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Home / Articles / Arts & Entertainment / Other A&E /  New-Fashioned Pierpont
Other A&E

New-Fashioned Pierpont

After a time in the shadows, downtown’s Pierpont Avenue picks up the pace.

By Austen Diamond
Posted // May 11,2011 -

There is a “mayor” of Pierpont Avenue, and he sports an ornate Victorian-era suit, round spectacles, a handlebar mustache and a smile that could put a shine on a silver dollar. He also has the charisma of a carnival barker when describing the possibilities of a Pierpont revitalization.

Hraef’n Wulfson isn’t actually a mayor, of course; that’s merely a moniker given to him by local store owners. But Wulfson is the visionary leading the charge to restore the luster of the once-vibrant street by creating a Pierpont District Association as Pierpont simultaneously experiences an organic redevelopment as a fashion and textile hub.

“This is about re-imagining the district, to capitalize on what once was, and to draw people here,” says Wulfson, McGrew Studios’ creative director and resident of the adjacent Rubber Factory. “If that doesn’t happen ... then the gentrification of this street will be complete.”

Pierpont Avenue—located between 300 and 400 West and 200 and 300 South—has an inherently quaint ambiance. Century-old brick warehouses flank the south, their entryways above street level on a deck guarded by a red fence. The sometimes-undraped windows invite glimpses into businesses, art galleries and shops; above are residences. But with inadequate signage—for many businesses and the street as a whole—and dim street lighting, casual foot traffic is not seen.

Gallery Stroll started here, The street, which included an earlier location for Art Access, was a must-visit stop during the early days of Gallery Stroll, and since about 1980, artists and galleries have congregated in these once-lively buildings. The street’s downfall started when Artspace’s 25-year lease ended in 2005. The deck collapsed that same year, to be followed by drawn-out repairs—and there was a lack of a clear vision. The decline was topped off by rents that rose by as much as 20 percent, Jen McGrew of McGrew Studios estimates.

“There are a lot of people nostalgic about this strip. It used to be artists, and now regular businesses are coming in: food distribution, Web design, architects, sewing, textile,” Wulfson says. “I think the renaissance that needs to happen here is to rebuild that sort of air in light of a new commerce.”

Optimism is high. Wulfson’s idea of a unified business district has many benefits. Obtaining permits for special events and getting access to grants will become easier, says Wulfson, who also envisions a street fair and Saturday artisan market, as well as a desire to see the road repaved in brick and wrought-iron gates installed on either end of the street that read “The Heart of Pierpont District.”

The street’s first prominent shift recently came with Gray Wall Gallery opening in August 2010—the first art gallery tenant in years. Although business was slow initially, curator Matthew Hall uses Gallery Stroll as a barometer. “The last two months especially, it went from not terribly exciting numbers to, at times, impossible numbers [very busy],” he says. “People were just praying [Gallery Stroll] would come back here, and once it did, it snowballed. It’s really exciting to hopefully see it as a fully alive street again.”

In recent months, new shops Tissú Fine Fabrics & Design Gallery and Sean Patrick McPeak’s Brand32 Design have begun to participate in the stroll, adding to stalwarts Elemente and McGrew Studios.

McGrew Studios owner Jen McGrew has crafted inspired costuming since 1972—from Victorian-inspired steampunk suits to Halloween costumes to corsets. “If I don’t ever have to sew a white wedding dress again, I’ll be happy,” she says.

As the longest-established fashion boutique on Pierpont, McGrew Studios has witnessed the recent organic shift toward textile and fashion. “I think it happened without anyone really knowing what happened,” McGrew says.

Also on the block, there’s Filthy Gorgeous, the fashion-design firm owned by Keith Bryce, who was a Project Runway 5 contestant. Next is The Sewing Parlour, where students take courses in the art, then Tissú, which opened in March 2011. Owner Teresa Spas decided to open the fabric store after taking classes at the Salt Lake Community College Fashion Institute. She knew of few places to find quality, pretty, fashion fabric, so she created Tissú, which sells high-quality fabrics and design tools, and also offers custom tailoring and a gallery to showcase local designers. “I’ve found it’s hard to get your product out there, unless you get lucky and get snapped up or are on Project Runway,” Spas says. “I think it’s important to give people an opportunity and venue to exhibit their items—just to get some exposure.

“I saw there were a lot of textile-oriented businesses on the block. I thought [the trend to fashion] was the next logical step for the area,” she says. Dale Webdale, The Sewing Parlor owner, echoes those sentiments, but Jen McGrew is less certain.

“This is a design hub. I’ve had the conversation about turning it into a fashion district, but I have resistance, because that overly defines it,” McGrew says. “I just want to keep it in the realm of creativity and innovation. The thing with any creative movement is that there are changes.”

Editor's note: The print version of this article identified Pierpont Avenue as the location where Salt Lake Gallery Stroll started. According to several sources, the Gallery Stroll actually began in 1983 in a different part of town. It grew to encompass stops on Pierpont Avenue a decade later.

