Yesterday I found myself in Sam Weller’s, the oldest independent bookstore in Salt Lake City. It’s as good a bookstore as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, which reveals something about the intellectual life of Salt Lake City. There was a television crew there conducting interviews, because Sam Weller, the owner of the store, had died that day. I overheard the interviewer asking a girl of about ten years old, “So what does Sam Weller’s mean to you?” Very eloquently, she told how important books were for her, and how much she likes to go to that bookstore. She sounded like a budding intellectual, with all that entails.

Later that evening, Rev. Tom Goldsmith, minister of First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, welcomed delegates to the first session of Plenary. Among other things, he said that some state leaders look askance at Salt Lake City, because of the intellectual ferment of the city. “They call it ‘Sin City’,” he said.

If you think of Salt Lake City as a dour theocracy, you’ve gotten a wrong impression of the city. In the neighborhood of the convention center, I have found not just Sam Weller’s, but also art galleries, a film center, ethnic restaurants, and more. After experiencing a little bit of Salt Lake City, my only surprise is that there are only two Unitarian Universalist congregations in the city.

About the Author
dan harper


  1. Doug Muder

    At the lunch hour today, I wandered past a PETA protest, in which a red-painted female in a small red two-piece swimsuit lay on a table over the sign “All animals have the same parts.” Somebody else had a “Meat is Murder” sign.

    It was far enough from the Salt Palace that I don’t think it had anything to do with us — just Salt Lake City doing what it does.

  2. Sally G

    I loved SLC when I was there 15 years ago, and had more time to explore it “around” GA (a couple of days on either side). At the Utah Arts Festival, two men were holding hands. In events at and near GA, former mayor Rocky Anderson made great speeches about the need to reject torture and the need to hold those responsible for accountability for their actions. Alta has hardly changed— remote mountains just half an hour from the city and a legendary lodge in the same family since opening in 1939 (Snowbird has grown). SLC’s new (2003) library has a “green” roof garden, which is accessible and beautiful, with a magnificent view. Everyone is hospitable and helpful, or so it seemed to me, both visits. Having read of Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore in my guidebook, I was looking forward to a visit and did enjoy their used/rare section in particular; however, I was distressed to hear of Mr. Weller’s death on 24 June, and the store’s impending move. I wish the family and the business well.


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