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In the beginning a room was rented out by Betsy Burton to write a novel. That room is now the fiction room at The King’s English, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary.
In 1977 Burton and fellow writer Ann Berman opened the doors to their ideal book store.
“We wanted a book store with chairs and where we could serve tea and where people would come in and we’d talk about books and it would just be cozy and wonderful,” said Burton. “From day one this was just the most wonderful thing anybody could ever do for a living, it’s so much fun.”
The last 35 years were encouraged by Vest Pocket, according to Burton. Vest Pocket, a business coalition which began with just a few small businesses including The King’s English, Liberty Heights Fresh, Rico’s, Wasatch Touring, Cactus and Tropical and University Pet Clinic, was part of an early effort to educate the community on the benefits of locally owned stores.
“If there is a reason for our survival it is our understanding, once the chains came, we (local businesses) knew how important we were to community and to the economy,” said Burton. Local First Utah recently released a study that states local businesses return 382 percent more to the Salt Lake City economy than chain retailers, supporting Burton’s survival theory.
Burton said that getting the government as well as the public to understand and get involved was the single biggest thing that any of the locally owned businesses did to ensure the survival of all of them.
That warm, friendly attitude of Burton’s extends in to the realm of e-books too. The King’s English is delving into the trend and will be carrying its own device beginning in late October. Partnering with the Kobo e-reader, the device will enable customers and the community to support the independent book store on a new platform.
Burton noted that having a cozy book store, and other neighborhood businesses, enables people to connect. It encourages a thriving community, which in turn, encourages the local economy.