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Gateway Shops Missing Out on Downtown Resurgence

Andrea Smardon

A report released Tuesday shows that retail sales in downtown Salt Lake City were up 36 percent last year, largely driven by business at City Creek Center. But some businesses at The Gateway Shopping Center say they are not seeing the same trend.

To find Bear Country Cookies at The Gateway Shopping Center you just follow your nose. Down the escalator from the movie theater, next to a few restaurants, you start to smell the cinnamon, almond, lemon, and butter. Owner Joel Clark says they rely on that smell to bring people in.

“Cookies are really kind of an impulse buy, so when people are at the mall, they love to come over to Bear Country Cookies and grab a cookie,” Clark says. “That’s fun, it’s an impulsive thing, but we need foot traffic to sustain it, and there are just not enough people at the Gateway to keep our sales up like they used to be.”

Clark says his business has consistently done well since they opened in 2003 - one of the first shops at the Gateway - but sales have dropped 35 percent since City Creek Center opened in downtown Salt Lake more than a year ago.

Across the street from Clark’s store at young adult clothing shop JMR, assistant manager Madison Martin is rearranging clothes for a summer sidewalk sale. Martin is also seeing fewer customers come through.

“Last summer, it was constant people in and out of the store, and now there’s hardly anyone,” Martin says,  but she’s hopeful that the situation is temporary, that The Gateway will appeal to younger people and those interested in some of the local boutique stores that have moved in to replace the businesses that have left.

“Our numbers have definitely gone down from last year, but they’ll pick back up, I hope. Once people realize they’re going to go to City Creek for certain things, they’ll come here for certain things. I think The Gateway will flourish again, but it’s just going to take a little bit of time,” Martin says.

A recent Economic Benchmark reportcommissioned by Salt Lake City’s Downtown Alliance sees new retail leasing activity at The Gateway as a positive sign that sales will go up.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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