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News » Cover Story

Utah's Alternative Pioneers

Celebrating the inner genius of Zion’s many misfits and nonconformists.



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Hatch River Expeditions
Hatch River Expeditions, the oldest professional whitewater guide businesses in the country, started in 1929 and set the stage for Utah’s outdoor industry. Today, a third-generation Hatch—Steve Hatch— continues to guide on the Colorado and through the Grand Canyon.

Corey Fox
Corey Fox,
founder of Provo all-ages venue Velour, may have started something he hadn’t really expected: a downtown hub of hipness. Yes—in Utah County. Joining him in his visionary madness are Sego Arts Festival directors Maht Paulos and Liz Lightfoot, who operate the Coal Umbrella consignment shop; Nathan Robbins & Annali Kingston’s who serve it up at The Pennyroyal Café; Ryan & Rebecca Neely of Mode Boutique fame; and Jake and Melissa Haws who run Muse Music. Together, they create a scene much greater than the sum of their eclectic parts.

Jacki Pratt
In the late ’80s, Jacki Pratt opened the Golden Braid metaphysical bookstore on 300 South. Awash in incense and New Age music, the shop’s books and tapes were, for many, an answer to a prayer. While the store’s patrons had a yen for spiritual truth, they also had a hunger for healthy grub. Thus, in 1995, “the Braid” moved to a bigger complex on 500 East, adding the holistic Oasis Café—now owned (since 2001) by Joel and Jill LaSalle.

Jim Stiles
For 20 years, with great passion and wry caricature, Jim Stiles provided the alt bimonthly newspaper Canyon Country Zephy to local Moabites and the weekend warriors just passing through, giving a singular voice to life in the desert. While the Zephyr no longer runs in print, the pioneer of Color Country carries on even now, online.

In 1979, sculptor Stephen Goldsmith and three other artists started Artspace to develop studio space in downtown Salt Lake City. The still-expanding project has provided studio and living space to hundreds, brought creative types downtown and framed discussions about urban living in Salt Lake City.

John Bolton
Since 1981, “Coffee without Compromise” has been the battle cry of John Bolton’s Salt Lake Roasting Co. This establishment introduced the modern “destination” coffee shop that others have come to emulate. It was the place in which to hang out, meet up, study, conduct business, flirt, and escape. Bolton’s ventured to 28 countries across the globe like a man on a mission—a mission to bring the world’s beans back to Utah for our very enjoyment.

Rev. France Davis
Pastor of Salt Lake City’s Calvary Baptist Church since 1974, Rev. France Davis (who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr.) found himself as a black leader in a community that needed a lot of help with basic civil rights. He kept an arm extended to the larger community, helping Utah get an MLK Day and a MLK Street (600 South).

John Williams
We’re not saying that fine dining in Utah wouldn’t exist without John Williams and Gastronomy, Inc., but without The New Yorker–opened 1978–as well as Baci Trattoria, Market Street Grill & Oyster Bar, Café Pierpont, et al, we might all still be eating frozen haddock.

Terry Tempest Williams
For 25 years, Terry Tempest Williams’ writings have become part of the language of the environmental movement and, more particularly, the movement to preserve the wild desert landscape of Utah. Informed by her Mormon heritage and a family history with “downwinder” cancer, Williams has been a both a poetic voice and a staunch advocate for change.

Kelli Peterson
In 1996, when East High School student Kelli Peterson and her classmates formed a gay-straight alliance, there had never been an organization like it in a Utah public high school. It caught national headlines, prompted untold hours of legislative hand-wringing, and even provoked the school to discontinue school clubs altogether, at a time when the dangerous plight of gay and lesbian youth was largely ignored. Thanks to Peterson, many of those kids today have a safer educational environment.


Joe Redburn
Joe Redburn’s
ownership of gay bars—such as the still-lamented Sun Tavern (destroyed in a freak tornado) and now The Trapp—places him in the pantheon of gay community leaders. But, it’s his talk-radio career dating back to the Vietnam years for which he is perhaps even better known. A one-time conservative who saw the light during the Vietnam War, Redburn helped develop the talk-radio format that today dominates our airwaves.

Kevin Kirk
The Heavy Metal Shop may sell more of its own skull-branded merchandise than CDs, but that logo’s been worn by famed rockers ranging from Alice Cooper to Slayer to the Drive-By Truckers for over 20 years—some local religious institutions would kill for that kind of exposure. The indie record shop (one of the most long-lived in Utah) escaped the soon-to-be-gentrified Sugar House ‘hood years ago, proving owner Kevin Kirk has vision in more than just metal and hoodies.

Launched in the back room of The Private Eye in 1989 by then (and only) employee J.R. Ruppel, Salt Lake Underground (SLUG magazine) has grown from a grimy four-page photocopy to a local monthly institution, championing everything from local music to skateboard competitions to the very punk-rock art form of bellydancing. Subsequent publishers Gianni Ellefsen (1994-2000) and Angela Brown (2000-present) have kept a rag that has no logical business in Zion not only alive, but thriving.

Richard Dutcher
It might have been enough that Richard Dutcher’s God’s Army pioneered a “Mormon cinema” movement that filled local theaters for a few years with LDS-themed comedies and dramas. But he also created his own distribution and marketing apparatus, becoming a virtual one-man filmmaking enterprise even as he has moved on to become a pioneer of “post- Mormon cinema.”


Pete Ashdown
Before his 2006 Senate bid against Orrin Hatch, before he launched XMission in 1993, becoming Utah’s first commercial Internet service provider, Pete Ashdown blazed a different trail: promoting some of the state’s earliest raves. His willingness to pursue the strange, unknown and seemingly impossible has given us hope—and access to free Wi-Fi. What adventure will he choose next?