Category Archives: 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

Provo’s Downtown Ranks 8th in the U.S., Proves Uniqueness Wins

This week Livability ranked downtown Provo the eighth best in the nation. The article mentions downtown’s architecture, mountains, and “quaint, village-like atmosphere” as notable assets. It continues,

Historic downtown Provo encompasses 35 blocks and contains more than 150 retail stores, 39 restaurants and several government and private offices. In addition, many consider the Covey Center for the Arts and farmers market among the district’s top assets. Turn-of-the-century street lighting and traffic signals add to the historical ambiance that visitors and residents embrace.

This is news great for Provo, but what does it actually mean?

Restaurants and a comedy club on Center Street.

Among the obvious lessons about the importance of preserving historic architecture, improving walkability, and investing in growth, I think there may be another more important point: uniqueness and local loyalty pay off.

Consider: of all the restaurants in downtown, every single one is independent; all of the entertainment venues specialize in local performances; even much of the historic architecture was designed, out of necessity, by a local architect.

There are hundreds of “quaint, village-like” downtowns in the U.S. Many of those downtowns are great too. But a city doesn’t rise to the top of the pack by slavishly copying other cities; it rises to the top by developing a unique character that can’t be found anywhere else.

Stores, restaurants and an art installation. When was the last time you saw guerrilla art outside a chain restaurant or strip mall? For me, the answer is never.

As I write this post, I’m thinking in part of conversations happening on the Keep Downtown Independent Facebook page. Those conversations mirror many others going on in Provo and elsewhere about the relationships of local and non-local business.

But this much is apparent: 1) Provo’s downtown is being recognized as among the best of the best; 2) it also has very few non-local businesses; and 3) that lack of chains is atypical, in my limited experience, for a downtown.

The logical conclusion from those three points is that downtown Provo’s unique, local business composition has something to do with its growing success. It follows then that bolstering that composition would increase success, while compromising it would jeopardize success.

I don’t have a conclusive argument to make on this subject and I tend to shy away from any one-size-fits all solution. But as the city moves forward it’s my hope that it becomes more unique and less like the many other downtowns that it has already surpassed.

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Filed under Downtown, Food, local, Provo

Station 22 Grand Re-Opening

Station 22 and owner Richard Gregory are among the leaders in the effort to make downtown Provo a wonderful and unique place. In fact, Richard is even the founder of the Keep Downtown Independent Facebook page.

So I think it’s worth mentioning here that tonight Station 22 is having its grand reopening. The restaurant has been closed for renovations recently, but is ready to celebrate with food, music, and prizes.

Station 22 is celebrating its grand reopening tonight with a party.

The restaurant will also open with a few changes. I peeked in the back window the other day and saw some physical alterations to the space itself, but probably the most notable difference is that the restaurant will now be a full service establishment. Previously it fell into what might be described as the “fast casual” genre, though that description doesn’t really do it justice.

In any case, Station 22 has done great things in the past so it’ll definitely be interesting to see what they do in the future.

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A Benefit Worth Supporting: The Great Salt Lake Guitar Company

When I was growing up, my dad told me several times that I should go visit Stan’s Guitar Shop. The store was about a mile or so from my house and was a tiny space that specialized in bluesy rock. Filled with history and atmosphere, it was the kind of place that every town needs but few actually have.

Or, at least, that’s what I was told. The truth is I never got around to visiting Stan’s. I was a teenager with other things on my mind and though I loved music I thought I had all the time in the world. I didn’t, of course, and even before I moved away for college the shop closed forever. I’ll never really know what I missed.

Running a retail business has only become more difficult in the years since Stan’s closed and the mom-and-pop shops that have survived through Herculean efforts add something irreplaceable to the community. As I’ve written many times on this blog, they circulate more money back into the local economy than larger chains. Perhaps more importantly, they provide crucial gathering points, unique services, and “experiential shopping” in which buying something becomes more about exploration.

The Great Salt Lake Guitar Company in downtown is exactly that kind of store. Located on Center Street, it’s both a workshop and retail space. Among other things, the family-run shop sells hand made guitars, hosts shows, and (as I can attest) offers free advice. It’s a remarkable place to have anywhere, and it’s one worth fighting for.

