When it’s done right, it can turn an economy around; it can help the working class; it can revitalize local areas to help independent small businesses flourish. But when it’s done wrong, it widens the gap between the rich and the poor. From a national economic perspective, it seems that through rampant inflation we are now paying for our stimulus checks that helped families and businesses get through Covid.
But there is some good news on the economic front. While Utah’s population is swelling in our biggest cities, a few smaller towns with brave entrepreneurs are showing promise of greater development and growth. Helper, Utah has become a stellar example of how economic growth or stimulus can happen the right way — by allowing the local business community and residents to take charge. Together, business owners, artists and residents have transformed a mostly shuttered and dilapidated town into a destination for art, music, culture, architecture and beer! Helper Beer is opening in Helper, Utah, and it’s about time Carbon County had a great brewery, and at the very least, another reason to visit historic Helper.
Jaron Anderson, of TF Brewing and RedRock Brewing Co., has built a stellar state-of-the art brewery with his team. Utah Stories has published many stories about how beer saved the likes of Salt Lake City’s former red light district when Redrock and Squatters opened in the early 1990s; how Wasatch Brewery helped to revitalize Park City’s Main Street at the same time; How Rooster Brewing Co. helped revitalize Ogden’s 25th Street, and how many small towns and areas have been assisted in their efforts to attract tourists and draw more residents using the ever-irresistible lure of freshly brewed beer.
We at Utah Stories contend that craft beer and local breweries are one of the best forms of economic stimulus for building a tourism economy. Colorado has already learned this and the State Office of Economic Development has offered tax rebates and grants to breweries willing to open in small towns. While Utah is now offering Main Street revitalization grants, they have yet to step up to the plate and offer breweries (and distilleries) access to valuable tax incentives, like they currently offer to giant big box stores.
Craft Breweries provide good-paying local jobs and they build the social fabric. Craft breweries offer the teaching of a skill that is in high demand. Breweries produce products that the community can share whether out on the hills biking, hiking, or sandbagging during what is almost certain to become one of our biggest flood years. The last time our mountains looked like they do now was in 1983 when Donna Summers’ “She Works Hard for the Money” was at the top of the Billboard Charts.
Brewers and brewery owners work very hard for their money, as do the working class professionals who live in the small towns we are featuring. Utah needs to revitalize more towns for more people who like working with their bodies and minds to support craft: food, products, farms, and tangible products Made in Utah. Chat GTP might put writers like myself out of a job, but we aren’t yet seeing robots brewing great craft beer.
On another note, also in this issue, we get an incredible case study of how historic architecture can be preserved on a local scale in a cost-effective manner. I wish Salt Lake City could have noted that before they demolished the historic Main Street Pantages Theater. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall claims the renovation cost of more than $60 million prevented any renovation.
“We could have renovated it for many millions less than that,” said Gary DeVincent.
Now, nothing but a massive hole in the ground remains on SLC’s Main Street where one of its most historic edifices once remained. But I digress. Let’s examine the recent breweries that have opened in small towns and the impact they have had on their communities.
Strap Tank – Trevor Hall
Legends Motorcycle Museum in Springville was founded in 1999 by local businessman and motorcycle enthusiast, Rick Salisbury. Its mission is to preserve and showcase antique and rare motorcycles. The museum also offers exhibits on motorcycle racing history, motorcycle design evolution, world-class art, and the cultural impact of motorcycles on American society.
Next door to the museum, Salisbury founded Strap Tank Brewery in 2015, a craft brewery named after a type of Harley Davidson. Strap Tank Brewery offers a menu of pub-style food and 12 in-house brewed beers. The brewery has expanded to Lehi and is currently building a new location in St. George.
Strap Tank Brewery has had a positive impact on the Springville community by providing a popular gathering place for locals and visitors to enjoy great beer and food. The annual Legends Block Party is an event for the entire community that includes a carnival, motorcycle stunts, and free hot dogs. It is scheduled for June 10th this year. Strap Tank Brewery has helped establish Springville as a destination for craft beer lovers, drawing visitors from across the state and beyond.
Silver Reef – Cindy Walsh
Cindy Walsh began her adventure in 2018 with the intent of creating the newest craft brewery in St. George. Silver Reef offers seasonal beers, spirits, pre-mixed cocktails, homemade root beer and local wines from their sister company, Chanela Vineyards. They are Southern Utah’s largest craft brewery and have created a casual atmosphere where locals & tourists connect by sharing their latest Utah adventures. Their tasting room is located in the middle of their production facility, enabling customers to watch the brew crew hard at work.
“Locals have been supporting us and continue to spread the good word that we’re here and now a must see,” says Walsh.
Supporting local farmers is another way they connect with the community. “Farmers come to pick up our spent grain and feed to their herd, and we hear they love it!” she says.
Starting last summer, they were finally allowed by the DABC to be open on Sundays. “A huge deal … ”
Silver Reef is excited to announce that construction is underway and they expect to be opening the restaurant this summer.
Vernal Brewery – Ginger Bowden
Ginger Bowden traveled extensively for her oil and gas business where she loved to stop at craft breweries and enjoy great food and drink great beer. Bowden says, “As I saw the unstable ups and downs of the oil and gas industry, I decided I needed something I could see as a long term career.” Bowden had always enjoyed homebrewing and hosting dinners at her home.
Bowden began writing a business plan to bring a brewery and restaurant to small-town Vernal, Utah. She presented the plan to her dad one evening and he said, “Don’t show this to anyone else!” “He has been my number one supporter over the years as well as my investor.”
After finding land across the street from the Utah Field House, they began construction in July of 2012. “It was a grueling process,” says Bowden. But finally, in April of 2013, they opened their doors. Vernal is currently celebrating their ten-year anniversary.
We asked our Uintah Travel and tourism director to describe how she felt Vernal Brewing has impacted our community and she said:
Like nothing Vernal has ever seen or experienced. A place you would find in the big cities with food and drinks that are appealing to visitors and locals. A great meeting place for both tourists and business professionals.
Vernal Brewing has created more than 50 local jobs. Vernal Brewing further supports their community through sponsorships, donations to fundraising events, and hosting large-scale events in the summer.
Bowden says, “Vernal Brewing is a space where you feel like you’re in the big city, but you are only five minutes away from home.”