Best of Business

Leah M. Jensen and Lucy Burningham
Utah Business
September 1 2004

Best of Business

What constitutes the best in business? This question lends itself to an almost infinite number of possibilities. For this year's Best of Business, we highlight 21 innovative companies meeting and driving market demand in Utah, emphasizing the experience they create for consumers through their distinctive blends of products and services. The 2004 Best of Business features improbable and inspiring success stories, some of which began life in a father's spare bedroom or in the proverbial garage. From a bed & breakfast once used as a polygamist hideout, to a company innovating municipal waste disposal, this year's winners combine passion with productivity to enrich Utah consumers and the state's economy.

Best Corner Grocer

Emigration Market

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Well don't think of "Cheers" -- think of Emigration Market on the corner of 1300 S. and 1700 East in Salt Lake City. Ever been lost in an enormous grocery store? The neighborhood grocer has a decidedly small-townmarket feel that makes shopping simple and easy, and has found its niche in the fickle grocer's market. J.T. and Kimberly Martin bought the market five years ago, and have used J.T's experience in marketing to benefit the neighborhood they love, offering a wealth of locally-grown and -produced foods.

Best Digital Marina


It may surprise you to know that the largest boating Website in the world started in a bedroom in Draper. That's right. Bruno Vassel IV and his father Bruno Vassel III have created a Web leader in this $36 billion marine industry, selling everything from boating accessories and engine parts to motors and components. They also offer visitors a Web forum to post their questions, and to build Websites and applications for local and national dealers. iBoats' unique business plan has taken the boating community by storm. The company now has over 700 watersports-related domains, 40 employees and 11 fulltime programmers. Needless to say, this powerhouse company is no longer operated out of a bedroom.

Best B & B With a Past

Seven Wives Inn

Looking for a place to stay with history, luxury and a little je ne'cest quoi? The cozy set of houses that make up the Seven Wives Inn in St George is just the ticket. The bigger of the two houses was bought by Judge and merchant Edwin G. Woolley in 1873. Although not a polygamist himself, he was a sympathizer and began harboring polygamists in his attic, via a secret passage in 1882 when polygamy became outlawed. One of these was Benjamin F. Johnson, who did indeed have seven wives. This charming bed & breakfast was started in 1981 by Jay Curtis and later bought and refurnished by Shellee Griffin, the current owner.

Best One-Man Show

Mario's Professional Tailoring

Step inside this unassuming shop and you'll be met by rows of clothing ready for the skilled hand of 70-year-old Mario Caligiuri, who has been running his own tailoring shop in Salt Lake City since he emigrated from Calabria, Italy, in 1961. Mario does alterations (no tailor-made items) and he does them well, a skill he learned in the "old country" as an apprentice. The tailor enjoys the brisk business from a regular clientele as well as from a steady stream of new word-of-mouth customers. Not only do his patrons count on quality alterations but on the certainty of hearing one of Mario's famous stories, which are made more compelling by his lilting Italian intonations.

Most Off-Beat Ad Campaign

W Communications

A Snowman's funeral? Who thinks of this stuff?! W Communications does. The irreverent and comical advertisement for SnowBlade (Golf Cars with snow plows) won chuckles from readers all over Utah. The sorrowful snowman's friends gather around the casket of the departed, who was tragically plowed over by a deftly-maneuvered snowplow, contrasted with the picture of the snowman in happier days, the top hat resting across his chest, and the crooked carrot nose, perhaps damaged by the swift plow.

Best Conversion from Coal to Cuisine

Easy Street Brasserie

Walk through the doors of this former Utah Coal and Lumber facility in Park City, and the objective of the restaurant is cleverly proposed -- an upside down rooster. Taking the French mascot and literally turning him on his head suggests this is no ordinary French restaurant. Chef Neville and Bill Schoff have created a casually elegant ambience for their rural French cuisine, including patio dining and jazz piano. Don't forget to visit the fire pit downstairs and try your hand at the Patonk game. Spend a lot, spend a little, but don't miss out on this funky addition to Utah's dinning scene.

Best New Private Equity Fund in Utah's Far North

Grow Utah Ventures

When Alan Hall sold MarketStar to Omnicom, the accumulated equity presented him with an opportunity. As a devoted resident of Northern Utah, he wanted to further contribute to the region's economic growth. With some of this money, Hall decided to begin an early stage private equity group called Grow Utah Ventures. This fund specifically aids companies for whom $100,000 to $1,000,000 makes all the difference. The partners believe if they can help businesses get their bearings with smaller funding, the portfolio companies will be better positioned to go after bigger money. Grow Utah has closed its first $5 million fund and is presently forming its second fund.

Best Student Business Plan

Property Solutions

Not many business plan born in the classroom translate into real-world sucess, but two Brigham Young University students are making it happen. As part of a class at the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship, David Bateman and Benjamin Zimmer created Property Solutions, a company that develops online property management software tools. This spring, Fortune Small Business magazine awarded the company's founders first place in the "MBA Showdown" for best business plan from a top business school. Along with the award came a $50,000 prize.

Best Company Name

Impatient Cow

The name came from a six-year-old. "Knock knock," she said. "Who's there?" replied Elliot Cutler, director and cameraman at this production company. "Impatient cow." "Impatient cow who?" "Moooo," she giggled. The next day, Cutler started a company in Chicago, which has migrated and evolved over the past seven years into a successful two-person operation in Salt Lake City. Executive producer Jon Foster is the other half of the team as the executive producer. Cutler and Foster pride themselves on "using a 35mm format when the project calls for it," an increasing rarity in the industry. In the past year, the duo has created television spots for Riester-Robb/Macayos, Devine Race/Salt Lake City Marathon, the Summit Group/Subway National, and SportCourt.

