Roy City gets “facelift” in hope of growth

Story and slideshow by BRITTNI STRICKLAND

Visit the city of Roy and meet some local business owners.

Roy City, populated with 37,733 individuals, is commonly known for its strong community and hometown feel, which can be especially found in local businesses in the area. However, popular chain businesses like CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and WinCo Foods have begun to take the focus off of local businesses and in a different direction.

At the recent city council meetings at the Roy City Office courtroom and in speaking with city council member John Cordova, it is apparent that the council would like larger corporations moving into the town of Roy.

“You never want to chase away the small guys because the small guys are huge,” Cordova said. “They’re local and they’re loyal. But on the other hand any homeowner in Roy, if we don’t continue to bring in big businesses, then supporting the city ends up on the resident’s back and that’s not good.”

While sitting at the kitchen table in his Roy home, Roy City Mayor Willard Cragun said the city started a “facelift” in April 2015 on 1900 West in Roy to help take some of the pressure of supporting the city off of the residents’ shoulders.

“What I have planned for Roy City is re-establishing Roy City’s business community, so that we can provide local services to the residents of Roy. So, if you want to buy a pair of shoes, you can buy a pair of shoes in Roy City, or a dress, or pair of pants, you should have a shop you can go to in Roy,” he said.

Cragun noticed in 2000 that the majority of local businesses were moving out of town as developers moved in. “Over the years those ma and pa businesses have left Roy City. It’s been very, very hard to get them to re-establish in Roy,” he said. Once the developers established in Roy, the 25-year leases through the Redevelopment Agency expired and prices skyrocketed, making it hard for locals to afford rental rates. Another problem the town faces with bringing locals back, is the city does not have open ground for locals to build on. Consequently, they must purchase buildings from developers, tear them down and rebuild, all of which is an expensive process.

The city has no control over the developers and what type of businesses they choose to lease to. “The developers have all the rights and the city has no say,” Cragun said. Roy City only has control of business when the City Council approves business licenses.

Councilman Cordova said, “A lot of spots in our town need fixing, everyone sees it.” The council has approached merchants on 1900 West and heard outpouring support for a plan to clean up the downtown area in a mission to attract larger markets to Roy City.

Cordova and Councilman Brad Hilton are currently working on economic development of the city and plan to visit Las Vegas in May 2015 to meet with economic planners to get ideas for the facelift. Cordova mentioned the idea of the city approaching the local Harmons to get its help in spurring the development of the entire city. He mentioned how Harmons has helped spark growth at Farmington Station and in downtown Salt Lake City.

The council has been approached and has begun focusing on plans to have a movie theater come into town where Albertsons store was located on the corner of 5600 S. 1900 West in Roy. The building has been vacant for almost 13 years, Cragun said. Traffic from adjacent towns like West Point, Hooper, Clearfield and from the freeway would be brought into the city benefitting everyone. Cragun said the city needs something to draw people to Roy and hopes that a movie theater would do just that similarly like it did for the city of Ogden when Megaplex 13 was built.

The thought of having larger corporations come into the city of Roy has caused mixed reviews from local businesses including Jessie Jean’s Coffee Bean’s Homestyle Café, Sacco’s Produce and Roy Winegars pharmacy.

Lloyd Thomas is the owner of the pharmacy in Winegars that has been located at 3444 W. 4800 South in Roy for 20 years. He said that when CVS Pharmacy opened last year on 1900 West he was nervous about what that might do to his business. But, he has yet to see a change. “It’s just a way of the economy, there are chain stores everywhere,” Thomas said.

“I’ve always felt that Roy City has been really supportive of us,” Thomas said. The city supports the pharmacy at the annual Roy Days Parade and carnival as well as in the local newsletter.

Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans Homestyle Café in Roy has experienced struggles keeping the business alive while in the city. Anna Whitnack, owner of Jessie Jean’s for 15 year, said “it’s been hell” while being in the city. Owning a business on 1900 West has been difficult due to a neglected main street and continuous problems with a nearby store, Whitnack said.

Whitnack is working hard to move her coffee shop to a new town in hopes of better business and more support from the city. “We went to talk to Ogden City and they had open arms,” Whitnack said. There is no confirmed date as to when Jessie Jean’s Coffee Bean’s Homestyle Café will move out of town.

Sacco’s Produce has been in the same spot in Roy since 1969. Dominic Sacco said Roy City has always been a local type of city, but he wouldn’t necessarily mind other business in town.

Sacco’s Produce, at 6050 S. 1900 West, has frequenters from Idaho and all over the state of Utah during the summer months. Locals patronize it during the winter months. But with larger markets coming into the town, he said the biggest struggle for Sacco’s Produce has been competing with those “box stores” like Winco and Wal Mart.