As I learned years ago from Stan’s, a city’s retail community is neither static nor immune to difficulty. I also learned that it’s important not to postpone visiting these kinds of businesses; if everyone shares that attitude they die, as Stan’s did.

Along those lines, the Provo community will have an opportunity to experience and support The Great Salt Lake Guitar Company tonight during a benefit concert. Truth be told, I don’t know a lot about this show, other than that it has a great lineup.

But that’s almost beside the point. Ultimately, the great thing about this show is that it gives us a chance to support an amazing business now and help ensure that it’s around in the future.

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Filed under buy local, Downtown, local

Best June Posts

Before I even realized it, June ended and July was nearly a third gone. Nevertheless, as is the tradition on this blog, I wanted to highlight my favorite posts from the month that brings us Father’s Day and the beginning of summer.

The Copenhagen Denmark LDS Temple: A Case Study: The LDS Church is preparing to build a temple in downtown Provo. Though the church often chooses a decidedly (and unfortunately) suburban plan when building temples, the church’s facility in Copenhagen shows how urban temples can work remarkably well with their surroundings.

Daybreak: A Case Study and Conclusions: This pair of posts looks at the shiny new housing development in West Jordan  for examples of Utah’s more cutting edge urban design. Ultimately, these posts posit that while the development does some things well, its location and lack of things like walkability dooms it to being just another suburb.

Why Everyone Should Buy Local: This post points out that buying from local businesses provides a better customer experience and benefits the local economy to boot.

“Turn Off the Lights,” Or, How We Waste Resources: In this post, I draw an analogy between underused parking lots and leaving the lights on in your house when no one is using them. The objective here is to use a commonly understood activity — turning off the lights — to understand how parking is vastly overbuilt and underused.

The Original Provo Tabernacle is Now a Garage on 500 North: Before Provo’s current LDS tabernacle was built, the city had an even older building. That building was demolished in 1919, but the stones were reused in a residential garage on 500 West. This post includes pictures of the recycled stones.

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Filed under building, buy local, commuting, Development, driving, economics, local, Mormon, neighborhood, parking, Provo, Provo Tabernacle, urban

Reasons to Appreciate Nu Skin

Attitudes in Provo toward Nu Skin vary from hostility to love and I’m not sure either side realizes just how strongly the other feels.

Lack of interaction has left me with nothing to say, good or bad, about Nu Skin’s products or business practices, but a recent event in downtown Provo emphasized the massive positive impact the company has on the local economy:

Attendees to a Nu Skin leadership conference in downtown Provo.

Note that many of the people in this picture have shopping bags. It’s a shame downtown Provo didn’t have more shopping opportunities for these people.

This event sent people spilling over into many downtown restaurants.

It’s easy to see Nu Skin’s impact on Provo when looking at the changing skyline. That’s a change some people like and others don’t.

But it’s important to remember that events like these — which are easy to overlook and harder to quantify — offer an infusion of outsider money into the local economy. While walking around this event, for example, I saw people with Nu Skin name tags in most of the restaurants between University Ave and Center Street. Others carried shopping bags. That helps those restaurants and shops thrive, which in turn benefits locals who end up with more options even when the influx of visitors subsides.

In other words, Nu Skin helps make tourism a force in Provo’s economy and for that reason, I have tremendous appreciation for the company.

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Filed under Development, Downtown, local, Provo, travel

Mountain West Burrito, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Mountain West Burrito does a lot of things right. Like all of the Heirloom restaurants, the shop combines an atmospheric setting with an unbeatable, zeitgeisty product. I count myself among the fans of the restaurant, and I’m sure I’ll eat there again in the future.

But the restaurant has one inescapable flaw: location. Moreover, MWB is literally digging in with a parking lot expansion.

As most people already know, MWB is located in a former gas station near the border between Provo and Orem. It’s an odd place for a restaurant, though it illustrates the principle that good food joints sometimes end up in the places with the lowest rent.

Those factors notwithstanding, the parking lot expansion illustrates the central role cars play to MWB’s business strategy. In other words, due to its location, everyone drives to MWB and almost no one walks or bikes.

That fact seems strikingly at odds with Heirloom’s public image, which aggressively — and admirably, in my opinion — emphasizes sustainability and local products. The restaurant group is obviously committed to both good food and being a good neighbor, and with Communal succeeds in spades.

