Food on Foot in Downtown Salt Lake

With its first full-service grocery store in over 50 years about to go in at City Creek Center, some may wonder how Salt Lake’s downtown dwellers have made do all this time without one. But for those in the city’s center looking for an urban grocery experience, the idea of a big new shiny market may not be all that super.

In 2006, city officials dropped their demand that The Boyer Co. find a grocery store for its proposed office tower at The Gateway. The city had originally made the bold and unusual move of requiring that they find a grocer before they could purchase the land. But Boyer had no success finding one to move in there, even after offering to reduce the rent. Part of the problem may be the fact that most supermarkets are set up to follow the suburban model, which requires that their stores be surrounded by a large number of yellow lines painted on a sea of black.

“If you want to do a pedestrian based store, a lot of bigger stores won’t do it because of the parking requirement. It’s just not in their model,” says Mary Gordon, owner of Jade Market, one of Salt Lake’s only urban grocery stores located on 353 W 200 South. “I liked the idea of opening a small grocery store downtown because there was nothing here, and that always kind of surprised me. Because I’ve lived in Boston for instance, and like any downtown neighborhood you live in back east, you can walk two blocks and there’s some sort of little grocery store or some sort of little market you can go to.”

With four years in business, Jade Market not only deliberately stocks items small enough to carry on foot, but they also offer a level of personalization that you won’t find at a supermarket. “If I have people who live nearby who happen to like a particular thing, if they and maybe one other customer will come in and buy it on a regular basis, we’ll carry it.”

Gordon has noticed that most people aren’t willing to walk more than three or four blocks to do their grocery shopping. So while those who live by Jade Market can be seen taking a walk to pick up an organic burrito and some locally brewed beer, for the most part, Salt Lake’s offering for the grocery-getting pedestrian, for now, remains elusive.

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