 
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Posted // May 14,2013 at 20:51

I'm not usually one to complain but I can tell you a huge problem with Pierpont is Jen McGrew. Her attitude alone discourages foot traffic. Tonight I was walking by and heard her unleashing on a few photographers taking family photos. One family had a small little girl but it seems she didn't mind. One man seemed concerned and was asking her where a "permit" she was yelling he needed could be obtained. . . But she stormed off. Not one to condemn colorful language but she was throwing F*** around non stop at these poor people. I miss the days it was a nice place but for it to return there needs to be nice people who welcome foot traffic not shun it. I can promise I won't be visiting my favorite Italian market or gallery until this lady leaves people alone.  

 

Posted // November 21,2013 at 20:30 - Robby- I am a longtime resident of Pierpont Ave and a neighbor of Jen McGrew and McGrew Studios. I too have had many issues with photo shoots and inconsiderate photographers over the years as well. I don't have a problem with people taking a few quick snaps in front of this beautiful historic building. The problem is how often it happens and the number of people involved and how inconsiderate they often are. On any given day I'd say there's 5-10 different shoots happening simotamously, sometimes with large groups and screaming kids. When this happens daily in front of your living room (literally, especially for those of us on the 1st floor/store level) it gets a little tiresome and annoying. Add some attitude from the photographers annoyed that you're getting in their way and disrupting their operation by residents simply trying to enter their apartments, that's when tempers flare a little. The incident your refering to involved Jen being frustrated by a particularly rude and inconsiderate photographer that she had had many run ins with. This person was having participants continually sitting on the hanging AC unit in front of her store as they were photographed. After numerous requests to stop having people sit there, this photographer shamelessly continued. When the AC unit broke off and was damaged, that was the final straw for her when she had to pay for the repair out of pocket. You should really get your facts straight before you publicly bash a wonderful person that is iconic and a huge staple and presence of our amazing Pierpont district. I'm not condoning F bombs being dropped on the ears of children, but there was indeed other pertinent sides to the incident you weren't aware of before passing judgement. This is the bottom line, these photrapgers and their participants ARE in fact trespassing on private property without a permit or permission to be there. In LA, PHX, and any other normal city this would NEVER fly, photographers get away with murder in this city! BTW its not always innocent mormon family's looking for that "urban" look for their family portraits. In many cases it's commercial and corporate shoots complete with models, products and the production crew involved. I've seen large crews set up tables and chairs for PA's to get release forms etc and provide craft services etc, basically taking over the deck of the building. Literally in front of my front door and living room window, many times blocking the stairs coming up. Obviously they're making $ doing whatever they're doing! And BTW yes it's the deck that's attached to our building, not a public sidewalk contrary to what some of these poachers think. I have confirmed this with several cops over the years. Even if it was public property these people will still need a permit to do that, especially with large production crews and gear scattered about. I've also on a semi regularly seen people giving photography classes on the deck and in the adjacent and also private property rubber space building sidewalks and breezeway. I've seen them in groups of 20-30 and one time had to yell "EXCUSE ME" to gain entrance to my home that was being blocked by them. They annoyingly moved aside and acted put aside that I had disturbed their class, no "excuse me" or "pardon us", all attitude! I'm guessing that class instructors are making $ too, just a tad past a casual hobby. But evidently no budget for a permit or worries to jump through the proper hoops. You have no idea how frustrating it can be do deal with this on a daily basis for years on end. Let me ask you this- Would it be ok for me to come to your house in Draper or wherever you live with my entire family and take some portraits on your property in the front yard right in front of your house and living room? All while you're trying to have a relaxing day with window open on a nice day. Maybe I'll bring my niece and all her bridesmaids for some wedding portraits. I'll also make sure and have plenty of out of control screaming kids for a solid hr or two. I know the wife is on her way home with a carload of groceries but unfortunately we've blocked your driveway and taken up all the nearby street parking, she'll have to just walk a block because well, we're busy here and don't want our schedule disrupted. Then let's go ahead and repeat this process 4 or 5 times a day for several yrs straight. . . Still cool right? Again I'm not against people taking a few quick shots on the deck or area, so long as they are not intrusive and are considerate and polite and preferably quick about it. I'm a videographer myself and understand and appreciate the beauty of the area, especially with good light at golden hour. When people are respectful and civil we have no problem, it's when people shamelessly pull the above mentioned moves when we have a problem. Especially when these people are trespassing and in the wrong. When this happens I typically don't get argumentative or confrontational, instead I walk into my home, open the front window and turn on the stereo bull blast to "Angel of Death" by Slayer. Just a friendly reminder to people that the window a foot behind you is my living room and that these are private residences. People usually get the hint and move on down the way, I do often feel bad for my neighbors as I'm only transferring the problem their way. Photographers- If you're going to poach and be that guy and disrespectful than so be it, I just hope you like Slayer. Perhaps I'll start mixing it up with some gangster rap. . Wu Tang, ODB?

 

 
 
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