HoneyComb Café: A taste of a rising small business that’s using one of Utah’s natural ingredients

Story by KENZIE WALDON

New Year’s resolutions always open the possibility for new opportunities. That’s how Bailey Johnson and her sister BreAnna King felt at the beginning of 2020 when they made their goal of opening a bakery/coffee shop. This was the year they were finally ready to conjure this lifelong dream into a reality.

Then the pandemic struck. COVID-19’s chaotic attack on daily life led to postponement and reconfiguration of beginning the business they always envisioned.

“We felt super bummed out,” Johnson said in an email interview, “but then ultimately decided that Utah needed another Black owned business this year.” 

By October 2020, Johnson independently opened the virtual doors to the HoneyComb Café, a “Black and women owned bake shop,” serving dairy and vegan pastries with honey harvested from local hives by the team.

The HoneyComb Café’s logo, courtesy of its Instagram profile. Designed by Victor J. Herrera.

Johnson initiated this online bakery offering local delivery or pick-up from their new Cottonwood Heights-based industrial kitchen at 1164 E. Hemmingway Drive. Since its opening, the HoneyComb Café has quickly grown in popularity with the use of social media platforms, such as Instagram, and through involvement in the local community.

“We started with a pop-up shop with two other vendors to get our names out there and get our feet off the ground,” Johnson said. She credits their fast growth to “an amazing community of fellow bakers, [but] word of mouth has been what we’re striving for at the moment,” she said.

Menu favorites at the HoneyComb Café include the “danishes and beignets,” Johnson said. These multi-layered and fritter-type pastries can be custom made with dairy or vegan ingredients. 

The HoneyComb Café’s stand-out quality is that it will substitute sugar for honey from honeybee hives that they harvest and maintain. “All of our honey in our products came from our beautiful hives that we’ve [taken care of] for [the last] three years,” Johnson said. 

Unfortunately, due to severe winter exposure, three out of four hives unexpectedly died this season. But Johnson plans to rebuild more honeybee hives this spring that will have more resilience to the ever-evolving Utah climate. “Our hives were so special and cherished,” Johnson said. “We are excited to start a few more this year and work harder to make sure they’re safe for the off season.” 

The HoneyComb Café team harvesting honey from the honeybee hives. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café website. Photograph by Joe Johnson.

The HoneyComb Café’s delectable goodies have garnered consistent loyalty from its clientele since the beginning. From highlighting chocolate pudding pie to matcha bread on the website, the HoneyComb Café offers a dessert experience that is uniquely their own. “When every customer enjoys my pastries, I hope they are so happy and realize that 3 colonies of Honeybees, which is over 240,000 working bees, are the reason we are living, breathing, and enjoying HoneyComb Cafe’s pastry,” Johnson said.

Johnson reciprocates this loyalty back into her business by consistently considering her mantra: “Always put people over profit.” She hopes to expand enough in the upcoming years to transition HoneyComb Café into a storefront where customers are welcome to stay, relax and enjoy its high-quality pastries and coffee. 

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit is driven by the people she loves and supports her — including her HoneyComb Café team. 

“I am dedicated to making sure this business takes off,” said Valerie Evans in an email interview, a baker at the HoneyComb Café and Johnson’s mother. “I’m dedicated to providing goods to our customers, and I’m dedicated to learning everything about vegan eating,” she said.

Evans has been helping Johnson with HoneyComb Café since it opened in October. “It was honestly a dream come true for her to ask me to not only help bake, but to also formulate the menus and try out new recipes,” Evans said. 

The HoneyComb Café’s displayed goodies during a pop-up shop in October 2020. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café’s Instagram. Photographed by Bailey Johnson.

With this being the first time she’s worked at a locally owned business, she noted the contrast from previous jobs. “It’s so different because I feel like I’m helping achieve a dream while also building customer connections with different kinds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Evans said.

Tyce Hawkins, the marketing director and customer relations associate at HoneyComb Café, has also been with the business since Day One. 

Similar to Evans, this is Hawkins first time working at a locally owned business — seeing it as an opportunity he didn’t want to pass up. Hawkins said he enjoys feeling viable and not like a “cog in a system.”

“Every week we improve in a new way and the work that we do helps the café grow and connects us to the community in a more meaningful way,” Hawkins said. 

This support pushes Johnson’s drive to further represent the Black-owned business community in Utah, striving to benefit the Salt Lake City area for the better.

If there’s one thing that Johnson wants her customers to take away from supporting the HoneyComb Café, rather than just an experience filled with tasty treats and a new appreciation for the Beehive State’s resources, is “how amazing Black owned businesses are, and how amazing and life-changing honeybees can be.” 

Versatile Image: helping artists monetize

Story by ERIC JENSEN

Finding a way to monetize art can be hard. It is especially hard for those in the Black community to do so. It can feel like there is nowhere to go to get started as a business. This is why Michelda George created her company Versatile Image.

“I’m just tired with not being able to know where to go,” George said in a Zoom interview.

Versatile Image is an artist collective. It helps artists, specifically Black artists, who want to find ways to make money for their art.

George saw how talented her friends were but also saw that they were struggling financially. So, she created a service to help deal with the back-end business side of art.

A way for artists to make money.

How those two things intersect are simple in George’s mind. The world of business cannot function without the world of creatives.

George said there are many intersections between business and art. Architects, for example, are artists. They draw and design impressive structurers and need to be able to sell them.

George also said mentions the backbone of companies are created by artists. Marketing is done largely by artists.

“You know, you don’t see a logo of a company, and where do you think they get it from? You don’t get it from the mailroom, they get it from an artist,” George said.

Michelda George presenting at a Utah Valley University economics conference. Photo courtesy of Michelda George.

It’s a cooperative ecosystem, George said, an ecosystem that needs both creatives and businesspeople functioning together. Unfortunately, the two often don’t speak the same language. So, George is the middle ground.

Offering a bridge from the corporate business world to the creative dreamlands of talented artists.

Take Chassidy Jade, for example. She is an independent film producer and the creator of Crown Me Royal Labs.

According to Jade, George helps with the business side of her film company. George also helps with the marketing for upcoming films.

“Basically, what they do is assist with the branding and marketing and helping me produce anything,” Jade said in a Zoom interview. “So, all of the paper work, the licensing, making sure everyone gets paid, coming up with different ideas of how we can promote the content. She basically builds everything from scratch on the back end.”

Jade said George handles all the things she doesn’t have time to deal with.

This gives Jade more time to focus on creating projects and developing ideas.

