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More Dogs on Main Street

Here we are, just a week out from Pioneer Day, and along comes a news story that so perfectly defines Utah culture that it really should be the headline event at the big celebration. Oddly, the story got almost no play in the Utah media. I first picked it up from Stephen Colbert, and then did an Internet search for more. It’s a truly remarkable story in every way, except in Utah it is so unremarkable.

Like so many local stories, this one begins with, "There’s this investment guy in my sister’s ward " and ends with, " federal indictment for securities fraud." In this case, the alleged perpetrator was Travis L. Wright, 47, of Draper. The charges stem from an investment that promised a 24 percent annual return. Much to everybody’s surprise, $139 million disappeared.

According to various sources, Wright’s investment was supposed to be a commercial real-estate play. That ought to have tipped people off. The only way to make money on commercial real estate in this market involves gasoline and matches. But people thought they were buying something that was as secure as owning a piece of a vacant, heavily mortgaged strip mall in Sandy.

So where did the money go? According to the feds, a lot of it went to support Wright’s wife and her spending habits. She needed about $20,000 a month in walking-around money. In most places, that is truly shocking. Here in Park City, there will be some readers who think she is showing remarkable restraint in a difficult economy.

But it didn’t stop there. Wright and his brother-in-law have a movie company that owns the distribution rights to a movie about a Pinewood Derby Race. The movie was made by the brother-in-law, but you probably knew that already. I can’t wait for next year’s Sundance. But even with movie distribution expenses, and the wife’s spending, it’s still hard to imagine where $139 million went. And here’s where it all comes together.

A lot of the money was lent to a company called Mark One Foods, a Salt Lake-based business that is just about to bring to market the most wonderful product ever: PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES IN CANS. They call it the "Candwich" and soon hope to have it available in vending machines. There are three delicious versions in the works: peanut butter and grape jelly, peanut butter and strawberry, and for the gourmet market, a barbecue chicken sandwich. All come packed in a standard-sized 12-ounce can, right there next to the Mountain Dew. The label on the can announces that the contents are "quick & tasty" and "ready to eat."

The beauty of the Candwich, of course, is that it requires no refrigeration. Your sandwich in a can might sit there for months or possibly even years, fresh as Mom herself would make, waiting for you to pop the top and fish the hoagie-style bun out of the can.

Frankly, compared to most investments, canned goods look pretty good. If you had invested in the S&P 500 10 years ago, you would have lost something like 20 percent by now. If you had invested in Candwiches, you would have something to eat. The target market is people on the go like construction workers, soccer moms and students, according the London Daily Mail. They aren’t fully conversant in the local culture, and don’t see the potential for people to load up on canned peanut butter sandwiches so there’s something to eat while huddled in the bomb shelter awaiting Armageddon. We might actually look forward to the Apocalypse with a tasty barbecue chicken Candwich on the shelf.

The owners of Mark One Foods, who don’t seem to be guilty of anything other than borrowing a lot of money to finance their horrific gastronomical nightmare, didn’t do a lot of market research on the name. "Candwich" apparently has fairly widespread use as slang for slipping out for a couple of beers on your work breaks. Nobody in Utah would have thought of that angle.

The story is still unfolding, and there are some mandatory elements missing. For example, it’s unclear if there are any dentists or members of the extended Osmond clan invested in the Candwich. That’s really the first test of any investment opportunity in Utah if there are either dentists or Osmonds involved, pass it up. To my knowledge, there are no polygamists. Orrin Hatch hasn’t surfaced, but given time, he will surely help get Candwich exempt from Food and Drug Administration regulation.

Sadly, in all my research, I have not been able to locate a vending machine that sells Candwiches yet. If you run into one, please let us all know.

Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.


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