“People think they’re going to get a better deal, which pricewise they may. But they may not get the quality. We’re more about selling local products grown here,” Sacco said.

Even with the struggles of keeping up with larger market stores, Sacco believes it’s a good idea to continue to move them into the city. “It’s good to have businesses around each other, it brings everybody to the same location,” Sacco said.

Mayor Cragun clarified that larger corporate markets would help the city of Roy. But, he still wants to keep that local hometown feel that Roy City is known best for. “I’m looking forward to more of the locally-owned businesses in Roy,” Cragun said. He added that he hopes that the beautification of downtown Roy on 1900 West will bring in larger markets as well as local shops while helping the city of Roy and the residents within the city.

 

Roy coffee shop stays in business by focusing on customers

Story and photo by BRITTNI STRICKLAND

Anna Whitnack sits at a gray table listening to the whir of blenders, ringing timers and the laughter of customers. The smell of brewing coffee fills Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans and Homestyle Café, the shop she owns in Roy, Utah. Whitnack recounts her journey as a local business owner.

Growing up in California, Whitnack and her friends would always go out to coffee shops rather than bars. But Whitnack didn’t think it was realistic to ever start her own business. “You think you have to have so much to put up and I never thought it would be a possibility because I thought it was beyond who I was,” she said. Then, after moving to Utah when she was 25, a friend encouraged her to go after what Whitnack thought of as a “pipe dream.” She gained the courage to bring her own recipes for pastries, burgers, sandwiches, smoothies and a variety of coffee flavors to the 37,000 people of Roy, Utah.

Whitnack opened Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans on Nov. 1, 2000, but becoming an entrepreneur didn’t turn out to be so easy. Whitnack decided late in 2013 that times were just too tough and she and her partner were going to have to close the shop.

Anna Whitnack and Ron Ford stand in their coffee shop Jessie Jean's Coffee Beans Homestyle Café.

Anna Whitnack and Ron Ford stand in their coffee shop Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans Homestyle Café.

They planned to tell employees the news at an early Christmas dinner. When the time came at the end of the meal, Whitnack just couldn’t find it in her to tell the employees that Jessie Jean’s Coffee Beans would soon be closed.

She told herself she would try to last as a local business for just one more month.

Each month she found herself saying the same thing. With increased support from local patrons, things began looking up and now, two years later, Whitnack is still serving customers.

Though there have been tough times, caring customers and the small, family-like group of employees have made it worthwhile for Whitnack. She looks at a wall covered with notes, photos, and obituaries from loyal customers. “This is our life, this is our family, our friends, our social network, our hearts,” she said, while wiping away her tears with a napkin from the table.

Phil Wagner, a Salt Lake City local who makes an hour-long drive north on his motorcycle to Roy simply to indulge in the food, said, “I think this is a great place. It kind of has that ‘ma and pa’ feel to it. Just down home and good food.”

Ron Ford, co-owner of Jessie Jean’s Homestyle Café, said the two became business partners after a unique experience. He and his son, Bryan, had been living in a neighborhood home behind the café. Whitnack said with a laugh that Bryan would play next door in the parking lot when he was 4 years old. Occasionally he would go into Jessie Jean’s and ask if there was any sort of service he could do to get a hot chocolate. He would always run around saying things like, “I’m going to work here someday.”

Right then Bryan, who is now 15, walked up to the table and said, “And guess what? I work here.” Bryan has worked at Jessie Jean’s for two years.

Unlike his son, Ford had never visited the café until he read a sign out front that caught his eye — “Bodacious Burgers.” Ford isn’t sure why he had never stopped in during the eight years of living nearby. But once he finally ate there, he continued to frequent the shop. Over time he developed a relationship with Whitnack, which later led to them co-owning the local coffee shop.

The two firmly believe in supporting other local businesses, because they know what it’s like to be one. If a business in the area does not have the supplies it needs, Whitnack and Ford encourage friends, family and customers to support the owners in the surrounding areas.

Ford and Whitnack said owning a local business and trying to survive from month to month is difficult. Ford advised people thinking of starting their own business, “Don’t take no for an answer, don’t let them get you down and if you have a dream, go get it.”

Whitnack added, “Fight as hard as you can fight and don’t ever go into business thinking you’re going to be rich. If you’re going into it to make money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”

Several customers paused at the table, touched her shoulder and  said hello. Whitnack smiled and greeted them by name. Gazing around the room, she said, “It’s hard and stressful, but there are the moments in the kitchen and we’re super busy and we’re crazy and [Ford is] playing drums on the pans,” Whitnack said. “Those are the moments where you stop and you’re like, OK this is good.”