothing about their setting. Though the incident happened in West Valley City (no surprise there), this picture could easily depict the Kmart in Provo’s East Bay. In reality, it could probably depict most of the Kmarts in America. I don’t even know if this picture actually shows the Kmart where the crime happened; it could just be a stock photo owned by the news agency.

Ultimately, the most telling thing in this photo is the hill behind the store and even that is mostly obscured by the ugly building.

The point here is that the best places are unique. They create a one-of-a-kind sense of identity and people appreciate them for that. Downtown Provo is one such place. Many of the destinations people spend money traveling to similarly create settings that emphasize their uniqueness. But locations like the one in the picture above aren’t just ugly, they also deny communities their inherent sense of individuality. And that’s a problem.


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The Declaration of Independence

One of the most remarkable things about downtown Provo, perhaps the most remarkable, is how independent it has stayed. There are more restaurants per square mile than all but the most touristy of places, for example, but no chains.

The result is innovation, creativity and an unparalleled experience. Everyone has their favorite places in downtown and it’s a testament to the diversity of the area that there are so many differing opinions; it takes a lot of hard work and success to inspire wildly different but devoted fans.

Downtown Provo is filled with innovative and independent businesses. A new Facebook page has been created to help foster that environment.

Recently, a friend asked if I’d be interested in jumping on as an administrator for the Keep Downtown Independent Facebook page. And after a quick conversation, I realized it was something I definitely support. As I see it, the idea is to keep downtown Provo filled with creativity and innovation. It’s to keep local money in the local economy. It’s to continue building downtown and making a great place, or a greater place.

Every city should have a page like this, and many probably do. But if you care about building a great city that isn’t generic or like anywhere else in the world, go like the page. And while you’re at it, share your vision for the future of downtown Provo.


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Filed under buy local, community, Downtown, Provo, restaurant

Produce Market Comes to Downtown

Tonight marks the first ever Fresh Wednesday Produce Market. Basically, it’s a farmers market focusing exclusively on locally grown produce and nothing more. It’ll happen on center street.

The market is being organized by Downtown Provo Inc. and will have roughly six local vendors. The idea is to grow it with time. I was also told that it’s being done in partnership with the Provo Farmer’s Market, which happens every Saturday.

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A True Food Scene

Downtown Provo’s restaurants are diverse, surprising and as I argued in May, creating a kind of culinary renaissance in the city. But while the number of restaurants is remarkable, what really gives Provo an edge over other places — some of which are larger or more conventionally cosmopolitan — is innovation. In other words, it’s the combination of breath and creativity that is igniting a food scene right before our eyes.

This phenomenon was made strikingly clear to me last week at Station 22’s Supper Club. The club was held Aug. 30 and was advertised as a “Carolina-style Pig Pickin'” with “a whole roast hog served up with hushpuppies, beans, sweet tea, and more.”

Pork and a pig’s head cooked by Station 22. Photo courtesy of Jason Ross Williams.*

I’m not much of a pork guy — or a big meat-eater generally — so I was initially a tiny bit skeptical. What I ended up experiencing, however, not only laid my fears to rest but even exceeded my preconceptions about what dining in downtown Provo could be.

The meal took place at a communal table. It was the kind of seating arrangement that’s often awkward for a minute or two, but then ends up fostering unexpected connections. In my case, I ended up talking more to the new friends who sat around me than the companions I showed up with. The ambiance was further enriched by Appalachian-style folk band Cotton Bones.

This band played throughout the meal. Photo courtesy of Jason Ross Williams.*

As advertised, the menu included roasted hog, hushpuppies and more. Frankly, I’ve had trouble figuring out how to describe the food because despite its obvious roots in traditional American cuisine I’ve never really had anything quite like it. It was delicious, and the combination of salads, the meat, the hushpuppies and other fare amounted to far more than the sum of the individual parts. The ultimate effect was rich without being over-heavy. The smoked lemonade was also particularly distinctive and unlike anything I’ve previously tasted.

Smoked lemonade. Photo courtesy of Jason Ross Williams.*

But most importantly, the entire experience was obviously an exercise in innovation. Like successful art, the food was a creative interpretation of existing concepts. The setting and set up were orchestrated for hyper engagement. The environment — especially the music — was meant to interact with the food.

Most restaurants — including all chains I’ve ever experienced — never even approach this idea. Hopefully, they serve satisfactory food but either way they’re not thinking of eating as enlightening or humanizing. Station 22 clearly is, and that’s why Provo’s culinary scene is heating up; food is being recognized as a way to explore more than just our bellies.

Station 22 isn’t alone, of course. Communal, for example, holds both instructional and meet-your-farmer dinners that aim to enrich community members’ interaction with food. Black Sheep Cafe uses food as an expression and exploration of Native American culture. Last year, the Heirloom people hosted a giant fundraising dinner on a farm which turned out to be one of the best eating experiences I can remember.

Those are all examples of restaurateurs exploding traditional paradigms.

Ultimately, not every restaurant in downtown is trying to reinvent the eating experience. Many of them just serve really great food, and that’s important too. But taken together, these various culinary philosophies are building a renaissance and they’re building a scene.

* Jason Ross Williams was kind enough to let me use his photos of the event at Station 22. He also photographed the first Supper Club and has many other cool images on his website.


Filed under buy local, Food, restaurant

Best August Posts

August was a short month for this blog because I spent more than a third of it traveling. Nevertheless, there were still a handful of posts I wanted to highlight. So as is the custom, here are the best posts from August:

We Can Have Better Neighborhoods if We Just Choose to Build Them: People sometimes talk about cities as if they’re immutable. But that’s a fiction. People built our cities and I believe there is no obstacle — from zoning to public opinion to financing — that people also can’t overcome. If our cities are imperfect it’s because we yet lack the will to fix them.

Trading Historic Buildings For Blight and Parking Lots: This post explains how a local developer wanted to turn an old church into apartments, but then despite everyone’s enthusiasm, the project was stalled or killed by absurd city fees.

What to do With Wasted Street and Parking Space: Like many cities, Provo includes a fair amount of underused pavement. Parking lots sit empty, streets are too wide, and there’s less room for people. This post suggests that all the wasted space could simply be cordoned off and turned into pedestrian zones.

Blame Streets for Auto-Bike Accidents: Poor road design not only doesn’t help prevent accidents, it actively encourages them.

What City Creek Could Have Been: City Creek in Salt Lake City is great. But this post tries to imagine what could have been if investors had used the $2 billion they spent on the mall to fund startups and business development. Hint: the results would have been much better. This post is part of an ongoing effort to think about the implications of local and non-local commerce.

Squares and the Heart of a City: Provo has no public squares. Let’s fix that.

Provo, Utah: A great city that will get even greater if we’re smart, informed and work really hard.

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Filed under building, buy local, construction, Downtown, economics, neighborhood, parking, Provo