Utah entrepreneur brings culture, history, and geology to downtown Salt Lake.
At a time when historic buildings are being leveled and small businesses are being driven out of downtown Salt Lake City to make room for more multi-level condos, Kathie Chadbourne has created a little sanctuary in the dust of downtown.
“It doesn’t matter where we are, we can create our little bit of heaven,” she says about the tiny oasis she’s created on East Broadway Street.
“All my loves are in one little space right now ― rocks, coffee, and beautiful plants,” she says about her new shop, From the Ground Up.
Chadbourne is best known for her previous restaurant endeavors including the Avenues Bistro, a once-beloved neighborhood farm-to-table restaurant on Third Avenue.
But, for the past thirty years, the idea of a rock shop was always in the back of her mind. In the post-pandemic climate, putting her energy into a new restaurant didn’t seem like the best idea, so she thought, why not sell the rocks she’s been hauling around with her for years? “It just came together like magic,” when a little space opened up on Broadway, she says.
Located just a few doors down from what is to become Salt Lake’s tallest building, the Astra Tower and its 39 floors of luxury apartments, and nestled between a nail salon and barber shop, From the Ground Up is certainly an oasis in an otherwise parched downtown district. In fact, the sound of running water emanating from a curious collection of horned instruments on the wall was one of the first things I noticed when entering her shop.
From the windows in her apartment above the shop she can see at least five new buildings currently under construction, “And here I am a little tiny rock shop in the middle of it all,” she says.
In addition to her expansive collection of local rocks, the shop also features Native American art, including works by the current artist-in-residence, Michael Haswood, jewelry, and unique gifts. My eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to the giant hunks of polished petrified wood on a display table, a wall clock simply stating the time is “now”, and the huge array of sparkling crystals slowly spinning around in a giant rotating pastry case. There’s also a small coffee bar in the back where she’s proud to donate ten percent of coffee purchases to Utah Dine Bikeyah, an Indigenous-led nonprofit that works to protect culturally significant ancestral lands, including those in Bears Ears National Monument.
Walking into From the Ground Up is like being transported into someone’s eccentric aunt’s living room, and Chadbourne fits the part. She calls herself a bit of a Mother Earth person and I couldn’t help but feel instantly welcomed and calmed by her presence. It is easy to tell she sincerely loves what she’s doing.
Chadbourne describes her store as being much more than just rocks, but a place to hold real conversations, whether it be about the developments in Salt Lake City, the ongoing homelessness problem she observes daily from the vantage point of her shop, and the state of the environment in general. She says it’s sad to see so much growth downtown, especially in a state where everyone seems to be talking about drought all the time.
“Water is not an inheritance,” she says, “and we need to watch over it,” and having a place to hold these types of conversations is the real purpose of her shop.
Despite the changes to downtown, Chadbourne says she still loves downtown Salt Lake City. “I live and breathe downtown and I see beautiful things happening here even though they are building a 30+ floor building right next to me.” Ironically, her shop has become popular with several high-rise construction workers that have come to rely on her for their morning coffee.
People really miss the little small businesses downtown, she says. “Almost every single day someone walks in my shop and says, ‘gosh I really love your shop and I wish we had more.’”
For now, she says, she’s very happy to be part of it all and is happy to provide a cold drink and plenty of pretty things to look at, which is a welcome contrast to all the construction that surrounds her. She has twenty months left on her lease and she’s crossing her fingers there will be the opportunity for many more.
239 E 300 S Salt Lake City
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