The business is modeled after the SCORE mentoring program. Programs like SCORE aren’t as readily geared toward Black people though, George said. Versatile Image is built to cater toward those needs.

“Black and brown people don’t have that. There’s not a place where you can go where people are really invested in your business, where they’ll kind of take you along the process and teach you as you go. So that way you can be self-sufficient one day. We don’t have anything like that in the Black and brown community,” George said.

Why did the company choose Utah though? George was raised in Ft. Lauderdale and helped her family run their store, Sun Rise Market, there. Coming to Utah was a leap out of the comfort zone.

George said she came here because of the entrepreneurial spirit she and the state share.

“Utah has one of the best economies in the country. Land is cheap here. I knew I wanted a co- working space. … And for it to be my headquarters would just make sense,” George said.

George said she was overshadowed by surface level things in Florida. The market was oversaturated and made it difficult to stand apart.

Utah provided George a place where she could grow her business. She also saw the need for diversity in the market and a lack of competition as added bonuses.

“I just wanted to start afresh, and an economy that I felt would be the best to build a business,” George said.

The advantage Versatile Image has is that it is not rooted to just helping Utah artists despite being in Utah. Salt Lake City is a central western United States city and provides a geographical advantage for businesses to branch out to other western metropolitan areas. George has clients in Florida, New York, Tennessee, the United Kingdom, and more, George said in a follow up email.

George also said she loves Utah because of its natural beauty. She can be found hiking in the mountains in the spring and fall.

George also participates in spoken word poetry in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of Michelda George.

She said in Utah her perspective can be different. She can focus more on herself. George said she has more doors opened for her here than in Florida. She can connect more easily with events planners and businesses that need artists.

“The entrepreneur network here is like, unmatched,” George said.

She mentions that most everyone she meets in the business world is interested in connecting with her. Salt Lake City is a tight knit market, and everyone eventually gets to know each other within the business world here. She also says the socio-economic climate is much different than Florida.

In Florida people want to look like they have money, not actually possess it, George said. A true entrepreneur, she is motivated by the bottom line.

That isn’t all she is motivated by though. George believes in the idea of service towards others.

A belief that stems from her parents and their sacrifice to come from Haiti to make a new life for their daughter. A belief built on George’s Christian values. Her heart is set on helping people.

Jade, the filmmaker, said George has always been a motivated person, and always looked for ways to help people.

“That’s what makes it successful, that other people are successful in their businesses. It’s not for us. We’re not here for like the glitz and glory, like we’re really here to serve people in a way that they need for their business,” George said.

Michelda George is selfless, and that is the type of business Versatile Image has become. One built on helping people find ways to live off their dreams.

It is more than a company. It is the idea that if you work hard, help other people, and follow what makes you happy, you can succeed.

That’s what George loves the most about her company, the way it develops people and helps build business owners.

“I love developing things, whether it’s people, whether it’s businesses, whether it’s brands, whether it’s programs or workshops to help people,” George said. “I love the development part of Versatile Image and how it changes. It changes often. It’s not always the same, because every business is different.”

A monochromatic mountain

One family’s mixed feelings toward Utah’s slopes

Story by HANNAH CARLSON

A ski lift traversing a snowy slope. Photo by Simon Fitall on Unsplash.

“I grew up skiing in Utah’s Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons with my dad,” Micheal Bradshaw Jr. said in a collaborative Zoom interview with his sisters. “At the time, I didn’t realize that my dad and I were the only Black ones on the mountain. It doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore.”

In 1974, Micheal, a Millcreek, Utah, native, started skiing with his father, the late Micheal (Mike) Sr., at 3 years old. His younger twin sisters, Sierra and Kellie Bradshaw, started skiing two years later when they too turned 3 years old.

In order to hit the slopes each season, the Bradshaws were often required to make financial sacrifices to afford lift tickets and new ski gear for their growing children.

“Growing up, we never had cute ski outfits like most of the other kids did,” Sierra said. “I remember one year wearing blue camo ski pants and a pink jacket with fur. We wore whatever we could scrape up on clearance or whatever hand-me-downs the neighbors dropped off that year. It always made me sad as a little girl.”

The children’s mother, Ariel Jackson Bradshaw, didn’t share the rest of her family’s passion for skiing. Instead, she often read in the parked car while the others skied on the other side of the resort. She brought sandwiches and snacks.

“My mom loved coming with us,” Kellie said. “She’d always say, ‘I’d rather read in the mountains than on the sofa.’ She rarely missed a week.”

By their college years, the Bradshaw children were elite skiers and masters of the slopes.

In 1999, however, their father unexpectedly died from a heart attack just two months before his 66th birthday.

It was February, and Utah’s shimmering slopes were still covered with snow. “It felt right to go skiing,” Micheal said. “I guess it was both a way to cope and honor his memory.”

By this time, Ariel was too frail to wait in the car parked below the frigid slopes. Instead, she remained in her Millcreek home, reading, while her adult children skiied.

It wouldn’t be much longer until the rest of the Bradshaws would join their mother for warmer weekends indoors and skip the slopes altogether.

A skier pictured below a ski lift. Photo by David Klein on Unplash.

A year later, Micheal went skiing alone one Saturday morning. He was 26 years old.

“Everyone says to never ski alone out of fear for one’s physical safety,” Micheal said. “But I wasn’t worried about it as long as I stayed on populated runs. I didn’t realize at the time that falling off my skis wasn’t the only threat to my safety at the resort.”

After a morning of skiing, Micheal said he went to purchase lunch from the resort’s crowded lodge. He had never been to the lodge before. He had always packed sandwiches like his mother did for him and his sisters growing up.

With his lunch tray in hand, Micheal asked a bearded man seated at a table with his family if he could eat his lunch from one of the table’s three empty chairs.

Micheal recalled the interaction.

“F— no,” the man said while laughing. “Can’t you see that I’m trying to eat with my family here?”

Micheal apologized for interrupting the family’s lunch and asked if he could at least take one of the table’s extra chairs elsewhere to eat his meal.

“Are you kidding me?” the man replied to Micheal. “I just said, my family and I are trying to enjoy our meal. We don’t need a lone n—– like yourself here. F— off.”

Nobody came to Micheal’s defense, despite the room being full of snacking skiers, snowboarders, and stares of shock.

With everyone’s goggles and helmets taken off to eat, he quickly realized that he was the only Black person in the lodge of one of Utah’s most popular ski resorts.

Micheal now understood why his mom waited in the family’s car bundled in jackets and blankets rather than inside the lodge beside the fireplace.