A drivable location, by contrast, undermines that image by encouraging patrons to engage in the fundamentally polluting, isolating, and unnesscary activity of driving. Investing in a parking lot only exacerbates the problem by making it easier to access the restaurant by car. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter much how sustainable a product is if everyone engages in non-sustainable activities — such as driving – to get them.

Selfishly, perhaps, I’d like MWB to move downtown. I eat out multiple times a week, but I only go to MWB once every few months because I typically go to restaurants I can access on foot. I’m also not alone in wishing MWB was in a better location; in virtually every conversation I’ve had about the restaurant — and I’ve had a lot — someone inevitably ends up adding a caveat about its address.

More importantly, a downtown location makes economic sense. Downtown is only three minutes from the restaurant’s current location, so it remains equally accessible to drivers from the north. Furthermore, the higher population density and smaller streets would at least make it possible for more people to walk. On top of that, downtown has a higher student population, closer access to the freeway, a growing reputation as a restaurant destination, and loads of new development. There has never been a better time to be downtown.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m a fan of MWB. I’ll continue to eat there no matter where in Provo it’s located. I also raise these criticisms as a friend; if this was some pathetic chain restaurant, I wouldn’t even bother.

But a truly sustainable business cannot be built around actively encouraging people to drive. Increased profit and self-interest provide a compelling reason for MWB to seek a more walkable location. However, if that proves not to be enough, Heirloom’s own philosophical emphasis on community and sustainability should provide the impetus to move.

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Filed under Food, local, restaurant

How to Talk to Your Provo-Hating Friends Part 1

If you’re like me, you know people who dislike Provo. It’s a sentiment I completely understand because for at least the first two years after I arrived in the city, I didn’t like it at all.

I eventually grew to appreciate Provo immensely, but I still sometimes find myself at a loss for how to convincingly express that sentiment to others. Having grown up in the L.A. area, for example, I frequently find myself talking to people from my home region. And even though I feel like L.A. is probably the most disastrous major metro I’ve ever been to, I’m usually at a loss for how to explain why — persuasively and in a way that will get my friends to genuinely consider what I’m saying — Provo, of all places, is superior.

So after a great deal of trial, error, and contemplation, here are a few (far from comprehensive) thoughts on how to begin changing the minds of Provo-haters.  (If you have other suggestions, please let me know.)

First, before you say anything at all to you friends,

1. Ask a lot of questions. What do your friends like about their city? What do they dislike about Provo? What things have they experienced in both places, and whom do they associate with? One of my problems is that I make assumptions about people — that they agree with me about L.A.’s problems, for example, or about their social and cultural preferences — that often turn out to be false. I think the most important thing to do if you find yourself in a conversation about Provo is immediately turn the tables and begin deciphering your friends’ assumptions about place, their home cities, and Provo. In my case, I constantly have to remind myself to keep asking questions, even after I feel I’ve heard enough.

2. Understand you objectives. Do you want you friends to speak more positively about Provo? Do you want them to get out in the city and and do more things? Are you trying to convey a certain image or vision you have for the city that your friends do not share? Sometimes I find myself making arcane points like “But my neighborhood has a walk score of 75!” when I actually just want to pass along a visceral sense that in Provo one may live The Good Life. So I try to analyze what I actually think I can accomplish in any given conversation.

3. Figure out your friend’s status. Is your friend considering a move to Provo? Is she a college student considering sticking around after graduation? Is she a long-time resident that doesn’t really appreciate the city? Maybe she’s even moving away, but could possibly speak positively about Provo in a new place (which is very valid objective). Either way, it’s important to understand the context in which your friends will be thinking, and speaking, about Provo.

I could go on and on, but eventually you’re going to have to start making actual points if you’re going to persuade your friends that Provo is a worthy competitor to other cities. And that’s an important part of the process, because a city with good buzz is often a successful place. Consequently, I’ll get into a few ideas for making those points in my next post.

Provo is a great city, but sometimes it can be hard for people to appreciate that fact.

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Filed under Development, Downtown, local, Provo, utah

New Issue of The Provo Orem Word

The latest issue of Provo’s own literary magazine, The Provo Orem Word, hit virtual newsstands today. You can read it here, for free. The issue focuses on nature. The Provo Orem Word is a local treasure, and you can read my original post on it here.

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