Best Island Jewelry Imports

Stroud Jewelers

As a native Hawaiian, Soulee L.K.O. Stroud has always understood the appeal of Hawaiian jewelry. "Hawaii is known for the hand-engraving of its heirloom jewelry in 14-karat gold," he says. His 13-year-old business (which is now a second-generation family operation thanks to the work of his son, Zeland) has always offered exclusive lines of items in the Hawaiian tradition, such as engraved names surrounded by flowers or ferns. Stroud says that even other jewelers in town recognize the uniqueness of the product, and immediately send Hawaiian-jewelry-inquiries straight to Stroud's Sugarhouse location.

Best Reason to Enroll your Kids in Little League Soccer


There is little debate that the news of a Salt Lake Major League Soccer (MLS) team has been met with cheers and anticipation in the Beehive State. Former Utah Jazz president Dave Checketts has been at the helm of this acquisition since November 2003. After conversing with MLS execs and performing considerable due diligence, both Checketts and the league were convinced that an MLS team would thrive in Salt Lake City. Checketts accelerated plans in April of this year to ensure Salt Lake would be the twelfth MLS team. Games are scheduled to begin in the summer of 2005.

Best New Coupling of Sushi and Jazz

Circle Lounge

This late night lounge has become the venue for downtown's swanky crowd, with sushi served until 1 a.m., an array of fine liquors and live jazz music. But it's the interior design that sets the stage for the bar/restaurant's success. Using contemporary Asian-themed fixtures and furniture, 26-year-old owner and entrepreneur Tom Lee has created a cool yet intimate urban enclave. The main room features a circular area defined by sheer sheaths of red fabric, where musicians set the mood Thursday through Saturday each week.

Best Downhill Adrenaline Rush

Summertime at Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort

There's no need to wait until winter for an adrenaline surge on the slopes, as both Park City and Snowbird know. The two resorts have decided to up the ante on summertime fun. Park City has had an alpine slide since 1977, but has recently added the ZipRider, a 60-mile-per-hour zip line that allows you to sit back and zoom down the mountain 110 feet off the ground. Snowbird too has its own version of the ZipRider, and this year, a new dual-track alpine slide as well.

Best 26.2 Miles of Impact

The inaugural Salt Lake City marathon

With 6,500 race participants, Salt Lake City's first-ever full-length marathon drew quite a crowd, and race organizers expect that number to double in 2005. Other numbers were equally as impressive. For example, the overall economic impact for the city totaled $2 million dollars in 2004. And Devine Racing, the company that staged the event, donated $50,000 of the proceeds to the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.

Best Urban Off-the-Beaten-Path Lunch Spot

David Chase Cafe

Robert Chase Hest knew from the time he was 13 years old that he wanted to be in the restaurant business. After spending a few years in the Northwest obtaining his college degree, he returned to Salt Lake to open the catering business and lunch café, David Chase. Nestled in a small business strip on 900 South, this lunch-only café has a charming staff and delicious food. Tempura, Caprese salad and coconut-lentil soup are all among the distinctive lunch offerings. Hest has created a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy the food he cooks (he has been the head chef for two years), while providing the time-saving ease of at-the-counter ordering.

Best Place to Saddle Up

AA Callister

Established in 1952, this fourth-generation family-owned business continues to transport customers to the Old West. Whether you're ready to rope and ride or just wear a fancy pair of boots to a line-dancing lesson, this is the place. The knowledgeable staff can explain how a cowboy hat should fit (if the hat isn't snug enough, you'll lose it during a gallop) and the best products to keep a horse comfortable during long hours of riding.

Best Innovator of Municipal Waste

Petersen Inc.

How does a custom-welding company operating out of a garage turn into a respected, debt-free fabrication company in 2004? Respect for their employees, the environment and the market for which they serve, says Rob Despain, Petersen's vice president of business development. Whether it's digging holes for subways or propelling atlas rockets into space, the company provides the tools to make it possible. Equipment recently patented by Petersen has made way for what could revolutionize the handling of municipal waste -- by rolling, bundling and packing the waste, it remains clean and unsusceptible to erosion. Petersen's dedication to the environment, its employees and the tools they produce has made the company one of Ogden's genuine success stories.

Best Dialysis-Based Sustainer of Kidneys and Jobs


Dialysis machines have sustained life for those with deteriorating kidneys for years, and a Utah dialyzer development and production facility is making advancements in this area every day. The peritoneal dialyzers at Fresenius Medical Care's Ogden manufacturing site has helped sustain life for thousands of people in need of kidney transplants. The facility has grown from 700 to approximately 1,200 employees in the past three years, making it the largest manufacturing plant for Fresenius, the German-based global healthcare giant. Fresenius seems to have been immune to the fluctuations in the economy, and has continued to provide clean manufacturing for kidney patients and sustainable employment growth for Northern Utah.

Best Company Fitness Package

ICON Health and Fitness

With all of the diet books and health fitness programs pervading the market, one company has figured out how to do it all. First, the ICON team of nutritionists tests clients to see what nutrients they lack. Next, they combine this information with the clients' food preferences to create a day-to-day meal plan and week-to-week grocery list. The staff then creates an "ifit" disk which when entered in ICON equipment gives virtual personal training to each individual client. The company continues to expand throughout North America, Asia and Europe, and has become a global leader in manufacturing and marketing fitness equipment.

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