Kellie spoke of her mom as a young mother, having had a similar experience to that of Micheal’s. She was asked to relocate to the other side of the ski lodge after making some of the resort’s regular guests “feel uncomfortable.”

“She was just reading a book,” Kellie said.

In a later attempt to purchase ski pants from a popular outdoor clothing company, Sierra also came face-to-face with the ski industry’s lacking inclusion. After trying on multiple pairs of ski pants that didn’t fit, she was eventually referred to plus-sized alternatives.

“I was 5-9 and 150 pounds at the time. I didn’t wear plus size in any other type of pant. Just in ski pants,” Sierra said. “Those ski pants were made to fit white women, not a body type like mine and my sisters who carry our weight differently.”

Kellie added, “Don’t even get us started on helmet sizing.”

After Micheal’s frightening incident in the lodge, and a few subsequent instances of microaggression later, the Bradshaws retired their skis and hung up their helmets.

“It’s not worth it anymore. The fun of skiing has become so tainted by the lack of inclusion,” Micheal said. “When my father died the bubble of ski bliss popped and we were introduced to the reality that he and my mother tried so hard to keep us from while growing up.”

While the Bradshaws’ story may air extreme, they aren’t alone in skipping out on the slopes. Many of Utah’s minority groups aren’t interested in racing to the resorts each winter either.

An infographic illustrating the racial distribution of Utah’s ski and snowboard population during the 2019-2020 winter season. Image by Hannah Carlson.

 In 2019-20, a Snowsports Industries America participation study reported that 88% of the season’s ski visits were made by people who identify as white or caucasian.

Native Americans and Blacks each represented only 1% of that population. Asian and Pacific Islanders made up 4% and those identifying as Latino made up 5%.

Skiing is also an extremely expensive sport to pursue. In Utah, the average price of a single-day lift ticket last year was $95. The cost of a resort season pass ranges anywhere from $300 to $1,500.

On top of a lift pass, a skier or snowboarder would also require a pair of skis or a snowboard, ski poles, boots, pants, a jacket, a coat, gloves, goggles, and a helmet.

For a median household income of $71,621 in Utah, skiing isn’t an easily approachable sport. Especially for larger families, where Utah ranks first in the country.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Micheal said. “I just wish that I could take my daughters skiing without them having to experience what many of us already have.”

Hip & Humble, keeping business and positivity during a shelter in place

Story by MEG CLASPER

storefront

Hip & Humble creates a safe and comforting atmosphere. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

During a time with a lot of stress and negativity, it helps to know people are out there sharing hope and positivity. Hip & Humble, a woman-owned boutique, focuses on being a safe place and happy environment for the surrounding community. With two locations, one in Salt Lake City, at 1043 E. 900 South, and the other in Bountiful at 559 W. 2600 South, Hip & Humble is accessible to customers in the Salt Lake Valley. Employees of H & H are positive and are always ready to help.

H & H has spent over two decades embracing perseverance. In June 2019, Salt Lake City made the decision to update 900 South. The construction shut down most of the street and the sidewalk outside and the store was in the middle of it all.

Hip & Humble offers free same-day delivery through the shelter-in-place mandate. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

“For clients it was frustrating and confusing where to drive, park, and even access the store,” said owner Sheridan Mordue in an email interview. With a pile of rocks almost blocking the storefront, it was a task for customers to get to the store. To maintain business, the employees at

The construction of 900 South had its challenges. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

H & H set up curbside pickup for online orders. This allowed customers to still purchase items and have them delivered to their car by an employee.

By the time H & H began to finally regain its original numbers and regular customers, it had to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though customers may not be able to browse in person, online shopping is encouraged. Same-day delivery in the Salt Lake metro area has been implemented, and customers love the service. “It is something I see us continuing beyond the stay at home order,” Mordue said.

Not all products offered in stores have been made available on the online store front. If customers are unable to find what they’re looking for, they can call and have their own in-store personal shopper. Employees take calls and connect with shoppers to find what they are looking for in the store.

Dammit Dolls are a good way to relieve stress and anger. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The employees at H & H are positive in the current hard times. They show up for work ready to offer the best customer service possible. One way they share positivity is through the blog. Available on its website, these posts share tips, showcase new products and tell Hip & Humble’s story.

The most recent post, “10 H&H ways to connect and thrive while ‘sheltering in place,’” offers a “thrive all” guide to staying at home and spotlights useful products. The first product mentioned is a “Dammit Doll.” These dolls are meant for stress relief. The user slams it against the wall or countertop. Some variations come with markers for coloring the doll before destroying it.

These gel crayons are washable for big imaginations. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

The post also suggests keeping little children busy with clean coloring fun. Color-changing gel crayons and “Chunkies” paint sticks are a no-smudge washable way for kids to color.

Other products are suggested to help people relax while working from home. Weighted lavender-scented neck wraps help to relax with the aromatherapy and weight. A 500-piece puzzle, featuring a women’s march, is a therapeutic distraction from everything.

Above all, one of the biggest suggestions made in the post is to support one another. Sending something to a neighbor, friend, or grandmother can give them a nice surprise. H & H supports this idea with the offer of same-day delivery.

This 500-piece puzzle of a women’s march is fun and helps to relieve stress. Photo courtesy of Hip & Humble.

Hip & Humble has a project to look forward to once the “stay at home” mandate is lifted. With renovations to the Salt Lake City International Airport currently happening, Hip & Humble has been chosen to have two locations in the new airport.

The renovations are prompted by the overcapacity of the current accommodations of the airport. Before the upgrades, the Salt Lake City International Airport was built to serve 10 million people but has been projected to have 27 million people a year, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. With the first phase adding an extra 30,781 square feet to the airport and an additional 14,554 square feet in the second phase.

Though the airport has lost 90% in retail sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mordue is still optimistic. “We are expecting a 2 year turn around on the airport economy. Which in retail time can be really short. In the end I am still optimistic and I am so proud of my brand and to represent SLC in the airport.”

It is projected that the retail section of the new airport will open in August 2020 and inventory stocking will happen in early July. Along with the other retail stores in the airport, Hip & Humble will have street pricing. This means the prices you would pay at airport locations will be the same prices as you would pay at the Salt Lake City and Bountiful locations.

By keeping busy and looking forward to the new locations at the airport, Hip & Humble has built its staying power. It keeps focused on the positive and holds contact with its customers in high value. Hip & Humble shares a lot of positivity during hard times.

