Trolley Square

Still a Downtown Destination

Natalie Hollingshead | Photos by Kevin Kiernan Nov 14, 2019

When Trolley Square Marketing Manager Jen Butler tells people where she works, they typically share their Trolley Square memories like visiting the historic shopping and dining spot for their first date, enjoying dinner before prom, or going on fun shopping outings every Saturday.

“Everyone has an emotional connection to Trolley Square,” Butler says. “One of the things I really enjoy about working here is hearing their stories and connections.”

Since 1972, the shopping center at 600 South and 700 East has been a Salt Lake City favorite. After weathering the economic downturn in 2008 and under new ownership in 2013, Trolley Square is again a vibrant cultural and retail destination filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques and unique national retailers.

trolley car
olive restaurant at trolley square
stores inside trolley square

Historic Tie-ins

As the name suggests, Trolley Square was once home to Salt Lake Rail Company, where blacksmiths and carpenters prepared trolley cars for public transportation. It prospered until the mid-1930s, when buses started replacing trolleys on city streets. The trolley barns deteriorated for decades but were saved from demolition when a local family purchased the property in 1972.

Architect Wally Wright was inspired by San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square to remodel and restore the barns into a marketplace. Trolley Square quickly became one of the state’s most popular attractions and was added as a state historic site and to the National Register of Historic Places.

The mall thrived until the Great Recession, when occupancy dropped, and bankruptcy eventually followed. Salt Lake City businessman Khosrow Semnani purchased Trolley Square in 2013 and is restoring and revitalizing it, Butler says.

“It’s always our intention to honor the historic elements,” she says. “It’s very important to the community and to us.”

Renovations in the past few years include adding the Trolley Historic Museum, new LED lighting on the landmark 50,000-gallon water tower — first erected in the early 1900s to guard against fires at the trolley barns — and the return of the last remaining trolley car to the property.

Entrance to the pottery barn
entrance to olive & cocoa outlet
entrance to the machine age

Curated Retailers

Trolley Square’s appeal lies in its local boutique retailers and one-of-a-kind national chains. Some stores have been at Trolley Square for 30 years, such as Tabula Rasa stationery and Desert Edge Pub and Brewery. Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids, and The Old Spaghetti Factory are longtime national retailers.

Not surprisingly, many stores and restaurants have been renovated and expanded throughout the years, staying current with trends but still true to their roots. The pub, for instance, recently redecorated and expanded its menu to include Sunday brunch, Butler says.   “In our curation of filling some of our vacant spaces, we are really looking for best-in-class local retailers to create that community shopping experience where you can go find that great outfit and have a great time,” Butler says.

food on a plate
entrance to alice lane home collection
entrance to weller book works

Destination Shopping

By design, Trolley Square is a destination experience. Head there early in the morning for a workout at Core Power Yoga, Legends Boxing gym or Orange Theory Fitness. Afterward, grab a drink at Coffee Connection and snag breakfast at Whole Foods. Then peruse shops like Alice Lane Home Collection, Cabin Fever gift shop, fashion-forward Flight Boutique and Weller Book Works.

When hunger hits, choose from a handful of spots for lunch or dinner including Rodizio Grill and the soon-to-open Trolley Wing Company. To enjoy a little history, stop by the historic museum or climb the water tower stairs during a free tour for beautiful city views.

Summer evenings at Trolley Square might include food trucks, a beer garden and lawn games. During the winter, Santa Claus visits under the name Father Frost. In the spring, the Easter Bunny bounces by as well.

“Within our own community, every shopping center has something to offer, but Trolley Square really is unique,” Butler says. “You go through ebbs and flows in retail, and the market is changing so much but we are doing a great job of navigating that.”

For those who want more than shopping and food, there is the JADEN Events Center located on the west side of Trolley Square available for weddings, events and conventions.  

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