Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Getting to Know the Faces Behind Gardner Village

Gardner Village is a wonderful, eclectic group of shops, restaurants and other venues. It takes someone with great vision, or, in this case, two someones, to coordinate such a facility and turn long-standing family ideas and dreams into such a charming and active reality. In honor of Gardner Village's 35th birthday this month, I was delighted to interview this special twosome and get to know more about the history of The Village, as well as get the scoop on the many exciting things to come. It is my pleasure to share that interview with you. 

Introducing Joe Long and Angie Gerdes, a lovely brother/sister duo and owners of Gardner Village! 

1. Today, Gardner Village is such a special place to shop, dine, dance and more. Was this your mother's vision all along when she purchased the property and opened her furniture store in May of 1980? Did she ever dream it would grow to become an entire village?

A. Before Country Furniture (now CF Home) ever opened in 1980, our mom had a signed painting that said, "A Gardner Mill Historic Site Restoration—Offices, Shops, Restaurant—Office in Rear." So she really did envision a larger complex even though The Village today has evolved a lot from the original dream. 

2. The "village" aspect didn't happen on its own. You sought out and saved buildings throughout Utah, by having them transplanted to Gardner Village. What a cool treasure hunt that must have been! And what a rewarding task to complete in preserving more of our state's history! How did you get the idea to create a village in this way, and how did you go about finding and moving buildings? 

A. When Archibald Gardner originally built the mill, it was a huge draw to the area. Many other businesses surrounded the mill, including a blacksmith's shop, the first general store south of SLC, and a mattress and broom factory. The development of the village seemed natural. Our mom and dad had been in the house-moving business years before this, so this was familiar for our mom. She just put a small ad in the newspaper that read, "Old buildings and barns wanted for historic craftsman village." People would call who wanted to preserve a family home that would have otherwise been torn down. Our mom paid to have the homes moved and put in new foundations, and then the renovations would begin. 

The original newspaper ad now hangs in the Gardner Village offices. 

3. Your mother always dreamed of adding a restaurant to the property, and Archibald's opened its doors in 1990. A special dining experience, this restaurant offers a unique and delicious menu. How did you go about deciding what type of food to serve? Are any of the dishes on the menu tied to your mother?

A. The restaurant was really a passion of our mom's husband, Chris Christenson. They were both foodies and loved to cook and eat. The home-cooking feel felt natural to the overall setting. They hired a chef who got everything started. A few of the dishes we started with are still on the menu today. Pot roast and pan drippin' gravy, 7 bean soup made daily, homemade carrot cake, fish and chips, and ginger chicken salad, to name a few. 

4. Gardner Village never seems to slow down. You're constantly adding new stores and outdoor attractions for the Utah community (and guests beyond Utah) to enjoy. What plans do you have for the future of Gardner Village?

A. We're currently remodeling and rebranding the Naborhood Bakery. We also have a two-phase plan to expand CF Home and Archibald's Restaurant. Phase One will start in the next 30 days and consist of an addition on the west side of CF Home to expand the retail area and improve the receiving and overall circulation of the store. Phase Two will take place in the spring of 2016, creating an outdoor patio for Archibald's, which we will call the Mill Plaza, as it will expand the area around our existing waterwheel. This phase will also include additional indoor seating and banquet space in the basement of the 138-year-old mill. Longer term, we're working to expand to the west by adding a 25,000-square-foot convention facility, connected to 7,000 square feet of retail and a 125-room hotel. These additions will complete the buildout for The Village. 

This inspiration piece sits inside the Gardner Village offices as an idea for the future Village hotel. Very cool! 

5. The Village has remained a family affair, with the two of you running things for your mother now. Do you see Gardner Village staying in the family?

A. While our mom owned the business, there were five children, her husband, and a brother-in-law involved. Then we (Joe and Angie) bought The Village in 2002 and it edited down to just the two of us. Today, we have a sister who runs CF Home, a niece who manages The Village Quilt Shop, and Angie's son and daughter also work here. Plus, we have many employees who have worked for us for as long as 20 years. We love the family aspect of the business and think it's part of the reason all involved share in our feelings of ownership and pride. 

Just another day at work for Angie and her son. 

Thank you for making us feel like a special part of your family by so warmly opening your doors to the community. So many have made traditions out of trips to Gardner Village, from paying the witches annual visits in October to enjoying delicious meals and unique shopping all year through. On this, your 35th birthday, I'm sure our online community joins me in wishing you a very happy celebration while also offering a sincere thank you for all you do to support our community and our fun! 

Megan Hoeppner 

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