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Story and photos by MARTIN KUPRIANOWICZ

klub deen

Klub Deen in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood has been closed since early April when the coronavirus began shutting down the nation’s economy.

Business owners everywhere are getting hit hard by the financial impacts of COVID-19 as hundreds if not thousands are being forced to temporarily suspend physical operations.

One such owner is Newton Gborway, the owner of Klub Deen, a nightclub with a focus on African culture, music, and dance in Salt Lake City’s west-side Poplar Grove neighborhood. 

“Music and dancing are a huge part of life in Africa,” Gborway said in a phone interview. “It brings people together and it’s a great way for everyone to have fun, especially refugees who may be struggling after they move here.”

Gborway is from the West African nation of Liberia. Like most other Americans, he was taken by surprise when everything started shutting down because of social-distancing mandates. His business — which operates on the coming together of large groups of people — was hit especially hard.

“Every day that we’ve been closed we’ve been losing money,” Gborway said. “We had to shut down in the beginning of April because of what the public health order said, and now they’ve just pushed it back until the end of the month. We want to set a good example by following these health orders and doing what the government is telling everybody.”

As Utah’s stay-home directive gets extended until May 1, Gborway can only patiently wait to get the green light to re-open business doors. He hopes that the spread of COVID-19 is reduced and public health orders allow for some normalcy to return. Otherwise, his night club business will continue to suffer financially every day it remains closed. 

klub deen 2 

klub deen 1

A COVID-19 health notice posted on the outside of Klub Deen.

Some other west-side business owners are more fortunate than others. Those who own or operate what Utah decides are “essential businesses” are still able to keep their workplaces open for now. Christine Mason — the owner of Rise by Good Day, a Polish grocery located in the same Poplar Grove neighborhood as Gborway’s club — is still running her store at this time. However, she has had to make drastic changes to the way she does business and she, too, has suffered near-catastrophic financial loss.

“When the shutdown started, I had to close down my catering business,” Mason said. “I lost 98% of my revenue stream with that alone.”

Mason said in a phone interview that times have been tough for the Polish grocery store. As the coronavirus put its grip on the economy nationwide and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert urged his state’s citizens to “stay home, stay safe,” Mason had to make modifications to her shop.

“We’re hanging in there. We’ve had to adapt since this has happened, and a lot less people have been walking into the store,” Mason said. “But we’ve just ordered sneeze guards and a new hand sanitizer station and we’re going to continue to stay open as long as we can. We’re just going to have to take this one day at a time.” 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Mason. She’s optimistic about the future. She just hired a new chef and plans to stay open as long as possible. “People still need food,” Mason said, and with that in mind she’s confident she can get through this crisis. 

For business owners like Gborway and Mason, there’s not much else they can do besides wait and remain positive and adapt their businesses where they can. They do not know what the future will bring. 

In the meantime, Salt Lake City’s nightclubs will stay closed hoping they can reopen soon, and food stores deemed “essential” will continue to strive to give their customers what they need. As Christine Mason put it, you can only take things now one day at a time. And as time goes by, sanguine west-side business owners along with an anxious nation are all doing just that. 

Rise by Good Day

A pre-pandemic photograph of Rise By Good Day in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood.

 

Kilby Court provides venue for emerging artists

Story and photos by LIAM ELKINGTON

Tucked into a corner just outside of downtown Salt Lake City, Kilby Court sits at the end of an unassuming street with hardly any indication that a music venue is there. The décor has a homemade feel, with walls covered in posters and stickers. While the venue is inconspicuous, Kilby Court’s small size combined with its active promotion of small acts has made it a staple of the local music scene.

Named after its location at 741 S. Kilby Court, Kilby Court promotes itself as “Salt Lake City’s longest running all-ages venue,” and “a springboard stage for beginning local and touring artists alike.”  

kc4

Kilby Court welcomes artists both local and touring.

Salt Lake City resident Brittany Burrahm praised Kilby Court in an email interview, saying that the venue was “professional, yet still felt personal. It’s one of the better concert venues I’ve been to.”

The types of musical acts one can expect to see at Kilby Court vary widely. Bands from nearly every genre of popular music have performed at Kilby Court, from Hip Hop to Indie to Punk Rock. Performances are booked nearly every night of the week and represent the range of musical talent present in Salt Lake City. Upcoming shows at the venue are frequently promoted on other well-known community platforms like the radio station KRCL and SLUG Magazine.

While there are many venues in Salt Lake City, they vary in their accessibility. Kilby Court’s size, location and do-it-yourself philosophy allows for an all-ages venue with ticket prices rarely exceeding $20. Kilby Court has also been known to host lesser-known bands that go on to achieve greater acclaim, such as Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw and George Watsky

Kilby Court is owned by Sartain and Saunders, a promotional and event planning company that collaborates with venues, concert halls and restaurants within Salt Lake City to book and promote events. S&S also own Urban Lounge and Metro Music Hall, two other venues that host a variety of musical acts, including local artists.

Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Kilby Court has joined many other Salt Lake City venues in postponing or canceling all events through early May, providing refunds to those who had already purchased tickets. Rescheduling information is not currently available, although the venue does intend to continue with the Kilby Court Block Party event scheduled for May 2, an all-day event that is slated to feature over 20 local bands.

Offering a flexibility of function that is not as commonly seen in other Salt Lake City venues, Kilby Court can adapt its space for various conditions. The interior space is little more than a garage, and one of the walls can open up into a courtyard featuring a fire pit and seating. Kilby Court operates throughout the year, able to repurpose the relatively limited space to different crowd sizes and outdoor conditions.

The size of Kilby Court is often brought up in reviews for the venue, and is primarily cited as a positive feature of the space, allowing for a more intimate show for both performers and audience members. Reviews on Kilby Court’s Facebook page praise this aspect of its concert experience. Reviewer Tristan Marie Montano said in 2018, “I live for intimate venues like this where everyone feels like they are a part of everything going on.”

Salt Lake City resident Burrahm found it easy to recommend Kilby Court for this reason. “It’s a bit cramped but they do a good job with the space they have. It’s a cozy experience and the sound quality is great.”

Kilby Court is focused on providing a professional and memorable experience for Salt Lake City concert-goers. Venues also play a significant role in the success of a performance. “It allows the audience to get a really close-up and personal contact with the musicians, which is important, rather than them being so high up on a stage. It’s like you’re on the same level,” said Kendra Squire, a musician who has been performing in the Salt Lake and Provo areas for the past few years. She spoke about performing at other venues in Salt Lake City, stating that communication between artists and organizers is key to producing events that are successful.

