This year hasn’t been great for small businesses anywhere, so it’s no surprise that Provo’s downtown — with all its vacant buildings and low foot traffic — vaguely evokes the aesthetic of a ghost town. Yet despite the woeful state of the economy, a few courageous entrepreneurs decided to open shop this year and have surprisingly managed to defibrillate our struggling Center Street area.
Of course, the local business scene can be a tricky thing; stick around long enough and it seems like most small-time joints go under just as they’re getting cool. Yet whether they remain for a few months or a few years, independent stores and restaurants are almost always one-of-a-kind. They also provide a place for people to come together and interact as friends and neighbors. In other words, local businesses are a city’s soul and supporting them is a worthwhile investment in community and culture.
In that spirit and in no particular order, here are of some of 2009’s best new businesses. All of them began in 2009 and hopefully, if people continue to check them out, they’ll survive for years to come.
F Stop Café — Provo cafés come and go, but F Stop’s simple offerings (mostly drinks) and chic, low-key ambiance set it a head above many of its predecessors. The café is a regular participant in Provo’s Gallery Stroll, so it also typically houses new exhibits each month. That means there is always something interesting to look at and talk about. It also means that visiting the café continues to be surprising month after month. If its warm there will be chairs and tables outside, but no matter the weather the F Stop Café is one of Provo’s newest and coolest places to hang out.
Lady Danburry Tailoring and Design- Do you ever wish you could get all your clothes tailor-made? Or just that they were designed for your body shape, instead of the platonic ideal of a woman or man? The answer to your questions is Lady Danburry Tailoring and Design, Provo’s own tailor shop. Run by Lynette Danburry, the shop sells custom clothing and can tailor the stuff you’ve already got to fit just how you like.
Lady Danburry also sells a line of stylish and unique satchels that make great gifts (for family, friends, or just yourself). If you’re tired of the generic, pseudo-cool clothes you bought three years ago at Forever 21, try having something tailored or custom made. I did and, after having Lady Danburry tailor a new suit, I actually landed two new jobs. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe Lady Danburry’s tailoring can make your clothes look their absolute best.
Stumpy Burger — As of this year you can drive over to In N’ Out, wait in line for hours, and finally satisfy your California-lust with run-of-the-mill fast food. Or you can head over to Stumpy Burger, support a local business, and end up with higher quality food than you’ll ever find at a multimillion dollar corporate restaurant. The menu is simple and the portions big, but the taste is where Stumpy Burger really soars. Click here to read Rhombus’ Munchmobile review.
Communal — One of the most exciting recent trends in Provo has to be the surge in upscale restaurants. The newest and arguably most interesting of these eateries has to be Communal. Run by the people behind the much-lauded Pizzaria Seven Twelve in Orem, Communal has a rich menu with an urbane atmosphere to boot. The dishes are delicious, of course, but they’re also notable for being innovative and visually pleasing. Located in a cozy old brick building, Communal is a cosmopolitan restaurant that embodies the romance of food and eating out.
The Loft — Thankfully, the Provo city government has become less hellbent on shuttering dance halls during the latter half of this decade. This more congenial atmosphere paved the way for places like Muse Music and Velour, but it wasn’t until this year that Provo finally had a club dedicated solely to dancing.
The Loft occupies the former home of the Center Street Musical Theater and, though it’s still relatively new, it’s probably already showing up on your radar. The venue gets props for targeting specific crowds on specific nights — on college night, for example, you don’t have to worry about being surrounded by a bunch of high school kids — and for hosting innovative events like EDP’s Kill The Radio earlier this month.
Jim Dalrymple is a regular correspondent for Rhombus.
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