The East Broadway District—better known as 300 South in downtown SLC between State Street and 400 East—seems to go through ups and downs. Some years it's extraordinary, like the years when it had Red Light Sound, Kayo Gallery and Slowtrain populating its many shops. Then there are years when it looks like a complete ghost town, and you wonder about the area's future. Over the past year, the street has seen an update in business, with spots like The People's Coffee bringing people back to the neighborhood. One business that's been helping on the decor front is Dara Modern, offering unique furniture and home furnishings that aren't readily found elsewhere in town. Today we chat with founder and owner Dustin Matinkhah about starting up the shop and what they have in store.
Photo courtesy of Dustin Matinkhah
Gavin: Hey Dustin, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Salt Lake City. After going to college in Portland, Oregon I decided to move back to Salt Lake City.
What kind of work did you do prior to opening the shop?
I worked in the lighting business and also real estate. In addition to owning Dara Modern, I am also a realtor for Summit Sothebys.
What is it about Utah that brings you back?
I love the four seasons and easy lifestyle here in Utah. I am able to work hard, but if I want to travel for the weekend, it is very easy. Typically, the cost of living in other cities is higher, which makes it more difficult to travel. Here in Salt Lake City, there is a great balance.
What made you want to start this kind of boutique? Where did the name come from?
A few years ago, I designed and built my own modern home near downtown. After this process, it was so difficult to find modern designed products for my home, and I ended up making most of my purchases online or out of state. I felt like modern/contemporary deign was a growing trend in SLC, and there were not many places that help satisfy the market. When picking a name, I knew I wanted something easy to say/remember but also personal. Dara is my middle name.
How did you come across the location on Broadway?
I requested the help of JR Howa at Internet properties, a local commercial real estate firm. While searching he showed my the space on Broadway, which we both thought was the perfect location for my new business.
What was it like turning the place into what you needed and getting the items you wanted?
It was definitely stressful at times, and is still a work in process, but I enjoyed transforming the once dark closed off space into a bright and open store. Shopping for new products is definitely the fun part of the job. I try to find unique pieces people in Utah have most likely not seen locally.
For those who haven't been to the shop, what kind of décor do you have?
We carry a wide range of modern designed products. Items from pet accessories to kitchen accessories and Italian furniture.
How do you go about choosing what to have in the shop? What sense of look or taste do you aim for?
I curate the store based on my own personal taste. I like items that stand out on their own, but also meet a certain level of quality.
What was it like opening the shop and your first few months open?
Opening the shop was definitely risky, but so far the public has had nothing but compliments. Even if someone walks in and does not buy anything, many mention how great the store is.
What have been the signature items that seem to fly out the door?
Customers buy a lot of bar/wine accessories. They also love our indoor/outdoor mats because they are easy to clean, anti-mold/mildew, and look great.
For those who aren't entirely sure what they're looking for when they come in, what do you recommend?
I always recommend bar or kitchen accessories. Though people's kitchens are typically fully stocked, why not replace a boring old accessory with something unique and different?
What can we expect from you and the shop over the rest of the year?
Expect so see more and more amazing pieces come into the store. Unfortunately, I can't get everything at once, but I think it is important for there to always be something new.