Having a venue that supports local, independent artists is vital to those who rely on them as an outlet to a broader scene. “It’s community building,” Squire said. “If people that are trying to start up have nowhere to go, then that becomes the whole question: where do they go?”

Kilby Court not only provides a stage for artists that encourages local audience engagement, but also a place for notable touring artists to reach a larger number of people. Kilby Court stands alone in the Salt Lake City community as a venue dedicated to the promotion and celebration of artists who may not otherwise have an opportunity to perform for a large audience. Having these types of spaces fosters a community that supports musicians, no matter their goals for performing. “I don’t think that every musician or band necessarily wants to make it big,” Squire said. “I think a lot of people just want someone to hear.”

Read, and hear, more about Kilby Court in this piece by Palak Jayswal.

 

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Marisa’s Fashion is a model for west-side Hispanic-owned businesses

Story and photos by JACOB RUEDA

Hispanic-owned businesses in Salt Lake City are becoming the staple in the local economic landscape. The rise of such businesses began in the early to mid-1980s and has become prevalent due to the influx of people migrating from other states and other countries. U.S. Census Bureau data from 2019 says Hispanics or Latinos are the largest non-white ethnic group in the city.

Despite their growing numbers in Salt Lake City, the presence of Hispanics is not as commonplace compared to places like Los Angeles or Houston. While Hispanic-owned businesses in those cities are typical in their local economies, their impact went unrecognized in Salt Lake City until recently.

Marisa’s Fashion was one of the first Hispanic-owned businesses in Salt Lake City. The store is located at 67 W. 1700 South.

“Marisa’s Fashion is one of the first Hispanic-owned stores in Salt Lake City,” says Refugio Perez, a local business owner and entrepreneur who started the clothing and general retail store 40 years ago. After arriving from California and receiving settlement money from a work-related injury, he started Perez Enterprises and created Marisa’s Fashion from it, naming the store after one of his children.

“It is the only one that is still in business out of an initial group of five stores that were established,” Perez says in Spanish.

The store located at 67 W. 1700 South has had the support of the Hispanic community from the beginning. Although at the time the Hispanic population in Salt Lake City was small, people around the Wasatch Front and other states knew of Marisa’s Fashion and came to shop there.

“We started to grow quickly because there weren’t that many places and people were limited as to where they could shop,” Perez says. “We had people from as far as Ogden, Park City and Wendover [Nevada] coming to our store so it worked out for us and we were able to grow our business.”

Refugio Perez is the founder of Perez Enterprises. He started Marisa’s Fashion in the early to mid-1980s.

Marisa’s Fashion grew as a result of demand but also from knowing the responsibilities of running a store. One of the challenges in today’s business world is lacking that knowledge. Perez says some Hispanic entrepreneurs today go in ambitiously without being aware of basic operational skills.

“Nowadays, someone starts a business and they do it without knowing the basics of how to start or run a business,” he says. Aside from the legal and financial responsibilities, staying on top of technological advancements in the digital age is essential in today’s market.

“There have been a lot of professional Hispanic businesses of late and that’s why they are important tools for success,” Perez says.

The longevity of Hispanic-owned businesses is determined by the ability to overcome obstacles. Perez says it has not always been easy staying on track, especially in times of a national crisis.

“9/11 really affected us,” Perez says. “I felt at that time that the State of Utah was the last to get hit economically because of what happened in New York.” An analysis from online small business website The Balance says the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, caused a recession at the time to worsen. Perez decided to hand over responsibility of Marisa’s Fashion to his brother as a result.

“I told him that if any of the businesses survived, I’d prefer it be his and that’s what happened,” Perez says. Since then, the business has carried on in Salt Lake City’s west side. Economic downturns and other setbacks aside, Hispanic-owned businesses like Marisa’s Fashion and Perez Enterprises continue to grow and establish themselves permanently in the area’s commercial landscape because of the economic and social influence they have.

Aaron Quarnberg, chairman of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says “understanding the Hispanic business community” is necessary “for any company looking to grow.”

In his welcome letter to the 2019 Hispanic Small Business Summit, Aaron Quarnberg, chairman of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says “understanding the Hispanic business community” is necessary “for any company looking to grow.” Statistics website Statista reports the buying power of the Hispanic community in the United States is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by the end of 2020. (That figure was calculated before the impact of COVID-19 in March 2020.)

“Latinos are contributing a lot not only with their businesses but with their taxes and it’s something that I think governments should really pay attention to,” says Moises Olivares, a Realtor and author based in Los Angeles, in a Facebook chat. He also says Salt Lake City can learn from cities like Los Angeles by expanding the perception of the Hispanic community as more than just what is propagated through stereotype.

A February 2019 study from the Peterson Institution for International Economics says “Hispanics, especially the foreign born, exhibit higher levels of entrepreneurship than other ethnic groups in the United States.” Despite these findings, Perez from Perez Enterprises says the Hispanic community in Salt Lake City still lacks recognition for its overall economic contribution. 

The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helps Hispanic-owned businesses thrive in the local economy while helping them comply with city regulations.

“People like to spend cash,” Perez says. “We know that helps business, even [non-Hispanic] businesses. If they did not have the economic support from the Hispanic community, they wouldn’t be in business.”

Regardless, Salt Lake City’s west-side Hispanic-owned businesses continue in spite of setbacks, crises or perceptions from others. Weathering the ups and downs of the market, cultural shifts, and technological changes helps businesses like Perez Enterprises and Marisa’s Fashion endure for as long as they have.

“When one is patient and is secure in the knowledge that they have to keep at it and keep going,” Perez says, “it becomes important so we can keep fighting and not give up to the last breath.”

Editor’s Note: Read more stories about local entrepreneurs, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the impact of the Hispanic community in Utah.

 

Even in good times: the west side struggles

Story and photos by SPENCER BUCHANAN 

In February 2020, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., stirred up controversy when she said in part, “It’s a physical impossibility to lift yourself up by a bootstrap, by your shoelaces.”

Ocasio-Cortez and others explained further that the original meaning of the idiom “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” was meant as a joke and that the narrative has driven out good policy in helping struggling people. The narrative the idiom formed is one that disregards the barriers that the working-class and marginalized have to deal with, despite the recent economic gains and the shrinking unemployment rate. 

It can be hard to break into the job market. It can be particularly difficult for immigrants and refugees to find stable, well-paying employment. Many struggle to apply for jobs and even more face structural challenges in acquiring the skills and training necessary to qualify for positions. These problems can be found nationwide but the impact can be seen on the west side of Salt Lake City.

