Despite conservative reputation, there's sin in Spanish Fork
Spanish Fork • Salt Lake County residents seeking nightlife rarely think of heading to conservative Utah County. But in the case of Spanish Fork, reputations can be deceiving. This town, about 52 miles south of Salt Lake City, is home to several liberal-thinking establishments including a lingerie store, a tobacco shop and two bars.
Sexy stuff • Dirty Jo Punsters, a stalwart on Main Street since 1990, sells lingerie, sex toys, games, self-help books and other "adult novelties." What you won't find are pornographic movies or magazines, said Tresa Ahlin, who co-owns Dirty Jo's with her husband, Shayne.
"Our store is about more than just selling sex toys," she said. "We offer education on sexual health, sexual wellness and sexual awareness. We want a comfortable atmosphere where people can ask questions."
In a community where talk of sex is often considered taboo, Dirty Jo's can be a welcome resource, Ahlin said. "This is a conservative area and people don't have a lot of people to talk to about any of these issues."
Ahlin has offered guest lectures on sexuality at Westminster College and Utah Valley University and regularly works with local doctors to help with sexual dysfunction issues.
And while the rubber sex toys and the sensual-sounding book titles might make one blush, Ahlin said she tries to manage the store so customers feel they are not in a "dirty environment." Packaging is geared toward women.
Ahlin's daughter, Natasha, who also works at the store, said customers travel from Salt Lake City and as far away as St. George to take advantage of the large selection of lingerie at reasonable prices. "We are really couple oriented," she said. "But there is still the shock value."
Really smokin' • Stogies, just off Spanish Fork's Main Street, is one of five smoke shops in Utah County. Walk into the surprisingly large store, and the sweet smell of tobacco and manager Robbie Cox will welcome you. One wall contains nothing but cigarettes, but there also are huka pipes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, electric cigarettes, flasks and lighters.
Surprisingly, "There is definitely a demand," said Cox about Utah County residents wanting tobacco. "Things are going well. Stogies started out as a lone store in Orem and expanded to Provo and American Fork. They did so well that they came out to Spanish Fork."
Marlboro and Camel remain the most popular smokes, though the lower-cost Pyramid brand is challenging. Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular.
"They may stereotype [Utah County], but there are smokers out there," Cox said, noting that farmers and others who live in the rural areas of Utah County often chew tobacco. "It's live and let live. I am sure there are those who believe we shouldn't be here."
Western pub • Spanish Fork actually has two bars: the more traditional Black Jacks, and the Deerhunter Pub, a log cabin-like establishment near the airport on the west side of town.
The Deerhunter Pub has three large rooms, one with pool tables and dart boards, another that includes a full-service bar and a third with a small stage that plays host to karaoke on Thursday nights and live local music on Friday and Saturday.
Military service flags guard the entrance. Posters and keeping with the name animal heads adorn the walls. A big chandelier decorates the main bar area.
The kitchen currently is being remodeled. When it's completed, the bar will serve lunch and dinner, said manager Brownie Sypher. There also is a large patio where live music is featured during the summer.
Sypher said the live bands, many from Salt Lake City, draw people from northern Utah to the mellow bar.
Mark Allen, a guitar player for the band Switchback, is a Spanish Fork native who hadn't been back to his hometown since leaving in 1981 until his band played on a relatively quiet Friday night.
"This is my first time here," he said. "It's a nice place, a local bar."
Kevin Terry and Teisha Lofthouse came to the Deerhunter from nearby Santaquin. Terry, who likes the pool tables, said the bar has a "good aura about it." Lofthouse likes open-mic night and said nice people in the bar make it a comfortable place.
A happening Spanish Fork
Here are three liberal-minded businesses you might not expect in conservative Utah County.
Deerhunter Pub • 2000 N. 300 West, Spanish Fork (near the airport); 801-798-8582. Open daily at 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday is karaoke at 9 p.m. No cover. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Dirty Jo Punsters • 170 N. Main, Spanish Fork; 801-798-2485. Sells lingerie, games, toys, books and other adult novelties. Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-7 p.m.
Stogies • 84 N. 100 West, Spanish Fork; 801-798-0092. Sells cigarettes, huka pipes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, electric cigarettes, flasks and lighters. Open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.