A Rock Shop in the Heart of Salt Lake City Defies the Urban Gentrification Trend

Kathie Chadbourne, owner of From The Ground Up is a bright light in downtown Salt Lake City. Her museum like rock shop full of unique Utah rocks and gems is an amazing visit.


As its name implies, From The Ground Up is a truly a grass-roots, community gathering place in one of the most historic areas of downtown Salt Lake City. 

From The Ground Up is a rock shop owned by serial entrepreneur Kathie Chadbourne. Once home to dozens of local shops, including Auerbachs, the Broadway District was and still is the best place for local holiday shopping.

Chadbourne’s business is a bright light on the dismal gentrification of historic Broadway in downtown SLC. Just a block from Chadbourne is a highrise tower. Nearly 30 stories have replaced five former businesses on the block, including the Tavernacle, Especially For You Flowers, and the People’s Coffee. 

Most of these places found new homes, but watching a street full of local businesses slowly transform into sterile corporate development and residential towers hasn’t dampened Chadbourne’s spirit and her belief that local business can survive the corporate takeover. She has evolved her business to the changing needs of Salt Lake City, and many of her customers are the Layton construction workers whom she serves coffee and soup. “I just love these hard-working guys,” she says, enthusiastically. Chadbourne’s hospitality and smile are magnetic and keep the customers coming back (including our kids).

From The Ground Up sells a variety of rocks and stones, including copper from the 60s, fossils, gemstones, Utah variscite, drum mountain blue agate and more. Her shop isn’t some new-age mystical rock shop, but the shop pays homage to mining and the rockhound shops found in Southern Utah. It reminds me of Lin Ottenger’s Moab Rock Shop, which is a cultural institution. 

Rocks found in From The Ground Up rock shop in the heart of Salt Lake City.

And that’s exactly what Kathy had in mind. She is a good friend of Lin’s, and she learned from him that the mining industry in Utah should not be frowned upon, but celebrated. “The rocks have always been so close to me,” she said. Kathy’s shop is like a museum that honors Utah’s mining history.  

Kathy has owned several businesses in Salt Lake City, including Avenues Bakery and Avenues Bistro, and she helped renovate the Broadway Pharmacy around a decade ago. So why did a former restaurant owner decide to open a rock shop? 

“It’s been a dream that I’ve had before I ever even started businesses. When I drove into Utah with my family the very first day, I could not believe the beauty. I had never been to Utah before, so coming up through Zion and coming up I-15, it was just so magical. It had such an impact on me,” Chadbourne said. After that, she continued to collect rocks. 

Petrified wood found in the From the Ground Up rock shop.

Chadbourne and her business partner, Scott Stevens, go out every weekend to collect Utah rocks to bring back to the shop to tumble and put on display. Chadbourne showed me their rock inventory in the back garden, and it feels like you’re out there in the Utah mountains. 

“I was always trying to bring the outside inside,” Chadbourne said. 

But being a business owner in downtown Salt Lake City doesn’t always come without problems. 

“It really does shake me that we’re losing so much of our heritage,” Chadbourne said, referring to the homeless problem in downtown as well as the gentrification. “Just to have my grandchildren in the shop is a worry because of the homeless.” 

“Just the other day, I walked downstairs and there was a young man who had tied a string from Happy Nail’s door to From The Ground Up, and I couldn’t get him to move,” Chadbourne said. 

Chadbourne helps the homeless out by passing out warm soup and coffee that she has in her shop. She also brings soup to “Movie Night” hosted by First United Methodist Church. 

“It’s heartbreaking, and we feel like we have to do something. What can we do?” Chadbourne asked. Besides being an active advocate for the homeless, Chadbourne is also a champion and advocate against the systematic demolition of affordable buildings and architecture in the interest of unaffordable housing. Preserving the spirit of local-independent Utah businesses is an uphill battle. Utah’s leaders, both state and local, are more than willing to provide all sorts of incentives for giant corporations (such as donating the Utah Pantages Theater to Haines Development). Those same leaders provide little to nothing for the local businesses and small shops like hers who build the tapestry of the social fabric of Salt Lake City.

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