When you walk past the Church & State building in downtown Salt Lake City, signs for a coffee shop and a barbershop beckon you inside. But it used to be harder to tell whether the public was welcome.
The nonprofit coworking space and business incubator was founded in 2014 inside an old, red-brick church at 370 S. 300 East. Initially, people with a $99 monthly membership could use the building across from the downtown library 24/7, and the public could come inside Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — though many didn’t realize that was an option, said Nichole Anderson, the building manager.
Now, though, if you want to hang out or work there, there are “no strings attached,” Anderson said. The goal is to make the space more accessible. “Because right now, a lot of places you either have to be constantly buying coffee or buying things from a coffee shop to be working there ... or you’re paying for a membership somewhere.”
The main seating area is currently open seven days a week, for free, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or later, to any member of the public who wants to use the Wi-Fi, read on one of its many vintage couches, have a meeting, study, or focus on getting some work done. There’s even free coffee after 5 p.m. in the chapel’s southwest corner, and dogs are welcome.
It’s also a small-business hub and venue space, with several businesses open to the public throughout the former church’s halls and along the edges of the sanctuary, with events held there regularly.
Becoming ‘more open’
Church & State is housed in the Central Christian Church, although traditional religious services haven’t been held there since 2014, when church leaders sold it to Ronald Heffernan and Thomas Lee, according to Utah business records. The original church was built in 1893, but it burned down in the early 1950s and was fully rebuilt two blocks east in 1955, according to the University of Utah’s digital archives.
When Church & State’s founders bought the building, they remodeled the old church, filling it with multiple offices that surrounded the main sanctuary and retaining its blue, green and purple stained glass windows. Their goal was to provide support and incubator services to fledgling businesses, Anderson said.
But in 2020, those incubator activities stopped with COVID-19, she said, and all that remained in Church & State was the barbershop, a jiujitsu gym in the basement, and a few tenants renting office space.
Then last summer, the owners of the coffee shop Cafe Juniper decided to leave their space on 400 South and move into Church & State — their main counter becoming a prominent fixture in the building’s chapel.
That move brought a “shift” to the organization, Anderson said, and it dovetailed with the nonprofit’s plan to “be more open to the public.”
A Church & State marketplace
The idea now is to turn the chapel into a “community marketplace,” Anderson said, where business owners can sign up for shorter lease terms and not be required to turn in a formal business plan in order to lease the space. “So it’s a much lower barrier to entry for people to start a shop,” she said.
One of those shops is shared by two businesses, called Bell, Book & Candle, which owner Mariah Fralick describes as a “curiosity shop,” and Psychedelic Rocks, which is owned by Fralick’s daughter-in-law, Marissa Fralick. It’s a “very strong family business,” Mariah Fralick told The Salt Lake Tribune.
The store is filled with the two businesses’ goods, including gleaming gemstones, mysterious old books, fragrant herb bundles, sparkling jewelry and more.
“We look for ways to help you create rituals of self care, remembrance and celebration, whatever that means for you,” Mariah Fralick said. “It really is about the items that enchant you, little things that charm you in a day that just help you to recognize the magic you already have in your life.”
Another business that’s housed in the Church & State chapel is Retro-Barbers, owned by Vanessa Williams. She started her barbershop in 2020, and looked at multiple locations before choosing Church & State because of its open space and its aesthetics, saying it “went well” with her business model.
Specializing in men’s haircuts and beard trims, Williams said she likes to make her barbering services feel “pampering” for men. There are so many places for women to go get their hair or nails done, she said, but for men, going to get their hair cut “is just another chore that they have to do. And I wanted to make them feel like this is their space, that they can feel comfortable, that they can relax, and I wanted to provide them more than just a haircut.”
She said one thing that’s special about her services is her use of an old-fashioned, vibrating barber massager to massage the scalp, shoulders and neck. She likes to tell her clients, “I’ll send you home with some good vibrations.”
Church & State is also home to the tattoo shop Here’s Mine; Combat Arts, a jiujitsu studio; Monumental Design Studio; a one-person tattoo studio called Magnolia Tats, and more.
A community space
Church & State’s wide-open chapel space means it can double as an event venue. The high ceilings and stained glass have been the backdrop for weddings, markets, Sundance screenings and even a jiujitsu tournament.
SLC Lunatics puts on an after-hours “makers and flea market” called The Night Market on the second Tuesday of every month, and each event has a different theme. The Night Market “encourages the radical authenticity of the diverse counter-culture that is growing here in Salt Lake City,” SLC Lunatics’ website states. Sun Day Markets, also themed, are held on the third Sunday of every month.
Marissa Fralick curated and created the Rocky Mountain Gem Show, with Mariah Fralick hosting, and the most recent event brought in 800 people in one day, Mariah said. The Fralicks also do community activities at Church & State to celebrate the equinoxes and solstices, and do “make & take” craft projects monthly, instructing attendees on how to make magical oils, herbal bundles, pocket altar kits and more.
“We have a really strong ethic for looking for ways to support local,” Mariah said. “We love to collaborate in this building. It’s one of my favorite things. I’ve never been in a place where I felt such a sense of collaboration and family.”
In Williams’ view, that community could stand to grow even more. “We definitely need to have some more signage outside of the building for people to know that we are here,” she said. “And that everyone is welcome.”
Follow the businesses and groups mentioned in this story on Instagram at @bellbookandcandleslc, @psychedelic.rocks, @slcretrobarbers, @letter.queen, @magnolia_tats, @heresmineslc, @slclunatics, @combatartssc, @cafejuniper, @churchandstate1893.