At long last, Salt Lake City’s Gateway is getting a grocery store

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) The Gateway in Salt Lake City in 2015.

More than 20 years after the idea was first proposed, a grocery store is coming to The Gateway in Salt Lake City.

Arizona-based Vestar, owner of the shopping mall-turned-urban-entertainment hub on downtown’s western edge, has announced that a small Utah-owned grocery operator called The Store will open an outlet in The Gateway in spring 2019.

The new 9,000-square-foot market, at 100 South and Rio Grande Street just west of the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, will feature The Store’s signature focus on hundreds of locally produced and specialty foods. The downtown outlet will have a delicatessen, bakery and lots of seating, according to the chain’s directors, but no pharmacy.

The addition will mean walkable access to staples for residents of The Gateway's hundreds of apartments and condominiums and surrounding residential towers, as well as a growing number of workers with offices in the open-air complex, built in 2001.

Jenny Cushing, the firm’s vice president of leasing, said the privately owned real estate company was “thrilled” to add the well-known grocer to its roster of tenants.

The announcement comes as Vestar is well into a $100 million renovation of The Gateway since buying the lagging shopping center in 2016. The overhaul has included boosted security, a face-lift for the common areas of the 1.4 million square-foot center, new entertainment and dining outlets and proposals for a boutique hotel built onto the Union Pacific Depot.

And in keeping with Vestar’s rebranding of the complex as much more than a mall, Cushing called the incoming grocery “a special amenity that we can offer our community, making The Gateway an exceptional place to live, work and play.”

Filling a niche

The grocery also fits with Vestar’s emphasis on locally based retailers with distinct market niches. The Store, for example, has a gourmet chef trained in French cuisine as its culinary director. Customer favorites are said to include The Store’s line of smoked meats along with housemade varieties of cilantro lime dressing, salsa and fried chips.

Longtime Gateway residents have waited for years for a grocer within walking distance, resorting, in the meantime, to driving to shop at the Smith’s Food & Drug in The Avenues or, more recently, at the Harmons Grocery at City Creek, at 100 South near State Street.

“We’re smack downtown, and yet it’s still a bit of a resource desert,” said Kim McDaniel, a communications manager and former Salt Lake Tribune employee who lives at The Parc at Gateway condominium tower. She noted the area still lacks a nearby pharmacy, dry cleaner, pet shop and similar amenities catering to residents’ day-to-day needs without a car ride.

The Store is a family-owned operation with a popular outlet at 2050 E. 6200 South in Holladay. Store director Scotty Niederhauser said they’d searched for years for a downtown location, only to find “a natural fit” with The Gateway’s ongoing makeover from a traditional shopping center into more of a social gathering place centered on dining and nightlife.

Niederhauser said the family was also drawn to The Gateway’s proximity to the Downtown Farmers Market, which runs over the summers in nearby Pioneer Park. “With The Store’s history and heavy focus on local offerings and relationships,” he said in a statement, “a location downtown close to the biggest farmers market and many vendors themselves, it seemed too good to be true.”

Store owners were also attracted by The Gateway’s new infusion of startup and technology-focused companies taking up offices in remodeled retail areas, including biotech firm Recursion Pharmaceuticals and Kiln, which offers coworking spaces. The Gateway is also home to The Tribune, Utah’s largest daily newspaper; Cicero Group, a management consultancy; and Artemis Health.

Amy Christensen, store director for the chain along with Niederhauser, said The Store was considering grocery-delivery services for office workers and residents at The Gateway, along with other special programs and deals.

Long in the cards

Decades-old city master plans for The Gateway — developed years before the taxpayer-subsidized center was built in the run-up to the 2002 Winter Olympics — show that a grocery store was long part of the official plan to make the complex a self-sufficient, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood letting residents live, work and play all on the same few blocks.

But that vision, which also included doctor offices and day care centers 20 years ago, has been hampered by several factors.

In the case of a grocery, The Gateway offered relatively small tenant spaces — at least compared with the footprints of standard Smith’s and Harmons supermarkets — and lacked a large parking lot typical of most chain food stores.

“Having a grocery store in an urban area can be really challenging,” Christensen said. “You’re not going to get a large store jump in with all those obstacles.”

But, for a small, specialty grocery like The Store, she said, The Gateway was a perfect match.