“This city’s history is written in hoofprints,” says Lisa Deon. She drives one of the elegant carriages that ply the streets of downtown Salt Lake and Memory Grove Park. She is correct. For decades, horses hauled the stuff of commerce that built this city. Now the gentle draft horses create the stuff of memories for their passengers.
”People take carriage rides for any number of reasons,” Lisa says. “Some couples get engaged in the carriage, others take a ride to celebrate a successful cancer treatment. Christmas is our busiest time. Some families have come back for twenty-five years.” But Carriages For Hire is not just about Christmas lights. It’s a year-round business.
City Creek Mall contributes to that. Annette Overson, owner of Carriages For Hire, believes the mall has been good for her 25-year-old company. “Thank goodness they’re open,” she says. “We’re so glad people have a reason to come downtown again. When light rail was being constructed and downtown closed, our business fell off 75 percent. We had to sell horses, cut back hours, lay off staff. Now we’re seeing that change.”
Annette is also optimistic about the potential impact of the airport spur. “We hope it will be positive,” she says. “If it’s just a few easy minutes to downtown, people can come on a lay-over and take a ten-minute carriage ride around the Gateway or a forty-minute history tour of mansions on South Temple. There’s a lot you can do if you know it’s here. ”
The horses are housed in a spacious barn near the railroad tracks. Lisa begins her day by brushing Charley until he shines–a routine he seems to immensely enjoy. “The horses are with people who love them, and Charley has spent his share of time at the hay buffet,” she laughs. The open French carriage is perfect for sightseeing at Charley’s leisurely four-miles-per-hour pace . “I view Charley as my co-worker,” Lisa says. ”He is very traffic savvy and knows when to change lanes. People are amazed.”
Lisa and Charley take between three and six rides per day after which he gets another rub-down. ”Horses always come first,” she says. It’s an ideal job for someone like Lisa. “I like horses, history, and talking, and this job allows me to combine them all. It’s great to have a job where you can do what you love!”
Charley nods his head in vigorous agreement and whinnies, “Neigghhhh.”§