The west side has long been a working-class neighborhood and in recent years has become increasingly diverse. With large immigrant and refugee populations, residents of the west side often have to make huge adjustments to enter the American job market.

Organizations like the University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) Hartland Partnership Center, the Rose Park Neighborhood Center, and the Utah Department of Workforce Services work to help west-side residents deal with barriers that are commonly overlooked.

“Individuals come in seeking support in finding jobs. So that can vary in need. Sometimes we’ll make resumes. We have a lot of templates and we’ll actually help make the resumes with individuals. And often we’ll just help apply for jobs,” said Amelia Cope, an intern at Hartland and social work student at the University of Utah.

Cope explained that those who come to Hartland need help with several issues. Many clients don’t have an email account or computer access, several don’t have transportation, and many speak English as a second language. 

The Rose Park Neighborhood Center at 754 N. 800 West.

Lenn Rodriguez, a site coordinator at Hartland, stated that beyond the technology gap and language difficulties, many recent immigrants and refugees have experienced or are experiencing trauma that can be debilitating. According to Rodriguez, this is why the Hartland Partnership Center also provides counseling and therapy for many new immigrants and refugees.

“A lot of the people that are coming here have trauma from wherever they came and haven’t processed that. That affects your ability to seek out employment and other services,” Rodriguez said. 

But a major problem that Rodriguez sees is the lack of “good jobs” and training for immigrants and refugees.

 “We work with a lot of professionals, also with people that hold degrees in other countries like engineers, doctors, teachers, from Iraq, from Syria, from El Salvador. They come here and they can’t work in that field that they studied. So they become cleaners, they work at the airport, and hotels,” Rodriguez said.

The University Neighborhood Partners Hartland Partnership Center, located at 1578 W. 1700 South.

Rodriguez stated that many professionals have to start again in education and training if they want to work in their original field. Unfortunately, many job seekers in the west side are suffering from a wider issue in the market.

“The problem is: it’s very difficult to do training,” said Cihan Bilginsoy, a professor in economics at the University of Utah who specializes in labor issues.

According to Bilginsoy, the nature of training and educating would-be job seekers is a costly and lengthy process. This process keeps many employers from implementing the necessary training or education that can lead to more stable, fulfilling, and well-paying jobs.

This cost and investment draws companies away from creating large training programs. He said many employers will instead invest in a few seasoned professionals and have other positions filled with very specifically trained but generally low-skilled employees. These “task-oriented” workers are put in vulnerable positions without marketable skills.

“These semi-skilled workers can be shed very easily, they receive low wages, they’re marginal and dispensable,” Bilgonsoy said.

The Associated General Contractors of Utah is one of the few organizations in the state that provides professional training.

In his research, Bilgonsoy has found that most western nations have a skills gap issue. Nations like Germany or Australia have created social and government structures that organize stakeholders like the government, the unions, and employers to cooperate and fund training in various fields. There have been pushes by the federal and some state governments to incentivize training programs mostly in the form of tax credits and work programs, but what’s being offered is often insufficient for companies to wholly invest into programs.

“We need to provide incentives for employers to provide training, we need to solve the problem of market failure in training. International evidence shows that states, or federal governments need to take a leading role in bringing together employers and trade unions, so these stakeholders share the risk,” Bilgonsoy said.

The challenges facing west-side residents go beyond Salt Lake City. The struggles that new immigrants, refugees, and the working-class have in finding gainful employment can be linked to a lack of skills necessary for an ever-advancing economy. Organizations like the Hartland Partnership Center do well to help west-side residents meet the basic needs for job seeking, but a large market and social change is necessary to meet the needs of the residents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do new high-rises address affordability on the west side of Salt Lake City?

New apartments on N. West Temple.

Story and photos by SPENCER BUCHANAN

The economy is growing and unemployment is at its lowest level in a generation. But many working-class people are feeling the squeeze. Salt Lake City has been greatly benefiting from the high economic growth of the last five years. But according to KUTV, some lawmakers say many residents are feeling pushed out by rising home costs. With rising real estate prices, research from the University of Utah shows that some people fear Salt Lake City will start to experience housing crunches like San Francisco or Los Angeles. To meet with rising home shortages and prices the government of Salt Lake City is pushing new high-density housing developments. These boxy, four- to six-story buildings can be seen going up all over the city. A number of these developments have already come to the west side of Salt Lake City and many more are planned.

The Deseret News touted high-density developments as a way of increasing affordable housing especially, in high-growth areas.

Ivis Garcia-Zambrana is a professor in City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah and vice-chair of the Planning Commission in Salt Lake City. She says that the government of Salt Lake City is actively encouraging new high-density developments through a points-based building permit system, which fast-tracks apartments with affordable units by circumventing administrative reviews by the city planning commission and city council.

“Ideally, as a developer, you avoid all kinds of public meetings. What you do is have an application that follows all the rules … you put in an application that seems so good that you get extra points,” Garcia-Zambrana said.

More points are given to projects that are high-density and have affordable units. She said this system cuts months off a developer’s project time and shows the active encouragement of the city to build high rises. But does high-density housing address affordability issues?

“It’s either too expensive or it’s too small. So it’s pushing out families. So, gentrification is definitely happening on the west side of Salt Lake right now,” said Jennifer Mayer-Glenn, director of the University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) and resident of the west side of Salt Lake City.

“The Salt Lake School District is losing about 1,000 students a year to families having to move out of Salt Lake City because they can’t afford to live in Salt Lake City anymore,” Mayer-Glenn said.

She said affordable housing is a major concern for the residents of the west side. Mayer-Glenn ceded that many of the high-density developments are affordable, but they lack community involvement in the building process.

Garcia-Zambrana said high-density housing doesn’t address the “cost-burden” that many homeowners on the west side experience.

“Cost-burden” is when a resident pays more than 30% of their net income into housing. Garcia-Zambrana is actively studying the west side. In her research, she found residents in the Fair Park and Jordan Meadows neighborhoods, where many of the new high-rise apartments have been built, are not cost-burdened. But residents in Glendale and Rose Park, where the majority are homeowners, the neighborhoods are experiencing housing cost difficulties.

According to Zillow, rents in Salt Lake City average around $1,500 up from the average $1,200 rent in 2015. Salt Lake City has average rental rates compared to the rest of the nation. Areas mentioned by Garcia-Zambrana, Fair Park and Jordan Meadows, have even lower rents. But rent prices and values in Salt Lake City have significantly increased in the last five years. The average Salt Lake City home value today is at over $400,000. While areas on the west side have lower home prices, floating in the high $200,000s, these homes can still be a cost-burden. This is why many renters and owners are starting to move out of the west side and the city altogether.

