Main Street icon turns 100
July 22, 2008
A festival on Main Street with live music and dancing marked the centennial celebration of the iconic Summit Furniture and Merc Co. in Coalville.
Two pigs were roasted as hundreds cheered the magnificent milestone Saturday, Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt said.
"I’ve never seen anything like it in Coalville. It was great," Schmidt said. "It was just nice to kick back and talk to your neighbors and eat."
Coalville brothers Axcel and Alfred Blonquist incorporated the store at 16 S. Main Street in 1908. But the business reportedly opened in 1907 in space the brothers rented.
"I don’t think they actually moved into this building until the first part of ’09," said Jim Blonquist, who owns the mercantile today.
Jim is Axcel’s grandson who runs the business with his brother Spug. Their cousin Buster Keyes is also a partner in the store.
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"Most everybody who was out there on the street have come in and out of this place their whole life, and you jaw with most of them," Jim Blonquist said about Saturday’s celebration. "I just wanted to say thank you. Your customers keep you in business."
The Park Record was established in the late 1800s. But historian Hal Compton said he couldn’t find another business established before the mercantile, that still operates today.
Axcel and Alfred Blonquist were Swedish immigrants who raised sheep in North Summit in the late 1800s.
"Back in that day, when you were running sheep in the Uintas and the Red Desert in Wyoming, you only got home two or three times a year," Blonquist said.
They built the building that still houses the store, but Blonquist isn’t sure his business will last another hundred years.
"I don’t even want to speculate on that," Blonquist said. "It’s all a bonus now."
Jim’s father Chet operated the store from the 1930s until he died of a heart attack in 1981.
"My brother and I stepped in and took over the next morning," Blonquist said. "One of the biggest things that has happened since I’ve been here is our clothing section has changed a lot. We used to carry basically something for everybody, men women and children."
Now the store stocks mostly men’s casual clothing by Carhartt and Levi’s.
Blonquist boasts about his selection of freshly cut meat.
"We have a meat showcase," he said. "It’s not put in cellophane and Styrofoam. When you buy something here, it gets wrapped up in white butcher paper."
Blonquist is proud his store has survived competition with national retailers in the Snyderville Basin that have set up shop 20 minutes from Coalville.
"It’s changed the nature of it, but it hasn’t killed it," Blonquist said. "Probably there was a day when they traded for beef that was raised in North Summit. I know they used to trade eggs and chickens and stuff like that."
The mercantile still extends credit to about 300 customers who Blonquist bills monthly for their groceries.
"We’ve always run a fairly big credit operation and we’ve pulled people through when they weren’t doing so well," Blonquist said. "People just appreciate that kind of stuff I guess we’ve accomplished something."
Interestingly, Axcel and Alfred Blonquist lent money to J.C. Penney to start what became a retail empire.
Penny, who started out in Kemmerer, Wyo., offered the Blonquists stock in his company when he returned to Coalville to repay the debt. But the men chose money instead.
"Grandpa said he should have taken stock," Blonquist joked.