Golden Braid Turns 30

Written by  Karen Boe

It was the early 1980s. Jackie Pratt was working as an accountant, and no longer happy in that line of work. By the time she signed up for a meditation intensive, she was ready for a big change. She set an intention to know what she was going to do next with her life. "Clear as a bell, it hit me—almost like someone was speaking to me: open a bookstore."

Golden Braid Books opened its doors in December of 1982 at 213 E. Broadway (300 South)—the space currently occupied by the Blonde Grizzly gallery.

While the opening occurred in December, Pratt says the store

didn't actually sell anything until January. But her determination and attention to detail, skills she brought with her from her former life, laid the foundation for what would become an icon in Salt Lake City for years to come.

The concept gradually took hold with a devout following of regular customers from the Intermountain area, all interested in conscious living. "It was a lot of work and I loved every minute of it," she recollects..

"The first years were just magical. People would say, 'I was guided here' or 'thanks for opening this.' It was almost like they created it themselves and supported it from the beginning."

Eventually the store expanded west, under a flight of stairs, to the space now occupied by the floral shop Especially For You. Pratt and the Braid spent 14 years on Broadway.

Then, in 1986, Pratt and her partner Steve Paul took on a new challenge: to build a spiritual super store and a health-oriented restaurant with fine dining ambiance. They chose the property at 151 South 500 East, to build "something big and bright and light." This is where Golden Braid Books and the Oasis restaurant continue to thrive.

The property they chose had a documented history, reputation and energy that was perfect for the evolution and final destination of the popular store. In 1887 the federal government initiated the Edmunds-Tucker Act and funded the first women's shelter in the U.S. It was built on this property to house the women and children wishing to abandon polygamy in Utah.

Then, just prior to World War II, the six-story Ambassador Club was built in its place, with accompanying bungalow suites that still exist on the east property today. The Ambassador was reportedly the definition of hospitality in Salt Lake City with lavish dining rooms, dance floor, bar, meeting rooms and even a swank penthouse for higher-end visitors from all over the world. The club closed its doors 1985.

The new building's design was a far cry from the store's previous cozy, if constrained, niche on Broadway.

Architect Max Smith utilized the beams from the massive train bridge called the Lucin Cutoff that crossed the Great Salt Lake to Antelope Island. This timber was warehoused for years and is the main architectural element of the building. The entire structure has an open, warehouse loft feel to it, and the bookstore derives warmth, actual and metaphorical, from a large gas fireplace.

In 2002, Pratt and Paul wanted to start living the life they'd been reading about (from books in their own bookstore) for years. The store and restaurant were purchased by the LaSalle family, who had experience in the field as owners of several similar but smaller stores situated in malls.

While many independent bookstores have closed their doors or made the endangered list over the past 10 years, the Golden Braid continues to evolve and expand. For three decades now, the Golden Braid has provided all kinds of tools and information for personal growth for the region. The once-short shelves of books labeled "home and garden," "lifestyle," "relationship" and more have expanded into entire departments. Psychic readings and spiritual consultations make up almost 20% of the current business. Their customer base has grown to more than 150,000 visitors each year.

And while much of what seemed pretty "out there" in the early days has become the stuff of common discourse today, the Braid continues to cater to the cutting edge of what's available.

When asked what's the coolest thing one can find in the store, owner Jill LaSalle replied, "The most amazing thing you can find at The Golden Braid is yourself."

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