“For the prices in Salt Lake, they can own a home somewhere else nearby. That’s where you can see some of the idea of displacement,” said Garcia-Zambrana. “Planners are very concerned about cost displacement, but it’s not easy to quantify as you have to know why each person is moving and there are a lot of factors. People may be ‘displaced’ but may not feel disenfranchised (pushed out of their neighborhood), just that they simply moved.”

The Overniter Motel, site of the future SLCRDA Spark! project.

An example of Salt Lake City planners addressing cost and displacement concerns is the Spark! project located at 1500 W. North Temple. This upcoming housing development being built by the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency (SLCRDA) is planned to have 200 apartments with 50 designated as affordable or below-market-rate.

“We wanted to mesh housing, commercial, and open space. So there’s a balanced approach to it. So there’s a coffee shop but also a daycare. So it’s serving the community. And we try to focus on local businesses,” said Amanda Greenland, communications and outreach manager for the SLCRDA.

Projects like Spark! and Salt Lake City’s fast-tracking of high-density projects with affordable units show the city’s efforts to address rising housing cost. High-density housing, though, doesn’t address the cost-burden issues felt by homeowners on the west side. The cost of owning a home there is increasing, which is leading to much of the ire felt by longtime residents. High-rises in Salt Lake City are being built with affordable prices in mind but not with the ownership that many families look for. As the city grows and property values increase, homeownership on the west side may become a thing of the past.

Utah’s air: Not good for what ails you

Inversion

Brace yourself — The inversion is coming. This is the text of a bumper sticker.

Story and photos by SARAH SAIDYKHAN

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers of what is now The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived on the outskirts of the Great Salt Lake Valley looking for a new place to corral their wagons and set up camp. The church’s archives state that as Young gazed over the vast and barren land sprawled out before him, he said, “This is the right place.”

City View

Salt Lake City.

Nowadays we know that what Brigham Young was looking at were massive mountain ranges surrounding a desert-valley landscape. This mountain range design creates a makeshift bowl that protects the valley from strong winds and other harsh elements. Along with adventurous recreation, the mountains assist in creating high- and low-pressure systems that trap toxic particulate matter in the air during winter inversions and smoke-filled haze pollution resulting from possible summertime fires.

Kellie McCleve lives in the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley and is a mom to five kids under the age of 14. From her home, she is able to see the smog pollution that covers the Valley. She said, “Sometimes the sky’s so gross you can’t see anything but like, a yucky, brownish haze. It covers the whole Valley.” McCleve said that when she takes her kids into the city, she has a mask for each of them to wear. “It’s so gross! We shouldn’t be breathing that in. No one should be breathing that in.”

Smog Lake City

Light haze covering the Salt Lake Valley.

But every day, hundreds of thousands of people do breathe it in. McCleve said that when she moved, the inversions were something she could see from a distance. But now she knows her home was never actually immune. “I worry because when we moved out of the city, I really thought we escaped it, we didn’t. We just see it now from a distance. It’s always around us but it’s worse down in the Valley.” McCleve believes that no one person can fix the depleted air quality and for now, she continually looks for ways to lower her carbon footprint saying, “We’re all responsible for the problem and that means, we’re all responsible for cleaning it up. If we don’t, we’re all in trouble.”

Today, Utah is home to over three million people and the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute projects that by 2065, Utah will be home to roughly six million people. Even as the state grows more diverse, there is still an environmental justice divide visible in the Valley.

The east side houses a predominantly white population. One can usually find new and remodeled schools and readily available public transportation. There are pricey coffee shops every few blocks and multiple grocery stores within walking distance where residents can purchase organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. The east side of the Valley also sits at a higher elevation and in a way, overlooks the west side. But even at higher elevations, the air is still filling with particulate matter from emissions, just not at the same levels as what accumulates in the air down on the Valley floor.

West Side Industry

Westside industry.

The west side of the Valley houses a large majority of Utah’s lower-income families. There’s more diversity in the communities and predominantly, most people of color live on the Valley’s west side. Grocery stores are spread miles apart from residents, creating food deserts, and there’s a significant lack of public transportation. Instead of coffee shops and farmers markets littered throughout the neighborhoods, there are factories, refineries and major transportation, and trucking hubs all contributing to the air quality.

With the depleted air quality in the Valley, who is affected the most? Anthony Sudweeks is one of the principals at Wallace Stegner Academy (WSA), located on Bending River Road on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. The school offers a free, college preparatory education for grades K-8. With over 600 students, the majority of kids attending WSA are Hispanic, students of color and/or from low-income families who reside in the neighborhoods surrounding the school.

Sudweeks said he is asked by parents frequently, “Can you keep all the kids inside for indoor activities?” As much as he wishes that were possible, it’s not a reality. A few days of inside play are OK, but kids need to run and expel their energy so they can pay attention and learn while the teacher is instructing. Instead of packing hundreds of energy-filled kids in a crowded lunchroom like sardines in a can, the school adheres to strict guidelines on how the red, orange and yellow days are handled.

utahblueskyslc

A “green day” in Utah.

Sudweeks said, “On red days, no kids play outside. On orange and yellow days, students with asthma or heart conditions, who have to have a doctor’s form filled out, don’t go outside.”

The school uses one of the state’s outdoor air quality monitoring websites to decide who or if any students go outside during the orange and yellow days. “There are air testing monitors that the state funds all over the place,” Sudweeks said. “There’s one about two blocks from here.” He and the other employees at WSA are vigilant in making sure that the kids are not outside when the inversions are happening and when the air quality monitors show that any unnecessary exposure to the air would not be safe.

WSA checks the air quality website multiple times daily because, even though the weather is not the culprit, the pressure systems may change from morning to afternoon. But Sudweeks said, “It’s not really dependent on the weather. High- and low-pressure fronts can change it, but the air quality’s not very unpredictable. It’s predictable. In the morning we know what it’s going to be like in the afternoon, it doesn’t randomly change. It doesn’t predict green and turn into a red.”

Sudweeks did say that during the winter inversions the forecast will sometimes show a yellow day in the morning, but by the afternoon it will have turned into a red day. Those days, he said, “It’s a constant check, constant.”

An inversion builds, trapping pollution.

