Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

July 23, 2012
Merchants must provide motivation to shop local

When a prominent restaurant like Sostanza closes, it’s unnerving. As a brand, Sostanza was unparalleled, after all. Mention that Sostanza was catering an event and guests knew they were in for a fabulous meal.

In the wake of the closure, blame was laid at the feet of the Tooele County buying public in a Transcript editorial (“Recent closures teach some lessons, ask hard questions,” July 10). The editorial opined that we drive to Salt Lake too often and only pay lip service to shopping local. That if it weren’t for our miserliness towards local businesses, Sostanza might still be open.

Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

My hypothesis is this: Tightwad and Salt Lake City-loving consumers are an easy scapegoat, but certainly aren’t the only bane to local businesses.

Let me tell you about a local business that has bucked the economic downturn.

On Grantsville’s Main Street, Casa del Rey has a deceptively bland sign that makes it hard to believe wonderful Mexican food awaits inside. But time and time again, my family and I eat there. The Grantsville restaurant is so popular my Tooele friends drive 10 interminable miles for their quesadillas. My husband’s off-road forum buddies list Casa del Rey in their top five Utah restaurants.

The delicious food isn’t the only reason why we keep coming back. As we pull into the parking lot, servers are waiting to seat us. They give us grated cheese to go with our salsa, without us even asking, just because we’ve asked in the past. The owner, Steve, shakes our hand and asks us how the food and service was, and his smile is genuine. When my husband and I go there on dates, there are no distracting TV sets, and we can actually enjoy a quiet conversation. And yes, their prices are reasonable.

Maybe Casa del Rey is just one of those small business anomalies in this terrible economy. I don’t know. But they sure are doing something right.

On the flip side, you gotta give Sostanza credit for pulling off a grand effort at revitalizing downtown. And their food was an out-of-this-world experience. But to be honest, the few times I ate there, I was petrified that Miss Manners would slap my hand. The owner was gracious, but he held you at arm’s length. Could it be that, combined with their pricey menu, the standoffish service didn’t sit well with other people too?

Can one blame consumers for being more circumspect in spending their dollars? In this economy, the burden falls on a local business to not give consumers reasons to shop elsewhere. Unfortunately, some businesses seem to expect automatic patronage just for being local. It’s good to see the county offer free consultation and workshops because, frankly, some businesses need all the help they can get.

I want to shop local but not when a hair salon sits empty during their posted hours. I want to shop local but not when repair shops don’t return phone calls. I want to shop local, but not when the clothing selection is small.

We all want to shop local. Give us compelling reasons to do so.

Jewel Punzalan Allen is a long-time journalist who lives in Grantsville. She blogs at

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