The area of WSA is surrounded by four major freeways. Sudweeks explained that the neighborhoods around the school are some of the worst polluted spots in the state when it comes to bad air quality. So, why knowingly put a school in an area that suffers from some of the most polluted air in the state? “Because this is where our students live,” Sudweeks said. “This is Glendale, and most of our students live in Glendale. If we moved the school somewhere else, what we’d be saying is, these kids don’t deserve a good charter school.” Glendale is a suburb of Salt Lake City and according to Statistic Atlas, roughly 40 percent of the population living there is Hispanic.

Sudweeks quickly affirmed, “This is their neighborhood and these kids absolutely deserve to have a great school in their own neighborhood.” He said that one of the reasons why the school’s location was decided was “to make sure that the kids living in some of the most polluted and lower-income parts of the city still have access to the best education possible.”

Sudweeks explained the environmental justice issues the school and area are facing. “It’s a nationwide phenomenon where the lower the income neighborhoods are, the more likely they are to live in bad air quality. Nearer to freeways and industrial areas.” He said that’s also particularly true in Utah. The area is economically growing and with that growth brings large diesel-fueled trucks, more traffic, congestion and, overall increased pollution.

Winter Smog

Eastside winter smog — University of Utah’s family housing.

Sudweeks also ran for state legislature in 2018. One of his platforms was Utah’s air quality, more specifically, the air quality monitors and their need to be updated. He said, “They need about $3 million invested into them because they’re falling apart. The session before the last, they voted to not put any money into them and this last session they put $1 million. But they are in desperate need of upgrades on the monitors themselves.”

Sudweeks said he feels like the majority of the legislature just doesn’t care because it would mean truly facing the air pollution problem. “They just pretend like it’s an issue we have no control over, which is not true.” Sudweeks said the state could completely move to Tier 3 fuel, which is low in sulfur and according to the EPA, reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the air.

Sudweeks said the state is also needing a revamp of the public transit system to meet the needs of the people. “Buses don’t get people on public transits, trains do,” he said. “We’re a big enough county where we could justify a large investment into public transits. Because of our air quality needs, we have no business not investing heavily in public transits.” Sudweeks referenced the recent legislature and said, “No money for public transit, but a lot of money for widening and expanding roads.”

He said Utah’s inversions give residents a false sense of security in believing the air is only bad when inversions are happening. A large study by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health agrees. The study found that EPA standards may not be strict enough in preventing premature deaths from air pollution. The research showed that if particle pollutions in the air could be lowered by roughly 10 percent, the death rates of people 65 and older would be lowered, possibly saving 7,000 to 10,000 lives each year.

Hazy City

Haze building over the Salt Lake Valley.

Improvements to the air quality in Utah have been made over the years. Technological advancements created cars that run on natural gas and batteries. Electric vehicles, trains and buses are carrying more people around the Salt Lake Valley, reducing the need to get in a gas-operated vehicle for a quick drive to the store. More homes are being powered through renewable solar energy, and in general, more people are aware of the issues of air pollution and what contributes to it. Still, with all the improvements, there is a visible racial divide when it comes to air we breathe.

Rep. Angela Romero represents Salt Lake Valley’s House District 26. She is also one of the many advocates fighting for clean air in Utah. Of the roughly 39,000 people living in her district, almost 60 percent are Hispanic and people of color.

Romero said in a phone interview that when the topic of air pollution comes up, people have to realize there’s more to it than just air pollution. “There’s an environmental justice concern for those affected the most.” The EPA recognizes environmental justice as the fair treatment of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, and income with regard to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation, and policies. This means that every person living has a right to a fair and meaningful life and protection from environmental and health hazards. This is not the case for hundreds of thousands of people living in the most polluted parts of the Valley bowl.

Romero said, “Most working-class communities and communities of color, live in areas that are more industrial, so they’re going to be exposed to more toxins in the air than others.” She and her colleagues are looking at the intersectionality of all issues facing people of color and marginalized communities. “We’re not looking at how they collide and how they displace people, it’s how they all work together,” Romero said.

As the Valley becomes denser in population, Utahns must continue being vigilant in finding and implementing ways to stay ahead of the added pollution. Romero said, “It’s kind of hard for us to solve the problem if we’re not coming up with innovative ways to address it [air pollution].”

Public Transportation

Riding public transit lowers dependence on fossil fuels.

Cleaning up the air is not a one-person job. It’s everyone’s job to work together to make it better. Romero said that a lot of time people want to put all the blame on industry and other heavy air polluters. But, she said, “We don’t look at ourselves and what small things we can do when we’re looking at air quality and energy. How do we play a role in that? What are some practices that we can change in our own lives?”

Romero said she’d like to see the state focus on using more renewable energy sources like adding roof-top solar panels to all state-run buildings and offering higher discounts to homes using solar panels. Businesses and homes can also update their heating and air-conditioning units to function more efficiently. Romero said it comes down to all residents making the commitment to change the habits that are contributing to the depleted air quality.

Utah has over 200 sunny days a year. Roof-top solar is an important investment for Utah’s future economy. More importantly, using a 100 percent renewable and clean energy source can help to improve the long-term health of all residents.

In the Salt Lake Valley’s mountain landscape environment, there will always be air pollution concerns. “We have inversions,” Romero said, “and they’re never going to go away, but what can we do to be more proactive, so we don’t make them worse?” Romero said that people can make little changes like taking public transit. Even though it may take a bit longer to get somewhere, plan for it and make it part of the routine. Walk or ride a bike if only going short distances and carpool whenever possible. The more we drive, the more we’re creating dirtier air with our cars. Romero said, “Getting people out of their vehicles and onto public transportation is a great way to start.”

Bikes are readily available around the city.

About the future of Utah’s air quality, Romero said, “We’re trying to be more proactive. We’re looking at inversions and air quality and we’re looking at it more from a public health perspective.” She also said, “If we truly want to change the route we’re going, we have to reevaluate systems that are in current existence. It’s not only about communities of color and marginalized communities. It’s about us as an entire community.”

Romero said all it takes are small changes in everyday routines to help improve air quality. Any day is a great day, to start a new and healthy habit.

To make improvements to Utah’s air quality, follow the CLEAN AIR plan:

C: Carpool whenever possible
L: Limit cold starts on cars and combine trips
E: Engage in clean air advocacy
A: Access public transportation
N: Navigate smog ratings and engine types
A: Avoid unnecessary commutes
I: Idle less or not at all
R: Ride a bike or walk when possible

To learn more ways to help clean up Utah’s air, visit the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah Department of Health, or Air Now.

 

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